I’m in the middle of moving. There are growing piles and accumulating boxes around me as I pack and decide what will fit in my new, smaller, apartment. This blog is interestingly timed, as I sit in the midst of a bit of chaos.
I am also excited to be in a new space. I have never loved apartment complexes and have managed to avoid living in one for a majority of my adult life, having lived in houses or duplexes until four years ago. My new place is a small guesthouse in the back of a property, perfectly sized for my two dogs and me, our own enclosed space with no one above or beside me (and, I hope, a lot less barking at random noises throughout the day and night!).
As I have shared before, one of my greatest joys is making a new house or living space a home. Bringing my own taste and sense of style into a room and making it feel like a welcome and comfortable place to live is incredibly fun for me–and seeing my pieces of furniture in a new layout or resurrected in a new way is gratifying.
What I have been less strong in, is keeping an area clean. By clean, I mean organized and with most things in their proper place. I come home after a very intense job and tend to sit, breathe, let the dishes pile up for a few days, have a few piles of mail or laundry ready to sort, and move a pile from one room to another so that room can “feel” clean for a little bit of time before the accumulation begins again. Having two dogs does not make this any easier, as they love to christen my clean sheets, just-vacuumed furniture and rugs with their hairy bodies. One of them is terrified of the vacuum and attacks it, so I can only do a deep clean when he is not in the area.
Yet, coming into a space that is perpetually “in process” is hard. There is a sense of peace I notice when I enter a living area which is clean and organized. I have lived on that old adage, “A messy room is a sign of a creative mind” for too long, too often. I find all sorts of excuses: fatigue, busyness, the dogs, living alone (or with an understanding roommate), procrastination, needing more time, not knowing where to begin. Name an excuse, and I have probably used it. Often it seems like a thankless task, proceeding to clean and organize knowing that it is only a temporary fix and that within days (or sometimes hours!), it will become cluttered again and, if it is a shared space, not kept to the standard we may desire.
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of moving into a new home is the fact that it is clean. It is a new start and a chance to organize belongings, place them in new arrangements and perhaps put them to a different use than traditionally thought. I have been in homes where every single square inch of space has something sitting in it, with no room to breathe or relax. We may decide to essentially ignore a piece of furniture, unopened box, or other item and push the thought from our minds that it is taking up room which would be lovely to open up. It is also easy for me to have tunnel vision, choose to avoid looking at the piles of papers or knick-knacks that have no storage bin to hold them, and to leave my bedroom desk or the kitchen counter full of unused or non-purposed items.
When I am in a patient’s room and there is clutter everywhere, from their own brought-from-home comforts to perhaps excessive supplies which were brought in for a procedure or anticipated need, it is stifling. Very often the first few minutes of my shift are spent removing unnecessary extra items or organizing personal needed comforts, so that the space feels clean and there is room to perform the needed duties of bedside care. Wiping down the counters and shared spaces, putting fresh linens on the bed, clearing away trash or used food items and providing patients and families with a sense of calm is an easy thing to do to honor them and allow them to be in somewhat peaceful surroundings in the midst of the unknown.
If I am eager to provide this sense of cleanliness and tranquility to those I serve on a daily basis, or I am willing to help a friend organize their space or assist in clearing away debris (or purging the extraneous or long-unused pieces from their homes), and I love the result and pride myself on caring for others in this way, I really should think about doing the same for myself.
It is easy to shrug my shoulders and resign myself to the eternal job of keeping my home “in process,” as I mentioned before. It is also easy to decide that, since I just cannot figure out where to start, I should just continue to live in the disorganization. But then I remember the thrill of being in my bedroom when I have taken the time to clean and organize it, and the calm that fills my soul when I am sitting in a room that I have taken the time to clean and refresh. It is an act of service toward myself to spend an afternoon or even an hour doing the maintenance to organize, straighten the wayward and numerous piles of mail or undone tasks.
I love looking at and carrying the large accumulation of recycling once I have made it through a stack of paperwork or sorted through home décor magazines which I have held onto “just in case I choose to revisit that color” or “because it looks cool on a bookshelf.” Dusting, an endless and least favorite task, is arduous to do with pets. But once it is done the decrease in dust and dog hair, even if just for a few minutes, is worth it every time. Sorting laundry into drawers or closets feels like a relief, and seeing the carpet or floor after working through a pile of unorganized items brings me joy. It is silly, perhaps, but to have that area in hand, however small it may start out to be, is a simple way of honoring myself by choosing to keep my living space clean.
I feel good walking into my house after I have spent the time and energy cleaning it. It seems arduous and endless from time to time, and a repetitive cycle, to go through the same motions on a daily basis, or to let it all pile up and spend a day clearing away the fog of material things we just let happen.
I am able to organize my thoughts, breathe more deeply, and relax when I am able to see the result of my hard work. Yep, it is hard. Keeping a space clean and organized is hard. But it is a way to honor ourselves, demonstrate that we care for the home we have been given and the body we inhabit, to commit and stay the course of maintaining a clean home. Keeping a place of calm, and sorting through the heaps of disorganization, is a metaphor for life in many ways. When we can establish an open and tranquil space, we can eliminate the anxiety of that “one more thing to do” from our minds for a bit of time.