03 Mar Common client traits – and how we deal with them
This month I thought it’d be useful to talk about traits. We all have them – those (sometimes quirky) habitual aspects of our personalities which drive our behaviours.
The dictionary definition of a trait is ‘a distinguishing quality of characteristic, typically belonging to one person.’ But whilst we are all unique when it comes to the specifics of each trait, some aspects are remarkably similar.
A couple of weeks ago whilst with a client we were talking about her various foibles and the ways in which her thoughts and emotions influence her progress and perspective on clearing out – and it got me thinking. Actually many of my clients share similar traits, and this shared aspect enables me to better support them in specific ways. The same basis, but personalised to them.
So today I’m talking traits and sharing just a few of the most common I encounter and how I help clients to work through them and with them, make decluttering progress despite them, (and in some cases overcome them). I wonder if you can recognise yourself in any of these and how they make you feel, or influence your life?
OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is something I encounter quite often in clients. I actually have OCD myself! Many of you will be wondering why someone with OCD would need my services. Aren’t they obsessed with keeping things clean?
Often we think of OCD as something that causes someone to be intensely neat and tidy and ‘over the top’ with cleanliness, but that’s not always the case. OCD can manifest itself in many different ways – in some cases clouding the mind and causing us to actually be disorganised and messy. It can also cause us to hyper-focus on certain things which then affects our ability to deal with others; meanwhile the clutter piles up and causes more confusion and frustration.
One of my clients with OCD wants to be organised and tidy, but her OCD causes her to become obsessive with the worry of losing things, so she doesn’t throw them away. The control element is knowing where everything is, and hanging onto things ‘just in case’. So she can never find anything and doesn’t know where anything is – it becomes a vicious cycle – causing a huge amount of stress. We’re working on gently discarding the superfluous and making sure everything she wants or needs to keep is in a proper place. Once she is organised, I know she’ll keep up with keeping things tidy and will make those new habits stick because she is channelling the OCD tendencies into something positive.
I am not a therapist, nor do I profess to provide treatment for OCD, but often through the act of doing this work with me clients find some relief. It’s always best to seek professional help for OCD, especially if it significantly impacts upon your life. Many of my clients with OCD do this alongside working with me on organising their lives, with great success.
Hoarding is an often misunderstood (and sometimes debilitating) disorder. Unfortunately there is a lot of shame surrounding hoarding tendencies, so many people hide it from people they know, even family and friends who are closest to them, which actually makes the problem much worse.
The first step to healing hoarding tendencies is to realise and acknowledge you have a problem, and release any shame surrounding that. It is not your fault, nor is it anything to feel guilty about. There will be a reason, or reasons, as to why you have developed this trait. Many people start hoarding after a traumatic or stressful event in their lives. Some have a difficult childhood. There’s always a trigger somewhere.
Again, hoarders can benefit greatly from my services but I also encourage them to seek professional help to complement that and support them as they slowly start to change their habits. These can be deep-seated habits they’ve developed over the course of a lifetime, so often lots of time and gentle encourage is needed to break that cycle. freedom
Stress and Anxiety
Closely linked with hoarding, stress and anxiety can cause people to become overly emotionally attached to things, or struggle to stay organised due to feeling overwhelmed unable to do so.
Anxiety can cause us to either not throw things away, or become disorganised because we are focused elsewhere. One study ascertained that clutter build-up is actually linked to the inability to make decisions, one of the key symptoms of anxiety. So instead of deciding in the moment to throw that junk mail away, someone with anxiety may defer or avoid the decision and throw it on a pile. All these small daily decisions build up of course over the period of a day, a week, or a lifetime. The issue continues until the cycle is broken, and the person feels supported and well enough to be able to make decisions more easily.
Stress and anxiety tend to be chronic, so the effects can creep up on us. Many clients tell me they knew things were less than ideal at home, but then realised at some point when they looked around that it was out of control and in need of urgent help.
There’s also a symbiotic relationship between anxiety and clutter. Ironically, clutter has been shown in studies to adversely affect anxiety levels and sleep quality. One study showed that clutter triggers production of the stress hormone cortisol, and causes us to develop avoidance strategies to cope with the tension (therefore making the problem worse!) So for those suffering with anxiety and stress, getting on top of clutter really is worth doing.
Our traits can develop and change over time. Although they are characteristics or conditions, they aren’t set in stone. Some things we may have inherited – but often we’ve learned behaviours over time and become stuck in our ways. I have seen first-hand the way many clients have transformed not only their lives, but certain aspects of their personality when they are willing and ready to do so. So don’t worry if you feel stuck or ashamed of your hoarding tendencies, or OCD, or trouble letting go of certain things. You’re not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. If you want to, and have the right support behind you, you can do it. There’s plenty of help out there to help you to break free!