Insight 2

Again, I am posting a past blog.

Last week I spoke about insight into our hoarding and cluttering situations. This week I want to offer a few suggestions about increasing insight and moving toward positive change.

First, we need to pay attention to what we tell ourselves and others about the clutter and see if we want this story to continue to define us. What story do you tell yourself or another about clutter? “Leave me alone. I’m fine with the stuff and should be able to live like I want to.” “I don’t know how you live in this mess!” “I like having my things around me. I find it cozy.” “I’m frustrated with my stuff, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve tried before, and it just gets worse.”

A way to increase insight is to seek other ways to view our relationships with clutter and with other people, to find a new narrative about the stuff. Buried in Treasures is an opportunity to examine stories about your own clutter and to look for another way of viewing the problems your clutter causes. The new support group forming in September, for people affected by another person’s clutter, is another place to examine one’s stories.

According to Gary Klein in Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, our story is the way we frame and organize the details of a situation. He says, “These kinds of stories organize all kinds of details about a situation and depend on a few core beliefs we can call ‘anchors,’ because they are fairly stable and anchor the way we interpret the other details.”[i] He describes five ways that stories change: connections, coincidences, curiosities, contradictions, and creative desperation and illustrates this in the following chart:

An often ineffective way to increase insight is to try to persuade another person with logic and reason about a seeming contradiction. Anyone who has tried to address another person’s clutter readily knows the impasse this can cause. However, when we spot within ourselves a contradiction of thought or action, we can figure out what is askew and begin to experience change.

Another way to increase insight is to listen closely in places of curiosity or coincidence. According to Klein, this path of connection opens new possibilities for understanding. This can be of primary importance when more than one person is affected by a cluttered or hoarded home. As mentioned earlier, insight comes from within. Change cannot be imposed on another person. However, if people become open to each other at a level of mutual respect, insight may open between people that comes as a creative gift.

Coincidence and timing of ideas, thoughts, and comments from others is a part of this path of connection. Think of times when you turned on the radio while someone was talking about clutter, a book crossed your path that made you think about your stuff, and then within a short period you learned about the Buried in Treasures Workshop. All these things in close proximity prepares you to see your situation through new eyes.

Finally, low insight is a cause for much of the conflict that people experience, what Klein calls the creative desperation path. This is why I offer mediation to people who are in conflict about clutter or hoarding. As the person who is not in the midst of the fray, I am often able to reflect back what is happening in a way that allows both problems and possibilities to appear more clearly. This can be the beginning of increased insight, and with insight people experience greater control over their situations and awareness to improve relationships.

Insight rarely increases in situations where people have entrenched positions about each other and about the stuff. I want to help you shift conversations and prepare for a safer situation. Also, you can find camaraderie in places of conflict, collaboration in places of ultimatums, and increased peace.


[i] “The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insight”, Farnam Street,