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household_clutter(MCT)—Would you like to invite friends over to your house, but you’re ashamed of the clutter?

Or, maybe your teenagers or spouse would like to throw a party, but the paperwork and junk in your house would require a team of professional organizers.

You’re not willing to tackle the mess, so nothing changes. You feel buried by the stacks and piles surrounding you.

All of us know the internal pressure we feel just thinking about our clutter. It’s a heavy feeling that keeps us from feeling in control of our lives.

When we move to another house, for example, the boxes to unpack weigh heavily on our minds. Or, when we move the car to sweep out the garage, the clutter stored in the garage can feel completely overwhelming.

“I was dating a fabulous guy who is very well organized,” says a woman we’ll call Terri. “When he saw my house, our relationship was over. This man could see that I hadn’t managed my life properly.”

Terri says that she couldn’t work up the energy to clean house after her divorce in 2007. She moved into a smaller house and just let the boxes stay packed for years.

“If I had it to do over,” says Terri, “I would have spent an hour a day tossing my junk. If I had, I would have made a better impression on Mr. Neat. I used to be organized, but I fell off the train and never got back on.”

Clutter can represent a lot of things to us. For instance, creative people feel they’re doing something positive with art supplies, sewing materials, or gardening tools all scattered about. Clutter can also represent misery, failure, lost dreams, or living in the past.

If you don’t like your messy house, ask yourself: “Why do I not let go of this stuff? What’s holding me back?”

A man we’ll call Anderson says his boxes of paperwork represented a happy time for him. That’s why he couldn’t bring himself to dig in and begin discarding.

Anderson spent three years writing a book, and the boxes were full of his research and rough drafts.

“I feebly spent a couple of years attempting to go through the boxes,” says Anderson. “To me, they represented a book contract that I got from a major publisher. I felt good and cozy in my office with this paperwork swirling around me. I did until one day a mouse crawled out of one of the boxes!”