Clutter, part 2

For me, there is another really huge reason to get rid of the clutter and that is because is helps my child affected by trauma. Now, before I continue, I have to give my regular disclaimer. I am not a trained therapist. I am a mother who is working to raise a traumatized child and is willing to share what she has learned along the way. What is true for my child and what works for him may not be true for your child or family. Take it all with a grain of salt.

There are three big ways that clutter is not a good thing for my healing child. The first is pretty obvious and that visual clutter and disorder seems to hinder an already cluttered and disordered brain to regulate. Think about it. Do you do well in a chaotic and disordered environment? I'm not talking about whether you work best with a messy desk or not, but just the atmosphere in general. I'm pretty sure that the majority of people would say that disorder... messiness... visual chaos makes them feel unsettled and unhappy. If piles of stuff sitting around make people feel good, I'm pretty sure that's what we'd see in magazines, or realtors would be OK with house sellers leaving everything in their houses, and publishers would stop printing how-to-get-organized books.

If functioning adults do not do well in mess, then consider the traumatized child. One of the difficulties these children have is to sort out and evaluate what they are feeling. If their environment is sending signals to their brains that life is chaotic and unhappy, this will compound their difficulties. They already have a host of triggers in their brains which are sending them these signals... life is scary, unpredictable, and confusing. Sometimes these feelings have basis in reality, but more often it is because children from hard places actually have difficulty evaluating what they are feeling and either misinterpret or cannot interpret what they are feeling. Thus, if they are feeling unhappy because the clutter is too much, they won't necessarily understand why they are experiencing negative feelings. They feelings will just be there and in their brains it could be for any number of reasons. And I can guarantee that if they are having negative feelings they will assume that something bad is going to happen and must act accordingly. For us, a calm and orderly atmosphere helps to cut down on the negative input which happens. Plus, it makes me calm as well and a calm mother is always good. For everyone.

Reasons two and three are interconnected. If you have contact with a child from a hard place, then you become aware fairly quickly, that much of life for this child is consumed with control. Who has it and how can they get it? The world isn't a safe place and the only person they can rely on is themselves. They need to be in control if they are going to stay safe. What does a cluttered environment scream? Lack of control... of someone, somewhere. (Usually the mother gets to take the blame for this.) Once again, the child feels, "Hmmm... this mother person can't be trusted. If they were in control, life wouldn't feel chaotic." But this void of control has other implications if you are raising a child who also suffers from what I call the "Jackdaw syndrome".

Jackdaws are birds that collect anything shiny that catches their interest and it sounds so much more kind than stealing. While it is stealing, it is also so much more complex and really does have some jackdaw tendencies to it. It's wrong, I'm not confused about that. But a child can both understand with the rational part of his brain that it is wrong and still act on him impulsive side and no amount of punishment is going to make those two parts of his brain meet without significant healing. Usually these jackdaw children make use of opportunity. A house with a lot of clutter provides infinitely more opportunity to acquire other people's interesting things than an orderly one. We do our children a favor by eliminating temptation and thus helping them to behave as they should. Think about it. If your house has little clutter so that it is easy to see what goes where and there are few enough things to keep track of, it is fairly evident if something is missing. Or, if the house is ordered and everything has a place, then it is fairly obvious when something has been added. (Dresser drawers still need to be sorted through on a regular basis, just sayin'.) But in a house that has a lot of stuff and the stuff is all over and things are rarely in their places, then it is in this vacuum of control that tempts the jackdaw. First, no one can tell if something has gone missing or has been added where it doesn't belong. It is not evident and, at least for my jackdaw, this invites temptation. Plus, if we have so much stuff, there is the rational that a) no one will miss it; b) everyone else seems to have more than I do and it's not fair, and since I can only count on myself, I will take care of that, and c) if they really cared about this stuff they would take care of it. (It's ALWAYS someone else's fault that these thing happen, you know.) It's all very complicated. I'm not saying that a clean and orderly house will make the jackdaw turn back into a child, but it also won't encourage the jackdaw.

Lack of clutter is not a cure all, but it can certainly help to keep equilibrium in the home, mainly because it is good for everyone. And for those of us who are raising children from hard places, a little equilibrium goes a long, long way.
Clutter, part 1; Clutter, part 3 will come on Wednesday because tomorrow I'll be sharing pictures from H.'s birthday which is today.


elissa said…
Oh I so hear what you are saying. My little trauma boy is overwhelmed by too many choices all the time. When we first brought him home we had to remove so many toys from the room he shares with his new brother.
Oddly he's also comforted by chaos, so when he's overwhelmed his room becomes a haven for clutter and trash that he's hoarding "just in case" Bleh.
These kids are special!

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