Clutter Clearing Concept – Object Permanence

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The Object Permanence Concept helps us to understand why we may have a stronger attachment to the things in our clutter than other people.

Object Permanence is knowing that things and people continue to exist even if you can’t see them or hear them. Humans develop this awareness, on average, by around the age of 6 months. 

It is best illustrated by the game ‘Peek-a-boo’ that parents play with their babies. If you play this game with a baby that’s less than 6 months old, it will usually cry when you put your hands in front of your face because it doesn’t know you still exist when it can’t see you. It thinks you’ve disappeared.

If you play peek-a-boo with a baby older than 6 months, you’ll notice the baby is more likely to laugh, signalling that it knows you still exist and you’re playing a game.

Although our Object Permanence develops in our first 6 months of life, it can be shaken at any time in our life due to trauma. If we feel we’ve had people abandon us, we’ve had relationships end, or lost loved ones, our sense   of   Object   Permanence   can   be   weakened, especially in relation to objects that belonged to those people. We worry about forgetting the memories.

The consequences of poor Object Permanence are that we can have insecure attachment to people or things; we forget daily tasks e.g. paying the bills, appointments etc. If things are out of sight, they are also literally out of mind.  Poor Object Permanence has been linked to adult ADHD.

Those of us who struggle with clutter often have a weak sense of Objective Permanence either because of childhood experiences, or trauma’s in our lives. 

Consequently, we have a greater fear of things being lost or forgotten if we can’t see them. We’re more likely to need to SEE things to believe they exist, trigger memories, and feel confident we can rely on them. We only feel safe and secure when we can SEE our belongings, even if they’re in piles everywhere, and it’s one factor that explains why our clutter always grows back, even if we do clear some space. 

One way to accommodate our need to SEE things to believe they exist is to use open shelves and rails to store things, rather than cupboards with doors that mean we can’t see what’s inside. Your LIFE Timeline exercise will help you see whether you might have a weak sense of Object Permanence.

If you think Object Permanence may be a factor in your Clutter Challenge and you want to know how Clare can help you do that, visit her free online help centre now:

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