My Cluttered Desk

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN

Image source: Bigstock | ©evgeny atamanenko

In late 2013 I sat down in dialogue with therapist David Bedrick. He’s a delightful man whose work includes the Process Oriented Therapeutic model as developed by Arnold and Amy Mindell. I’m tremendously impressed with his work and had the opportunity to do a bit of work with him during our conversation in the New Dimensions Café program #C0278, The Seed Of Truth Inside Our Afflictions.

What we worked on was something that I’d been trying to change for some time, and that was the clutter that I always seem to be working in. Here is how I described it:

I work in a mess. Every once in a while I’ll try and clean it up and sometimes I’ve even hired someone to come in and show me how to create organizing systems and yet, my desk continues to be piled high. I don’t know how it happens. It seemingly happens overnight when I’m asleep. Why is it that we can’t just cure ourselves of something? In my case, I know that it would be better to work in a less cluttered space, but…

David responded by saying, “This is the assumption. The way we practice psychology is exactly the way you’re describing. Oh, I need an anti-clutter medication. Right? I need an anti-clutter therapist. I need a disciplined person, I need an anti-clutter human being consultant. All these kinds of things are interesting, but not very psychological. When you said ‘I am a clutterer,’ you lit up. Your face was lit up, you were smiling, you were laughing. I think to myself, there is something she loves about all this clutter. I don’t know what it is but I sure better find out about it and go in deeper otherwise I’m going to be fighting something about your nature.

David then asked me, “What makes you so happy about being a mess?”

I responded by describing a time when I hired a clutter/cleaning consultant. I remember when she came in the door I noticed my first reaction to her was one of being offended by her quiet containment of energy. She had great posture, her manner was quiet, and her clothes were unadorned. She wore no jewelry. She had on an off white blouse and a green cardigan, a straight black skirt, and comfortable black shoes. Her shoulder length hair was arranged in a neat page boy. She was very uncluttered in her style of dress.

I pointed out to David the difference between me and this clearing clutter consultant, “Look at me, I’m cluttered. I’m wearing a chunky necklace and earrings, and a long scarf around my neck. And, I have feathers in my hair. I even dress cluttered. She showed me all these great techniques for uncluttering myself but even as she did so, I could feel myself saying, eeek, this is no fun.”

David then pointed out that I have a natural resistance to too much neatness. He said, “If people could see Justine when she talks about this clutter expert, she makes her hands go up and down as if they were making like slices or a box and then when she talks about her being a free clutterer person, her hands are out and open and waving in the air and she looks like a happy expressive human being. You’re a happy expressive human being. I don’t know about clutter but putting you in too tight a box is not going to be so good for you. You already have a resistance to that. If we were to play with that, I would say, ‘Justine, you’re a mess, look at your hair, look at your earrings, you have too many things on, clean up your wardrobe.’  If you were free, what would you say back to me?”

I responded by defending myself, “Wait a minute, I really can find everything I need. I think about my desk and it just makes me smile. I can be attracted to a lot of different things in any one period of time. Here are my books over here, and here are my CD programs over here. My CD music albums over here, and here’s all my pens. My pens are all these different colors. I mean, even right now, in this interview, I have three different color pens with me: a yellow, a purple, and a red. You know, choices. I have choices.”

David concluded this part of our time together by saying, “Yes, this is the celebration of your nature. You’re a radio host among other things, so you’re having all these different people that you’re interested in, this is a part of the beauty of you. I’m here, I’m seeing how the colorfulness of you and how you interview me and all the other people you interview and how you draw people out of all different colors and sizes. This is your nature. Could you clean up your desk? Maybe, but not at the expense of squelching all that celebration of the variety and diversity of life that is you.”

Today, two years later, my desk is still a mess. But I’m more accepting of my personality quirks and foibles. When it gets to be too much, it does get cleaned off until the next time that the piles threaten to hit the floor.

You may hear the full interview I did with David Bedrick, J.D., DIPL-PW and author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil, program #3482. I’m looking forward to his next book and anticipating the insights a future conversation with him will bring.

—Justine Willis Toms

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