Five Extreme Behavior Patterns Related to Organizing and How to Address Them with EFT
By Figen Genco, BA
I define “organized” as having easy-to-use-and-maintain systems which enable productivity and serenity. These systems are applied to both possessions and activities. Over the years, I’ve witnessed five extreme behavior patterns which cause people anxiety in relation to getting and being organized. The five extreme behaviors which get in the way of calm and functional people and spaces are:
- Impulse Shopping
- Chronic Disorganization
- Excessive Organizing
Please keep in mind that I am NOT a licensed healthcare provider. My main resource is my own experience from working with people and my research in the related fields on my findings. Take responsibility for your applications of the insights I provide and seek medical help with licensed health providers. Severe conditions of some of these intense behaviors might have fatal effects such as in extreme cases of hoarding.
Hoarding and EFT
I am not in favor of categorizing people. For the sake of easier flow in my articles, I will use the terms that are readers are familiar with such as “hoarder.” I believe that no matter how many differences we see from outside, originally we are all the same inside.
Certain inner and outer conditions cause people to act in a certain way and this is how people are labeled and categorized under a variety of headings. During my work with clients, we first address the way they see themselves. Most of the time they use labeling expressions such as “I am a packrat,” “I am a mess” and “I can never be organized.”
And a popular question is “Am I the worst?” These kinds of labels may be self-applied or adopted from other people’s comments about the person. These labels cause hopelessness and giving up on self as well as constituting excuses not to work on changing the behavior or the situation.
Hoarder, sometimes referred to as packrat in daily language, might be used to describe a wide range of people from someone whose collecting behavior is considered normal in some societies to a person who collects so much that the life in that dwelling becomes unlivable due to safety hazards and lack of space.
“IN ALL GOD'S WORKS the laws of beauty are wrought out in vanishing portrayals, in birth and death. In these there is no hoarding, but an ever fresh creating, and eternal flow of life from the heart of God.” George MacDonald
“Many people think that by hoarding money they are gaining safety for themselves. If money is your ONLY hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a person can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability. Without these qualities, money is practically useless.” Henry Ford
“We have a lot of love, and when I asked myself how I could be of greatest service to my community - of maximum benefit to the people around me - it's not by hoarding what I have; it's by sharing.” Andre Braugher
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “hoard” as “a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away”. The word comes from Middle English hord, from Old English; similar to Gothic huzd treasure, Old English hydan to hide.
Knowing when reserving becomes “a compulsive behavior which negatively affects the other areas of one’s life” marks the difference between saving and hoarding. Hoarding involves the accumulation and inability to let go of possessions to the point that living areas can no longer be used for their intended purposes. Hoarding is currently categorized as an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Hoarders don't just save things, but constantly acquire new stuff - in severe cases to such a substantial degree that it interferes with functioning and safety.
Typical Signs of Hoarding Behavior
- Accumulating printed material such as newspapers, magazines, mail, books.
- Saving unusable things such as broken irreparable items and rusty nails.
- Having difficulty eliminating things with the fear of losing something important.
- Keeping detailed records of things that are not necessary or valid anymore.
- Saving excess amounts of recyclable items.
- Purchasing large quantities of goods in case of emergency and never using them.
- Acquiring items of little or no value and having difficulty getting rid of them.
- Checking the trash.
- Acquiring so much that living space becomes unlivable.
Why do some people become hoarders?
As with many other compulsive behaviors, hoarding behavior is generally an emotional reaction to a previous trauma either experienced by the people themselves or learned and developed behavior pattern because of a parent, relative or a nation who lived through the trauma. Because the resulting behavior is caused by an emotion, it can be addressed with EFT.
Emotions related to hoarding
- trying to make decisions on what to let go
- thinking about letting go
- attempting to let go
DEPRESSION from embarrassment
- being surrounded by items
- the amount of items
- someone approaching their possessions
- losing something
- not having enough
Even though I don’t know why I keep trying to save everything, I am open to the possibility of deeply and completely accepting myself.
Maybe this is because of what I learned from my grandparents / parents who lived through the war times. They didn’t have enough and sometimes they had nothing. And they created many uses from little that they owned.
They had to keep most of what they had in case they were never able to have it again.
Maybe I can see that I live in a different time now. Maybe I can seek to understand them and appreciate what they tried to pass onto me but I don’t need to do what they did.
Times have changed. I live in a different time/ country. I forgive myself for blindly trying to imitate their behavior.
Even though I feel so guilty if I throw out something that could be used for something else such as a plastic container...
I give myself permission to let go off plastic containers, jars and plastic bags from grocery stores. How many might I need anyway? It seems like I already have many years supply of these items.
Maybe if I can recycle them, I won’t feel guilty of letting go of a perfectly fine jar or plastic bag.
Recycling or giving them to thrift stores might help with my guilt for not saving them and also causing damage to the planet.
Even though I feel very ashamed to ask for help with my house because it is filled with mixed stuff - clothes, toys, things, paper, food, pet hair and trash, I will consider accepting myself.
I am so embarrassed that I can’t even call a handyman to get the broken things fixed. And because I can’t get things fixed, it gets worse.
When I have a plumbing problem, I can’t use my sink. Then I can’t clean. Then everything gets dirtier. It is a downward spiral.
Maybe I can just accept the situation as it is and get help before everything gets even worse. Whatever point I stop at is better than going any further like this.
I pray to find the help I need. I love myself for coming to this decision. I am looking forward to the days I can open up my curtains again.
Even though my parents are packrats, maybe I should stop judging them and try to find a way to help them without making them scared of the process.
I am open to see that this is a type of emotional illness and I can’t be angry with someone because they are sick. I will try to find a compassionate way to help them.
I might need help myself since seeing them living like that makes me depressed.
Even though I feel overwhelmed with all the things around my house…
Sometimes I feel that I can’t breathe. All these things in my house are breathing my air and I am suffocating.
I would like to stop bringing in more. I would love to be able to reclaim my space and my air.
I pray to surface the reasons behind my behavior. I choose to find help. I love myself for seeing and accepting that something is wrong. Looking for and asking for help is the correct decision.
I forgive myself for waiting this long. Maybe I can tap to be able to breathe first. I love myself.
While working with my clients, we often come upon items with tags attached. They don’t recognize the items. They can’t remember buying them. We know that they are not gifts because we frequently find them in the bags in which they were brought home, complete with the receipts. In some cases the bags don’t even make it into the house. They are in the garage where they are left right after unloading the car and stay there until I unearth them. Many boxes coming from TV and Internet shopping are left unopened as well. Unless a purchase is made because of a real need, it is not even remembered. The real reasons for these purchases are deep down and emotional.
Here is a list of reasons for impulse shopping that I discovered while working with my clients and through making observations of other people’s shopping habits.
- Feeling Lonely
- Feeling Isolated
- Feeling Scared and In Panic
- Seeking Approval and Wanting to Belong
- Feeling Inadequate
- Feeling Empty
- Feeling Unworthy
- Low Self-Esteem
- Fear of Missing an Opportunity
Marketing companies have many tricks up their sleeves to use the weaknesses of buyers. Both physical and virtual stores are set up to exploit the vulnerability of the consumers and lead them to a certain behavior. For example, in the supermarkets, the eye level shelves are filled with the most expensive products of the kind in that particular area. In virtual stores - web stores - the products are categorized under big umbrellas so that shoppers are exposed to more products than they were planning to see or buy.
“If users search for a specific product, say DVD players, they only see DVD players. However, when they click through the hierarchy of the site, they are seeing the breadth of the products available,” states User Interface Engineering, in Bradford, MA on their E-Commerce White Paper.
When people see other things, they get distracted and end up buying something they don’t actually need. This study also shows people’s tendency to buy things which are on their way to the targeted product. For example one subject ends up buying the sweater she sees near the entrance on her way to the shoes which are at the back of the store.
Impulse shopping gives the quick rush of a small accomplishment or fulfillment, which in most cases doesn’t even last until the person or the product reaches home. This superficial sense of short-lived joy is then quickly replaced with feelings of guilt, regret, embarrassment and overwhelm originating from financial and spatial concerns.
EFT can be used successfully when the urge occurs just as it is used for addictions when the cravings show up. Furthermore, EFT can be applied to find out what is causing this impulsive behavior and what void people are trying to fill in by “buying”. After this is identified, EFT can address the core of the problem to eliminate the behavior permanently.
Here are some EFT set-up phrases in the beginning stages of addressing to this behavior.
Even though I feel drawn to the merchandise on my way and I get distracted and start wasting time and money on those, I choose to accept myself anyway. I love and forgive myself for not being able to resist. Maybe if I make a written list rather than going shopping with a vague list in my mind, it might work better.
I forgive myself for making lists but not sticking with them sometimes. When I end up buying things which are not on my list, I am actually letting others make my buying decisions. I might think I make the decision myself because of a superficial reason as discounted prices. However if I find that things hang in the closet never worn most of the time when I make these kind of purchases maybe I should reconsider my behavior pattern and work on changing what doesn’t seem to work. I forgive myself for letting others decide what I should be buying.
Maybe if I keep everything I pick on an impulse separately in my cart, I can go through them again before I finalize my purchase. This still saves time of returning them later on and space in my home which I am trying to de-clutter.
If I stop going into the stores which are not on my list, it might help me. I love myself anyway.
Even though it is really hard for me to resist sometimes, I choose to work on my pattern. Maybe, whenever I reach for something I didn’t really go to the store for, I can write it down on a list rather than buying it. Then when I go home I can look at my list and decide if I really need those items. If I am sure about something, I can transfer it to a new list and before I shop again I can cross off the items that I don’t think I need. I congratulate myself for deciding to work on this!
Even though I can’t stop myself from buying things that I don’t need, I am open to the possibility of accepting myself and working on my behavior. Maybe I won’t take credit cards with me and just carry the cash I need until I unlearn yielding to the temptations. This might be especially helpful at times when I know that I will end up with a lot of things that I don’t need - such as big sales. I choose to keep working at it instead of feeling guilt and hopeless.
Whenever I feel like shopping for no reason, I will go for walk, dance or write to someone I am long due to write. I love myself for trying to find another constructive and happy activity to replace impulse shopping.
You can work with an EFT practitioner to be able to properly identify and address the deeper roots of this unproductive and destructive habit.
NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) describes chronic disorganization as "Having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization, and the expectation of future disorganization." The NSGCD also identifies a variety of causes for Chronic Disorganization: Addictive Tendencies, Depression, ADD or AD/HD (Attention Deficit Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Chronic Pain (from diseases such as Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, or Chronic fatigue), MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Alzheimer's Disease, Thyroid Dysfunction, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) Hoarding Compulsion. Along with those physical and emotional reasons, spatial restrictions, poor time management skills, low self-image and going through grief are listed as other causes of chronic disorganization.
One explanation is such;“The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body's energy system. And because our physical pains and diseases are so obviously connected with our emotions the following statement has also proven to be true. Our unresolved negative emotions are major contributors to most physical pains and diseases." So, we know that the many physical and emotional illnesses that are considered "causes" are actually symptoms or signs of other underlying issues. By using EFT these roots of the problems about chronic disorganization can be uncovered and addressed.
While working with chronic disorganization, some of these causes will be easy to identify because of the correlations in the meaning and location of the resulting disease. On the other hand some cases might need more complicated EFT detective work. For example if we think the reason for disorganization is the pain from Fibromyalgia, we should find out why this disease showed up in the first place and address that.
If you think the reason for chronic disorganization is hoarding, please see my previous article on hoarding for the explanations and appropriate EFT phrases. If you are dealing with a diagnosed specific disease and you think that is the cause of the disorganization, search this website for specific EFT phrases directly related to that particular problem.
Below are some EFT phrases for two very common triggers: space and pain.
Even though I have tried again and again, I have found clutter creeping all over me in a short time…
I forgive myself for thinking that I am a failure. Maybe this dark, claustrophobic space is making me not want to stay around here too long, and I keep pulling my stuff from this room to the other areas of the house.
I will see if I can set up my office in area where I can get natural light, or change the lighting in this area and make this space more inviting. I love myself anyway.
Even though I have been trying hard to straighten up around here, every time I have to stop with this excruciating pain in my wrists/back/legs/arms…
I don't know if I am inviting the pain to stop the de-cluttering since I don't really want to work on it to begin with. My logic says I should, but it is so overwhelming. I forgive myself for the possibility of subconsciously inviting the pain.
Maybe if I have someone who can be with me during the process of de-cluttering; I might get distracted from what I am doing and prevent the pain showing up.
Even though I have so many different interests and I think I have to keep everything related to them…
I love to learn more and do everything I am involved with, but I admit that this chaos is driving me crazy. Most of the time, I can't get to my stuff that I want to work on. That's why I have so many unfinished projects and I feel like I accomplish nothing.
Maybe if I can bear with it and say goodbye to some of the things I am actually finished with, I might be able to open up space for my current interests. I don't think I will get back to collecting ____ any time soon again!
If I let that go, it gives me space for my ____ project. And if I organize the rest, maybe I can get to that book that I have been longing to write for so many years.
I love and forgive myself for fighting not to let go off all the things that were a part of my life once but obsolete now.
Figen Genco Professional Organizing/Feng Shui/EFT
Perfectionists are people who are taught to believe early in life that others value them because of what they accomplish - parental conditional love. This kind of false belief system sets up an unpredictable and open-ended standard for the believer. Because their self-value is entirely depended other people's approval, repeated experiences of disapproval creates a vicious cycle of lowering their self-esteem.
The self-esteem which operates on external standards also makes these people overly- sensitive and vulnerable. Since pleasing everyone and being “perfect” in other people’s standard are almost impossible; the perfectionist then becomes either a workaholic while trying to be the best, or paralyzed with fears of failure and success. If this kind of thinking is not addressed, a procrastinating behavior develops.
Procrastinating behavior then triggers another downward spiral of negative thinking which creates other negative emotional and physical responses in the body such as self-dislike, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and clinical depression.
Feelings of overwhelm, all-or-none thinking, and fear of failure also show up in these people’s environment as clutter and disorganization. Perfectionists are very difficult to please and they create a lot of stress and hardship for themselves as well as people within their proximity; family, friends, co-workers and employees.
Even though perfectionism is not officially recognized as a psychiatric disorder yet, extreme forms of perfectionism could be considered an illness because the distress and dysfunction leads to emotional, physical, and relationship problems, including depression, marital conflicts and even suicide.
A summarized list of emotions that are directly related to perfectionism are:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of making mistakes
- Fear of criticism
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling miserable
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loss of control
Sample Phrases for non-severe cases:
Even though I believe that I will never have time to finish that project on time the way I want to...
I love and forgive myself for fretting about the details of the finished project and concentrating about all the things that might go wrong. Instead, I can think about what my first step is, and what I need to do to perform this first step.
Maybe if I create a list of steps to the finished project, and start thinking about how much time each step will take, this might help me see the small bites that I can swallow rather than scaring myself by envisioning gulping down the whole meal!
Thinking it this way, even gives me an appetite rather than that nauseating feeling I had before. I am already feeling better. I will make myself a reminder to think small bites! I love myself.
Even though I don’t think I can ever make my home look the way I want it to look and feel… I used to have no clutter and I was so organized.
After the loss of my father/ spouse/…; After having the surgery; After losing my job; After relocating; After the way he/she treated me all the years; After that terrible event; I started letting the clutter build up. I never understood how bad it could get.
I feel so ashamed especially thinking how clean and orderly my environment used to be before. I am open to the possibility of forgiving myself for letting this happen. I love myself for remembering how I used to be. I will work on it. I did it before. I can do it again!
Even though I have anxiety about thinking of my past failure, I choose to love and accept myself. Maybe if I can understand that IT was a failure not ME, it won’t hurt so much, and I won’t be so afraid.
Maybe I can word it carefully, saying - I have failed once/twice/three times… rather than thinking - I am a failure. No matter what, I am always I AM. If I can remember the Turkish saying, “If gold falls into trash, it is still gold”, which means it doesn’t lose its value.
I will remember not to personalize accomplishments and failures. They are just facts; I don’t need to attach emotions to them.
Even though I am so scared of being successful this time because then next time people will expect more of me…
Do I really want to build my life according to other people’s expectations of me?
Maybe I won’t feel so miserable if I stop trying to please others and do things the way I want to and am capable of doing. I love myself for figuring this out.
"Excessively organized" is a term I use to refer to the situation when people are concerned with minor details that don't mean anything. I often see this situation as "organizing the clutter" because these people engage in ritualistic activities of gathering, sorting, cleaning and containing stuff, including information, which they do not need in the first place.
Even though some people operate this way because they are not aware of other ways to live; most do it as some type of OCD behavior to distract themselves from something else they do not want to face.
Wikipedia states; "The term anal-retentive (or anally retentive, anal retentive) derives from Freudian Psychology, describing a person overly uptight or distressed over ordinarily minor problems with such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others, and can be carried out to the detriment of the so-called anal-retentive person."
It is easy to confuse overly- organized environments with healthy living preferences. Here are two examples:
1 Almost bare space - welcoming and warm (minimalist- a choice of living)
2 Almost bare space- cold and uninviting- nervous energy in the space (overly organized- trying to prove self or others something)
1 Closets and cabinets has containers, some drawers have dividers, things are easy to access and put away (organized- looks natural and functions easily).
2 Closets, cabinets, shelves filled with labeled orderly containers, dividers, gadgets - everything sparkles - guests are afraid to even breathe in the space (excessive organizing and looks like it is from a catalogue, functioning often is not permitted not to disturb the order).
The only way to quickly understand if a person over-organizes is to observe the person's behaviors and the way they talk and what they say. They would find a reason to show you inside a cabinet or closet. They would constantly brag about how much time they spend organizing and complain how their family members mess everything up.
If you are tuned in with the energy in your surroundings, you can also tell the nervous energy in the space. The place might look spotless and very orderly, but you won't feel comfortable being there.
If you live with one of these people, you will observe that unnecessary things are cleaned over and over again, contained, labeled, listed and organized. This repetitive process is complete waste of time and energy. In this case organizing is used as a distraction from emotional pain.
This pain might be caused by a variety of reasons from low self-esteem to filling a void, from the result of a traumatic event to suppressed grief. If this is you, or you are the one who want to help, trying to talk logic or getting upset about the behavior won't be helpful.
Rather than addressing the excessive organizing behavior, getting prepared to uncover the avoided emotion - grief, anger, sadness, etc; and gently addressing that emotion can be very helpful. When the core issue is found through EFT and delivered successfully, the excessive organizing behavior might disappear by itself.
If the person sees that there is a problem and accepts help; set up phrases directed towards the behavior itself might be:
Even though I keep buying organizing paraphernalia, and keep organizing things again and again, I don't feel I am organized enough. I choose to accept the way I am first and see what I can do to change it.
Even though I think organizing to perfection will make me happy, I don't seem to be happy. I want others to see my organization and tell me how wonderful I am. It seems like just doing the action itself is not enough for my happiness, I need an audience to appreciate what I create.
Even though when others see and say how organized I am, it makes me happy for a short time, but when they leave I feel that it is not enough, and that I need to do more. Maybe it is time to ask myself why I can't be satisfied with myself. Who am I trying to please?
These 5 extreme behaviors may overlap from time to time. You will see a perfectionist while you watch someone trying to get organized over and over again. As I mentioned at the beginning of the series, there are no categories that one person can fit. We all have done this behavior or that in a certain time. The trick is to catch yourself before diving too deep in it, and look at the core and ask yourself "What am I trying to escape from?" "What is my gain by acting like this?"
It doesn't matter "why" it happened and "who" caused it. It matters that you recognize it, acknowledge it, and accept the responsibility of healing yourself. Nobody can heal you but YOU. We, the practitioners, healers, or whatever the name you want to give, are only there to guide you and facilitate healing. You have the POWER to heal yourself. And when you do that, the whole world heals with you!