Self-Punishment, and no crime

Some of my travels as I wear my Casual Uncluttering LLC hat* involve trips during which I meet potential clients for an hour or so, in the space(s) we’ll be working, before we decide to partner. A visit is one of my tools for confirming that I’ll bring the right skills and resources to a project, and it’s a chance for me to teach people a bit about the process. One of the supremely disheartening things I hear during these conversations is: “I haven’t done ‘X’ in months, because I can’t until I get organized. Getting organized is my responsibility. ‘X’ is my reward.”


Even if it’s apparent in seconds that I can’t take on a particular venture, or obvious that the person interviewing me isn’t comfortable with me, I can’t let that thinking go. I have a compulsion to reframe it.

X IS NOT A REWARD. X is self-care, therapy, medicine, anything you need to call it.

Doesn’t matter what X is. At all. If X is that appealing, that pleasurable for you, then X is a tool, a support, a means to the end, for you to get the work done. You give yourself X before the big, bad, scary, hard, unpleasant effort of organizing, and you give yourself X again afterwards. You will come to the work Refreshed, Relaxed, and Ready. Yup, there are more “3 Rs” than just “Readin’, Writin’ and ‘Rithmetic” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” That X may be as vital to you as breathing.

And yes, it will also be a reward. But not for finishing the whole house. I want you to pinkie-swear you’ll give yourself X for five minutes of organizing, or managing five pieces of paper, or for figuring out a system which keeps you from losing your keys. Those little accomplishments aren’t little. They’re practice at building the skills, they accumulate, and you deserve to celebrate them. If you get to a point where you want to challenge yourself a little, yea, sure, it’s gotta be X before the work, but X after 10 minutes of decluttering, 10 pieces of paper… And off and running!

I  hurt to hear people blame themselves, and punish themselves, for being human. For having unique strengths and weaknesses, or for living with circumstances that are directly harming their efforts.


Maybe browse through these articles. If something strikes a cord…

Why Do We Punish Ourselves? by Guy Winch online in Psychology Today

Why Some People Blame Themselves for Everything by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science online, June 4, 2012

Ditch the self-blame over unrealistic work demands This Friday March 29, 2019 Darren Thomas Baker article in The Irish Times discusses unhealthy work environments, but it can be so much more broadly applied.

Self-Blame: The Ultimate Emotional Abuse posted to Psychology Today on Apr 19, 2013 by Michael J. Formica MS, MA, EdM

No Pain, No Gain: the Psychology of Self-Punishment posted to the Berkeley Science Review by Juliena Breines on May 23, 2012

Break Your Habit of Self-Blame with this Genius Hack This is just plain fun. A witty little game posted by online personal trainer Carrie Dorr to

*This is a figurative, invisible hat. I’m one of those Organizers who doesn’t advertise physically, except for the rare flash of a name tag at an event, a shoulder bag with a logo (so I don’t lose my presentation materials) and a suitcase with a logo (so I stop forgetting my coat), all easily hidden at will. The suitcase was sorta a reward. For finally figuring out why the heck I kept forgetting the coats. Boy Bundled in Jacket

About Lauren Williams

Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer®

Any Comments are subject to Casual Uncluttering’s review and approval before being posted.  Casual Uncluttering reserves the right in its sole discretion to decline to post any comment and Casual Uncluttering may also decide to remove any comment at any time.