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Since my father's death I have had a really bad problem with clutter - What's causing this?

heart to heart The questioner's philosophy
I'm a spiritual seeker and something of a loner. My faith is Roman Catholic.
The questioner's hopes and aspirations
Right now I want to clear up my super-cluttered room. I also want to eliminate virtually all of my 32,898 Yahoo emails and see that this never happens again! I also need a second income, an IRA, a savings account, plan for retirement and to take a vacation.
My problem with clutter is so bad that I have to walk ankle deep through my room to get to the dresser, never mind the closet door which is hard to open because of this, and to the window which I have to walk over the bed to reach! Back in June 2004 I attended a Clutter Seminar led by a woman who was an experienced leader in these events. I paid $300 for this in Midtown Manhattan. Ironically I still have the Problem! This Friday I am going to Clutter Busters in Times Square. I looked this up at my alma mater computer lab.

I am still at home with my widowed, retired mother, Clowdia, who is 82. Our family of four has become two. My father, actually stepfather, John Senior died in November 1996 of a heart attack, at Long Island Hospital downtown Brooklyn, years after having strokes to the brain, after his third business failed and he reneged on his Auto-shop payments in upstate New York. Ironically he and I were never close. It would be odd for me to speak to him at all! But he did teach me to bowl when I was in high school, where we bowled with his friends. My younger brother, John Junior, died when the plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

I've had this clutter problem for ten years. I have no social life, girlfriend, car, credit card or jail record. I have been through about ten Psychotherapists. What would you say caused this problem?

Wallace's reply
Wallace Without knowing you in person it is impossible to know for sure what caused your problem, but I suspect your problem with clutter lies in unresolved issues you have with your father, since the onset of clutter in your life coincides with your father's death. I suspect these unresolved issues with your father are leading to buried negative feelings like resentment, bitterness and anger. These unresolved negative feelings are holding you stuck in your past and this is manifesting in your everyday life in your strong need to hang onto everything from your past resulting in ankle deep clutter. The clutter is the symptom - your buried emotions are the cause. You need to release these buried emotions and integrate the memories to which they are connected.

I don't know what you have explored with your psychotherapists, but I would ask you to remember that if you are ready to let these memories and emotions go, you can do it on your own if you wish. If you are not ready then the best psychotherapist in the world will not be able to help you.

I am wondering if there is something in your relationship with your father that you have never expressed - some secret hurt. If so now is the time for honesty. Find someone you can trust with whom you can share that secret hurt or write about that secret hurt in a letter to your father and then continue writing, letting your father know that despite that hurt you still love him and forgive him. Put in the letter positive memories you have of your relationship with your father and end the letter by thanking your father for all he has done for you. Then take that letter and bury it in your father's grave. If this brings up buried emotions go with them. Cry, listen to evocative music, create art that reflects your feelings or find other suitable ways of expressing what you are feeling. If the hurt is very deep and very painful it may take some time to integrate and heal - be patient and gentle with your self.

Once you have done this you will be able to create your life afresh out of the possibilities of the future rather than clinging to the hurts of the past.

Further Help and Resources
Since you describe yourself as a spiritual seeker you may find my book Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off helpful. In particular I would refer you to the section titled "Your calling is elevated through the release of pain" p.66, which will give you guidelines in how to express buried emotional pain and in so doing find your path in life.

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