My client: “I want to recycle a majority of these boxes in my basement.”
I was not overreacting to my client’s declaration. I’ve been working with my client for over four years, and up until this point, her stance was that she wanted to keep the boxes for shipping stuff or to post them to Freecycle for people who could use them for moving. We only recycled the boxes that didn’t seem “useful.” So I turned to her on that day and asked, “What’s changed?” Her response was, “I don’t have time to deal with them anymore. I have more important things I’ve got to get done.”
At Wendy Buglio Consulting, we are always trying to figure out our client’s motivation. What are their priorities, and what is preventing them from reaching their ideal living situation? We ask our clients to stop and visualize how their ideal living space would look and function. Then we ask the tough questions, “What is stopping you from achieving your goal?” We do this because once our clients can picture what they want in their lives, they are better able to prioritize if keeping the clutter is preventing or helping their dreams. In the case of my client, she figured out that having her basement remodeled for an extra home office was a bigger priority than trying to find better homes for all the boxes in her basement. She stopped letting her stuff dictate her time and environment.
Another tool we use to help our clients once they are motivated is a plan of action. I sat with my client and discussed all the steps she would need to achieve that basement office, from what needed to be donated/thrown out, to renting pods, to finding a contractor, to defining what would be coming back into the basement and where. Each week, we attack a closet size area of the basement and continue to move her dream forward. Instead of asking herself if she wants to keep something, she is looking at the item and asking if it helps her reach her goal. My client is able to make faster decisions about what stays and what goes. She still has items she encounters where making a decision is hard, and that is okay. We put it aside and marked it to look at after the construction. By setting specific goals, we are not working toward an amorphous end but a clear result (an office in her basement).
Getting rid of all those boxes at the beginning of her project was the easy win she needed for two reasons:
1) It quickly showed her that she could make progress.
2) It eliminated the custodial responsibility she felt in trying to find those boxes new homes.
Without that burden of responsibility, my client had more time, space, and energy to devote to her priorities, giving her the burst of motivation to reach her priorities.