Ask Dr. Phil: Camille

Ask Dr. Phil: Camille


"I'm the most organized un-organized person in the world," says Camille. No matter how much time she spends rearranging furniture and organizing her clutter, she too soon finds herself amidst more clutter. "I go to look for something and I still can't find it. I'm surrounded by chaos!" she says.

"My kitchen table is now my desk, and it's covered in paperwork. I can't find the bills so I'm constantly calling the credit card company, going, ‘How much do I owe you?' Friends call and say ‘Do you want to go to the movies?' And it's like, ‘Well, no, because I wanted to rearrange my closet tonight.' And it's like, ‘Didn't you already rearrange your closet last week?'


"I've watched those TV shows where they go into someone's homes and they re-organize everything. I sit there, watching, taking notes. 'Maybe if I buy that organizer, that thing that they have in their closet, I can go home and organize my closet like that?' But there's something that doesn't connect from my brain to whatever the book or the TV show is telling me because it's not working. I just want to walk into my house and have it be perfect."

She turns to Dr. Phil. "How can I break this habit of cleaning and cluttering?"


Camille knows her behavior isn't logical. When asked what she thinks the real issue is, she says, "I guess when I'm organizing it's filling a void."

Dr. Phil points out that she's not really organizing, she's moving her clutter around. "Any time I see somebody doing that so vigilantly, diligently, and repetitively, I know one thing for sure," he says, "and that is that you are trying to overcome internal chaos with external organization. And the reason you know that is because it doesn't get better when you fix the external. When you reorganize the external and you straighten up all the clutter, you get everything in its place, you get a brief fix. It's like, ‘OK, now I can relax for 30 minutes before I go to sleep.' But then the next morning it starts all churning up again and you don't want to go to the movies, you don't want to leave and you just don't feel right until you've touched it all. The reason it doesn't work is because it has nothing to do with the internal chaos. Your question has got to become, what is the internal chaos about? Is it because you don't have a man in your life? Is it that you're unsettled about where you are, and what you're doing and where you're going? Is it some legacy that you've pulled from your past and never gotten closure on?"

After figuring out what her internal chaos is, Camille then needs to find other ways to calm herself. "Relaxation skills, breathing skills, exercise, yoga, prayer, meditation. Things that will give you the same release as moving your stuff around. It doesn't mean you don't like organization. It just means you're trying to fix an internal problem with an external cure." Dr. Phil urges Camille to stop this now, before her habit turns into obsessive-compulsive behaviors later.