When I was five, my mom divorced my dad: a painful and all too common experience. She left my father for another guy. We drove away in a big U-haul waving goodbye while my dad stood alone in the driveway. While my memory can be pretty crap about a lot of things, there is no forgetting that whole agonizing ordeal and how it went down. And it was bad.
I also remember what five-year old me did, starting about that time in my life, when I was stressed out, afraid, uncertain or rattled. I would empty out my entire dollhouse of all the little tiny things in it; tiny furniture, tiny area rugs, tiny cups and saucers. All of it would get unceremoniously dumped out of the house and onto the shag carpet in my bedroom. And then, piece by tiny piece, I would put it all back. Sometimes similar to the way it was, sometimes not. But the process was more about totally leveling it and then rebuilding and reassembling, one tiny item at a time.
This made sense to me. It calmed me down. It got me into the present moment. I was utterly absorbed in this single task. It focused me. It was active. And it was pretty brilliant really.
Because it made me feel better.
Fast forward to present tense, and yea – my friends lovingly poke fun of me. “Neat freak”, they mutter under their breath at dinner parties when I relentlessly bid for dishwashing duty. “OCD!” Another friend whispers under their breath with an eye roll when I get caught straightening a slightly off kilter hallway photo.
But, I have always been this way. Or I’ve always coped this way. I like to tidy up. I like to organize. And I also like to clean. I just can’t help it. And I don’t want to help it! In fact, I need it.
And you might need it too. More than you think.
Perhaps you’re willing to parse together that there are people out there, like me, that truly enjoy cleaning and organizing and that us wierdos even derive benefits beyond a sparkly “oh, that feels SO GOOD” well organized environment.
But imagining that you too might reap personal, spiritual, and emotional benefits beyond what you’ve imagined by engaging in the menial task of cleaning?
And that’s the problem.
We don’t imagine it.
But – what if we did?
What if cleaning has inherent inside and out benefits.
And maybe, you try it, and something unexpected happens, you do feel better.
Maybe you feel clearer, lighter, more energized.
Maybe you feel happier.
Maybe you feel a sense of spaciousness.
You definitely feel cleaner. (Or at least your space does.)
Let me assure you, you’re not making this up. Experiencing the sensations of clarity, lightness, increased energy, happiness, and spaciousness is not uncommon at all after a good ‘ol scrubba-dub-dub throughout the house.
We’re simply not used to thinking about it this way.
Let’s be honest, housework has the worst rap ever.
It’s the classic task we hire OTHER people to do.
It’s gross. Toilets? NO!
It’s a bother, it’s never ending and it takes forever.
But people, it really is your dirt.
The hard and obvious truth is that we create our own messes. All of it. And then, when actual dirt, grim and disorder builds up in our home, we expect others to come along and clean it up. I get it. That makes sense. No judgment.
(And don’t panic, I’m not saying you have to get up now and go clean your house to within an inch of its life.)
But, let’s say you make a total mess of your most favorite relationship in your life. I mean, you really really screw things up GOOD and would do anything to fix it. It would be ludicrous to imagine hiring a stand-in person to go fix it for you and expect your relationship to get better.
What you would do instead is you would go see a professional, you would sit in the uncomfortable saggy couch next to your hopefully soon-to-be-favorite person again, and you would do the hard work. You would look at what happened, what you did, what you said, what your part in the mess was and you’d take some action.
The point is, you would clean up your mess.
So to suggest that intentional cleaning and organizing our spaces is intricately tied to an actual sense of well being and betterment is not that far off base.
What we need to start imagining and then adopting is that our psyches instinctually do reorder and make sense of our world when we put a little elbow grease into the equation. Cleaning might even be likened to a zero cost version of therapy – a two-fer ladies and gentlemen!
And here’s why.
Maybe you hate your job.
Maybe you are unhappy in your marriage/relationship.
Maybe you have a big decision to make and you don’t know what to do.
There are so many possible “maybe’s”, so pick your favorite scary scenario and imagine it now.
You don’t know what to do but your mind is racing and you’re going down the rabbit hole, fast. You think…
- If you could just talk to someone! (No-one is around.)
- I’ll just check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter a million times. (You feel worse. Much worse.)
- I’ll have a glass of wine or a bottle…or a few bottles. (SUCH a bad idea – now you’re miserable and you have a bad hangover)
But you have this energy burbling around inside of you or maybe even worse, you have no energy at all.
This is when, the best thing that you can do, is to DO something.
Get into action.
It doesn’t have to be grandiose. In fact, don’t make it grandiose at all. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Perfect. Spending zero dollars sounds good, right? It doesn’t have to require analysis paralysis. But if you’re feeling lousy and about ready to push the GO LIVE button on your scary story, doing something will bum rush the icky feelings threatening to clobber you.
One of the most powerfully simple “something’s” you can do is to use the environment right at you very fingertips to transform your present tense.
Use your sardine packed closet to help unfold the parts inside of you that need to breathe. Use your kiddo’s toy room to unwind that tightrope like energy in your body. Use the crowded utensil drawer to loosen up and diffuse the ensuing freak out right under your skin.
Your space is safe, it’s your container on this planet, you can do this alone, you don’t have to know how and you need very little supplies.
As you engage in this experience, be open minded, be curious and expect there to be some level of relief or positive benefit while loosely holding onto what the outcome might be. For example, when you go to a spin class or you see a therapist, you expect to feel something or to have some sort of shift or change occur, right? Same idea here.
And you just might find that you
feel clearer, lighter, and more energized.
You feel a greater sense of happiness and spaciousness.
You definitely feel cleaner. Or at least your space does.
Slow down. Keep it simple. Start with something small. A closet. A bathroom drawer. Your guest bathroom. The trunk of your car.
Or go big and dump out the whole damn dollhouse.