Clutterbug Clients: How Partnering with a Professional Organizer Can Help

by Claire Tompkins

Your coaching client comes up with wonderful, uplifting and life affirming goals they want to achieve with your help. But, as time passes, it seems the client isn't making or sticking with the desired changes.

Of course, dealing with obstacles is part of the coaching process. A skilled coach works to ferret out what’s behind those obstacles and helps the client overcome them.

In the case of clutterbug clients, though, a professional organizer might just be the missing link that could help your client move forward. Clutterbugs find it hard to focus on goals because they are easily distracted by their many projects and interests. They're reluctant to make decisions that would move them forward because that cuts off other equally wonderful alternatives.

Clients can be ashamed of their disorganization. This makes them feel unworthy of their own goals. Sometimes one of the most productive things I do for my clients is assure them that their clutter is not hopeless and that having too much stuff is a common situation when you live in an affluent society. I acknowledge the client’s feelings about the clutter and gently remind them that it’s still just stuff. No matter what story they have about it, clutter is made up of inanimate objects that they are the master of.

Change is scary, even good change. Clutter insulates people and protects them from change. Having lots of stuff around means there is always something to do, something to occupy their time and their minds. When a goal feels too scary, it’s easier to turn to sorting the stamp collection.

While I never insist that a client get rid of things, I do think it’s important that they’re consciously aware that they’re holding on to things for reasons that don’t make much sense, when they really stop to look at them. That’s a first step toward being able to make rational decisions.

Sometimes people are reluctant to address clutter because it's not as important as working on their life goals. Yet clutter creates a gnawing, guilty feeling that they need to clean up before they can go on to something more rewarding. That's why they're stuck. They put off tidying the studio because they want to paint. And then they put off painting because the studio is too full of clutter to move around. Each gets in the way of the other.

Physical clutter represents unmade decisions, paths not taken, promises not kept and potentials not realized. Reflecting on those choices can be paralyzing for some people. I encourage my clients to live in the present, where they can make changes. Change requires taking—or even making—opportunities today, rather than holding on to any possible opportunities.

Being disorganized is about more than having too much stuff or being messy. Even if there aren’t emotional issues involved, disorganization is distracting and time consuming, taking the client away from what’s really important.

Life coaches realize that movement in one area usually inspires movement in others too. When a coach and a professional organizer team up to help a clutterbug client, that synergy can help him or her make amazing progress.


Professional organizer Claire Tompkins specializes in creating customized organizing techniques for each client. By addressing their unique needs, she provides solutions that make their lives easier and give them more free time to do what they love. In-person and telephone sessions are available. Visit for more information.

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