Layered for Security

Happy Monday! I’m super excited to share this month’s blog.

The work I do can be very personal and shrouded in secrecy. I’m still working hard to normalize disorganization so that people stop  beating themselves up — not quite there yet!

But once in a while, I have the privilege of working with someone who understands and accepts their struggle with organization. More importantly, they are ready for change, ready to accept help, and want people to learn form their journey. That’s where I find myself this month…

Last fall I was reunited with Regina. This, of course, is not her real name; but I have her permission to share her story — she even gave this a read-through before I published it. Regina and I worked together some three years prior. As often happens, organization slipped to the bottom of her list of priorities and we took a little hiatus. But when Regina’s neighbour in her Toronto condo discovered bedbugs, the alert went out that the entire floor was to be sprayed; Regina knew she couldn’t avoid her clutter any longer. She enlisted friends and family to help clear the floor and move items away from the walls; she also asked if I could be present “for moral support”.

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As fate would have it, Regina’s unit was spared the scourge of an infestation. But having to let strangers into her cluttered space was the catalyst for her to get back on the organizing bandwagon. Our first three-hour session together was extraordinary. With careful consideration, my client made mindful decisions about what she wanted to occupy the space in her bedroom. Armoires were emptied, clothes were folded and returned to the shelves. Other clothes were tossed into the numerous bags which were carted down to my car and carried off to the Salvation Army. I returned two days later and witnessed more of Regina’s determination.

But the following week I received a call. The baring of Regina’s soul began. We would need to slow the pace of our work from twice weekly, to bi-weekly. She was frozen (mentally and emotionally). Her arthritis wasn’t making it easy for her either. When I returned the following week, the big confession was made: The open space Regina worked so hard to create left her feeling vulnerable. She had purchased $300 of clothes and $500 of craft supplies to fill the open spaces shortly after I had left her.

Regina is an abuse survivor. Historically, her bedroom is a place of violence. For decades, her stuff has protected her, acting as a physical barrier. The space she reclaimed, in an effort to help her live more peacefully and easily, in fact left her feeling threatened. On her therapist’s advice Regina turned to her art to process the emotions that her transformed home conjured within her. The result is the assortment of images accompanying this article. These are all examples of the Fibonacci sequence.

Regina started with a black canvas — card stock actually. This represented the negative space that haunted her in her bedroom. Negative space is the area around an object, like the open space that was now visible in between the neatly folded stacks of clothes that occupied the bedroom armoire. Her mission was to fill the negative space. The colourful dots were carefully placed in sequence to create something more soothing and satisfying than the terrifying back panel of the armoire. After a sufficient number of dots covered the canvas, a second layer of dats was added. The same colour was added on top of its base colour, creating dimension, like a swirl of soft serve ice cream. Regina continued to stack the colourful layers until she had that sense that it was just right, she had put enough dots to fill the negative space.

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Regina tells me that the greatest benefit derived from the sequences is in the act of creating them. She has no attachment to them. But she does move them around her condo and affix them to any open space she may be contemplating. The colours fill the negative space and help to ground her.

I continue to be amazed by the creative way that Regina chooses to face her demons. And I am inspired by her strength, determination and courage to continue her journey, while caring for body, mind, soul and home. Not an easy feat.