What I learned from Alfred Hitchcock about clearing clutter

clutterClearing clutter. We read about it all the time.

But it’s more than good housekeeping. It’s a key to self-healing.

When I was in graduate school working on a Masters Degree in Economics [yes, I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true], I got tired of Economics [that seems much more believable] and instead took film courses.

This was at the University of California at Los Angeles [UCLA], which at the time had one of the best film schools in the country. [It still does].

The film classes were excellent, covered a variety of topics, and were like balm for the soul of true film lovers like me.

One of the best lessons I learned was from a casual comment by our teacher about the Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” It was a lesson that has served me in work and in life.

The teacher explained that, in order to create a feeling of discomfort in the audience, every time Hitchcock showed the house on the hill, he would change something: the size, location or shapes of the windows and door, the number of panes in the windows, etc.

The shot is never held long enough for the viewer to actually count window panes and be consciously aware of what is different, but even a short view registers in the viewer’s brain as “something’s wrong” with that house.

And this in turn contributes to the audience’s unease while watching the film.

When I learned this, I realized the very importance of having everything neat and orderly in the classroom when I teach. Because it creates a feeling in the students of “everything’s right here.”

The same can apply to your home or office space.

What clutter does to us

New research indicates that clutter in the home can actually trigger depression.

Researchers at my alma mater, UCLA, found a link between high cortisol [stress hormone] levels in female homeowners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel.

Men, on the other hand, don’t seem as bothered by mess. That may explain why most women simply must have the kitchen cleared before they can go to bed at night, while men are happy to leave the dishes for the morning.

When I packed for my move from California to the Midwest, toward the end I was running out of time so boxes were just labeled and taped shut without a lot of investigation as to what was in them.

Four years after arriving in Michigan I opened a box labeled “batteries” and found that most of them had expired before I left California. How’s that for being unaware of clutter?

Here are some tips for decluttering with ease, from: The Link Between Clutter and Depression at www.houselogic.com

  1. Adopt the rule of five: every time you walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour! This one works well for me. I’ve even decluttered during a commercial while I’m watching TV.
  2. Pledge to clear and clean your kitchen sink every day. It only takes a couple of seconds more to rinse and put a dish in the dishwasher than place it in the sink. A clean sink will raise your spirits and reduce your anxiety.
  3. Unburden your refrigerator door. If you’re like me, you’ve passed by the door so many times you no longer really notice what’s on there, other than that it’s messy.   Researchers found a correlation between the number of items stuck to the fridge door and the amount of clutter throughout the house. Toss extra magnets, file restaurant menus in a drawer, and place calendars in less conspicuous places.
  4. Create unexpected new storage space in out-of-the-way spaces, such as under the stairs.
  5. Fill a box with items you don’t love or use; seal the box, date it and place it in a closet. If you haven’t opened it in a year, donate it [unopened!] to charity.

And you will find more decluttering tips in this excellent article by John Linden on The Science of Staying Organized.

Declutter your emotional baggage, too

“Decluttering is the number one step in the feng shue process because, if energy can’t flow freely, nothing else can begin to improve.” According to Kerri Rodley, secretary of the Association of Feng Shue consultants in Australia.

There is a spiritual teaching that in order to bring newness into your life, you have to make room. Decluttering is the way to do it.

Your “stuff” carries psychic weight and decluttering will make you feel lighter.

The things we hold onto also represent our emotional baggage, and we certainly don’t want to be holding onto old emotions and memories that don’t serve us any more!

It will also create respect from those around you. In The Wind Is My Mother, Bear Heart tells the story of a man who asked an elder, “Please tell me anything you think I need to know.”

Here was the elder’s answer:

“’I’ll tell you, since you asked me, because you want to live in the community and be well thought of. I saw a lot of your implements laying around in the front yard. Put them together in a shed so you can find them in one place. There are a lot of odds and ends all over, put those up.’

What the elder was telling him, in a nice way, was to clean up his act. And since he was asking an elder, the man couldn’t talk back to him. Before you learn to do anything else, learn to keep your home in order and gain respect as a responsible member of your community, so that people will be glad to have you as a neighbor. That’s the first lesson you need to learn. Until you do that, don’t try to learn anything else. Your habits and behavior are what people know you by.”

Why is there clutter?

Perhaps a more important question is WHY the clutter got there in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I put too much emphasis on material possessions? Am I trying to buy my way to happiness?
  • Why do I have so much? What is out of balance in my life that I feel the need to fill it with “stuff”?
  • Who or what do I need to let go of to move forward in my life?
  • Am I just too busy in general to maintain my home? What do I need to let go of to give myself more time?

Owning less is easier than organizing more.

“I may need it some day” is born out of poverty consciousness. Have the knowledge and faith now that, if you ever need that again, you will find it on Ebay.

Decluttering can generate fresh energy, create space [literally and figuratively] and release old, negative emotions.

So, get your house in order, and you might just find much more of your life will come into balance along with it.

“Clutter isn’t just the stuff in your closet. It’s anything that gets between you and the life that you want to be living.” Peter Walsh

Molly Larkin

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman”  and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com

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