The Spirituality of a Tidy House

Maybe I just enjoy projecting my issues onto the physical realm because it makes them easier to deal with… or perhaps I get lost in cleaning projects or love analyzing my approach to the task because those things serve as a distraction from my deeper life issues that need untangling. Either way, this article reviewing a book from Marie Kondo was a tasty morsel for my brain to chew on.

I love Psychology Today… All of us who are honest will agree that sites like this are much nicer to peruse than bushwhacking our way through the swamps of over-jargony journals, and who has the time to read multiple books to gather multiple analyses for every little day to day project that needs tending?

Projection often gets a bad wrap and holds a negative connotation. Do you get that or is it just me? Or do I need to explain?

In psychoanalysis, one might be described as unconsciously or compulsively projecting (acting upon, creating) their suppressed desire or quality that on a conscious level they do not feel comfortable with. It might make us feel shame to see ourselves as a the type of person who always has laundry all over their floor, or whose kitchen is always wrought with piles of dishes and beer cans. This becomes an issue when those situations are causing difficulties elsewhere- bugs are constantly running around in the kitchen, you never have enough options of clean work clothing, etc. So instead of actually using mindfulness to observe what’s really going down in our hearts and subconscious mind (slowing down to know thyself), we just carry on, business as usual, taking time to do everything except the tasks that confront us daily and are daily left undone. We might even deny that we are that thing that we dislike and will be quick to judge others who possess that negative quality or live such a disagreeable lifestyle. We have high values. Too high to hold up to them ourselves. “I’ve just been so busy lately because business has been so good!”

So back in non-soapbox world, I’m at my house with this to-do list that God himself etched in stone for me. With lightning rods. Like, there’s nothing stopping me from making sure I do everything on this list before my roommate comes home from Spring Break. She’s the least in-the-way roommate someone could possibly ask for. I’ve never even had to wait to use the restroom. I don’t know why I see her absence as some better opportunity than any other ordinary day at our house to do the projects I’ve put off, but maybe that’s less than important. What is important is the power of NOW, and I feel the power very strong. Now. (Thankyou Eckart Tolle)

They say that the appearance and order of our homes are reflections of our inner selves. I get the essence of that statement, but I can’t stand when this stuff gets taken to puritanical extremes. They say a cluttered desk reflects a cluttered mind. Maybe so, but in that case, I’d like to make a rebuttle: “Yeah, your desk is completely EMPTY. Let’s talk about what that reflects, you vacuous void of unoriginal non-creativity.” And let’s please rethink the implications of a saying things like “cleanliness is next to godliness.” For the love of donuts, folks… Terrible.

Sometimes we defend the chaos in our house because we’ve been use to it for so long, the notion of “I know where everything is right now, and if we clean, I won’t know where to find anything.” This is not an issue of our organization style; it’s making an excuse for not simplifying and streamlining so that you doesn’t default to swamp mode when you don’t have time to clean every week. If you cannot remember what is at the bottom of that stack of papers, folders, to-do lists, your 1st grader’s math test, coupon offers, an important tax document that you forgot about because it was near the bottom of said pile, you need to use it or lose it before this weekend…when you will go out to bars party or ladies’ Bible study on Sunday afternoon or taking the kids anywhere and everywhere… whatever place that you will arrive to and feel compelled to put up a front that says, “My house is a shiny feel-good crib to me and the guests I invite over. We’ll totally host at my place next time (SIKE).”

Here’s why getting to the bottom of the compacted dust and piles of mail and to-do lists on sticky notes should be made a STAT priority, before you do anything else this weekend.

A very large part of the reason you can’t wait to get out of your own home to catch a breath of fresh air on the weekend could be because you are not investing in making that space nice for yourself. I’m not talking converting anyone into feng shui fanatics or getting all cuddly about having seasonal decorations for every month. Do you even know me? Personally my taste lends towards the philosophy of simpler is better. I used to go by the motto that if I have more than can fit in my car, I have too many material things. But then I sold my car and now I am in want for a new standard of measurement.

Minimalism is great for some, but I realize that to others it sounds like taking all the freedom and joy out of living.

Minimalism for some is also used as a passive excuse to not explain why there is no unifying feel, organization, or theme to their homes.

Minimalism for me is a philosophy that provides some kind of hedge to keep me from ever being featured on “Hoarders.” This is a fear-based mentality that believes maybe I might lose control of my semi-tidy spaces I occupy. This is why the aforementioned book review sunk its claws into my attention span- I know that I’m not invincible to the forces of house entropy.

The article summarized “ten common tidying myths” that are beliefs we carry about how we clean, or don’t clean, our homes. Some of them are justifications for the habits we have; some of the points expose the flaw in our method and remind us to employ consciousness and be in the present moment as we address this outward manifestation of our inner state of mind.

Of course no one can judge you literally for what their impression of your home is to them. Well, actually they can, but you don’t have to take it personally or give any worth to their words. You can take their observations as only that, someone’s observations; and if it makes you uncomfortable and tells you that you want to make a change, then great. Make that change.

I will say that two of my favorite myths busted in the book review were:

1. Whether or not I should keep an object depends on how potentially useful it is.
2. Cleaning a little each day is effective.

Those are subconscious stories I tell myself about cleaning my house all the time! That is, I held these habits until this article clued me into my unnecessary emotional attachment to certain items that no longer serve me (therefore, representing too much energy in the past or worry about the future… not focusing my energy onto my present life). And my house gets filthy when I don’t keep to any regular schedule. You don’t have to do everything all in one day, but if you never find out how much needs to be done or how often, you start accumulating dust dividends. You must actually step back and ask if you’ve done enough.

I won’t spoil the rest of the article for you. Go read it (or the book!) yourself! And enjoy the process. Enjoy reconnecting not to the spaces you inhabit, but through the spaces you dwell in.


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