Peter Walsh brings his organizational expert and healing to Kristina Johnson’s parents this week, Kathy and Art. In frustration, the daughter contacted Peter and wants his help with getting rid of her mother’s clutter once and for all. Kristina has a daughter now and she would like to be able to bring the baby to her parent’s home. However, Kathy, the mother, has given up with dealing with the clutter and Art, the dad, just seems to have given up.
Here is the background. Kathy thinks that there are lots of things that are important to save….and for over 20 years she’s been saving those things. In that time, the home has started to become a warehouse and while Kathy sees it, she just can’t bear to let go of these things.
So, in the show her daughter asks, “Why does someone hold on to such useless stuff and miss out on creating new memories?” I think that’s a good question to ask anyone that has clutter that induces anxiety every time you see it. Kathy is not hiding and openly admits that “the clutter got out of control….and I’m trying to pay attention to the clutter and to the family.”…both of which she is failing at. Through all of this, you can tell that this pains Art…but he’s just going with it. You choose your battles and right now, this is not one that he wants to fight. Kristina finally uses the granddaughter to push Kathy, her mom, into reality. The granddaughter has never come over to the house. They won’t bring her over with all of the clutter. It’s just not safe. You choose. Your clutter or your family.
Peter’s initial clutter evaluation is that Kathy is a saver. She started saving from when she was young….then started collecting things passed down….things she was going to use with her students….and it’s everywhere. Piles and piles and piles…and piles. Peter takes us through the TV room, the living room….where he says “it feels like death,” …trying to shake Kathy into what the reality of the situation is.
Then the process begins:
- Declutter and empty the space
- Create a vision for the space and then
- Create a vision pile and the out the door pile (donate, sell, or trash).
Day 1, they are tackling the living room. When Peter presents all of the items from this room in the house…it is truly amazing what came out of the house from the cluttered space. To help….he says that there is one rule with books – “1 book stays, 10 books go.” Kathy’s face is kind….she’s a schoolteacher and there is that kindness that you see and remember in some of your favorite elementary school teachers. You can see that there is love and that she is coming from a good place…and she’s holding it together by fighting back the emotions… Kathy is having a hard time going through it all. Probably just the sheer volume alone….
The choice is either the stuff or the family….and as she has a hard time getting rid of the stuff; it seems that stuff is winning. Peter tells her very directly, “you are going to end up alone in this house, in the dark, with dusty stuff.” This seems to shake her some….so lets see the progress and let’s keep moving.
Through all this in Day 1, Kristina is there to help but it’s clear that she wants deeper conversations with all of this….and for her mom to be emotionally available. It almost seems that Kathy’s emotions are buried under the clutter….and this process of getting rid of it, it the thawing out of those emotions. Peter sets some limits. “You have 5 minutes. Whatever you haven’t gone through in 5 minutes, I am taking care of.” Ut oh….you know what that means….
Day 2 is the TV room….and Peter is hoping that Kathy hears Kristina’s plea for change….and today is the day that Peter leaves them to do it alone. “Talk to each other…..work together,” Peter encourages them. But Kathy is frustrated that Kristina is not letting her make the decisions…and Kristina’s feelings are hurt when her mom discards a gift that she brought back to her mom from a high school trip to Spain….does her mom hear her? Kristina feels insignificant….and says that to her mom. ”Whatever I say doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be around you guys because you make me feel so insignificant,” Kristina tells her parents. Kathy responds, “I’m very upset…” but shows little emotion…no reaction. This is her opportunity to open herself Peter points out….but she’s holding back. If she holds back….she is going to loose not just her stuff….but her daughter….her granddaughter….what her future family life could look like. Angrily, her daughter says, “You’re isolating yourself.” Peter reminds Kathy that it’s not about the stuff…but about your family. What is holding you back? Peter is always looking for the underlying answer. Finally, Kathy gives it to him. “I feel like I am alone.” This is the breaking of the understanding…and a huge breakthrough for the family. It’s like someone has taken an arm and brushed all the rest of the clutter off the table and out of the room. Finally, they get through the stuff and they get through to each other.
At the end of the episode, we finally understand a little more. When Kathy’s kids moved out of the house…she started filling those spaces with clutter. Probably not much different than many empty nesters who have all of this physical and even bigger emotional space to fill when their family leaves them and their kids move up and out. Now…Kathy’s opening herself back up and getting her house back at the same time. “I feel freedom from 25 years of clutter,” says Kathy. The reveal shows Kathy’s real emotion…and you can see the tears and the joy….finally, buried under all of this…is a new life….her new life.
As a final touch, Peter presents Kathy with a photo – grandmother (Kathy), mother (Kristina) and grandchild (Regen)….in a photo to hang in the home. “I can tell how important the women are in this family.” Now, that gift from Peter even made me cry!
Lessons from today’s show…
- “Clutter is anything that gets between you and the life that you want to be living.” – Peter Walsh
- When decluttering keep like things together to make it easier to go through it later.
- “It’s not always smooth, it’s not always easy, but it’s worth the journey.” – Peter Walsh
- Clutter may be filling a void…why don’t find out what’s missing instead of filling the emotional space with stuff…because the only one that you are burying is yourself.