Back when I worked as a programmer my favorite tasks involved cleaning up code. I liked removing redundancies, organizing functions for better accessibility and simplifying things for better clarity. I think this preference of mine originated from my need for being more organized in real life.
While being messy can be a sign of a creative mind, it can also be a cause for anxiety, confusion and lack of inspiration. After all, the environment we live in is a reflection of who we are, influencing us as much as we influence it. Our inner state manifests in the way we live and its effects become causes for our state of mind and being. Our habits therefore, tend to create feedback loops of experience and the environments we live in become like extensions of who we are, reflecting back to us our personalities, emotional states and habits of thinking. Living in an environment that is nurturing, safe, clean, bright and organized can help improve our state of being because when the environment is not a distraction, then we have the external conditions for being able to think clearly.
I have often felt after difficult experiences the need to clean my room. I didn’t question this need, I just knew that I had to put everything in order, I needed to put myself together and I had to start somewhere. Cleaning your room is the easiest and quickest form of improving yourself, because it’s a clear, practical thing you can do. You want to clean up, because you want to be able to think clearly, you want to be able to see how things really are and from that space, you want to be able to make better decisions.
But we don’t always know how to clean up and organize, how to remove clutter and improve our homes. I have tried numerous times to find the best way to set up my environment so that I would enjoy it, yet it always seemed to end up messy and disorganized, which made me feel really anxious. It got so bad, that I had to remove a piece of furniture from my room, and ended up creating clutter in another room. I just couldn’t bear it in there any longer.
Just about the time this was happening, the Universe brought to my attention the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In it I found the answers to why I couldn’t keep my environment clean and organized. And it has helped me tremendously, not only in cleaning up, but also in understanding myself better.
Marie Kondo created a cleaning up method called KonMari that has had great success in not only creating order in the environments it is applied, but also maintaining order indefinitely. There are two main rules that need to be followed:
- Keep only those objects that give you joy
- Have a designated place for every object you have
This is all you need to keep your place as organized as you want it, because if you only have objects that give you joy, then you will feel good in your environment and if you have a place for each and every object, then you know where to put it back after you use it. The most common reason for untidiness, after all, is misplacing objects.
Moreover, the KonMari method provides a great way to declutter and to organize objects too. It says that the best way to declutter is by category. First you start with books, then with clothes, then papers, then miscellaneous objects, and finally objects to which you have an emotional attachment. The way you go about it is to collect all objects in the same category on the floor and go through each of them, touching them and asking yourself if they really bring you joy, keeping only those for which the answer is yes. Then, you thank the objects that you want to give away or throw out for having served you, and then you release them.
When you are done decluttering, all that remains is for you to find a place for each and every object and the best way to do it is again by category. After you do this you will feel much better, as you will be surrounded only by objects that bring you joy and you will know where each object goes, so that your environment doesn’t end up in chaos anymore.
One very important thing I started noticing when I decluttered was that many books I had bought I didn’t buy for good reasons, many clothes I had I didn’t like to wear and many things I had, I never used. For instance, some books I had bought because I liked someone who was interested in those topics. Others I had bought because I was too ambitious about learning things that I wasn’t that interested in. And others no longer represented me. The same with clothes, some I had bought from second hand and I realized I just didn’t like to wear second hand clothes because I am sensitive to other people’s energy, other clothes I had bought because I had created a false image about myself and they didn’t really suit me. And others were just colorful and I like color, but they were too flashy to be worn.
I realized that more than half the things I owned I no longer identified with. The biggest realization I had was that I didn’t really like music production. I liked the outcome of it, psybient music, but I didn’t like the process of creating it. I got angry and frustrated when I tried making music and I just didn’t find peace or joy doing it. I had bought a Korg Minilogue synthesizer, understood its functions, connected it with my computer, and just when I got to the first bigger obstacle, I realized I didn’t really like to do it. I had spent a lot of 2018 learning about music production, bought an audio interface and a professioal microphone, took lessons on Udemy on piano and music production, bought a Korg Volca Beats drum machine and a Yamaha Reface CS that I sold because I felt I was limited by them, bought the Korg Minilogue, only to find after almost a year, that I didn’t really enjoy it that much.
That is the power of cleaning up and decluttering. You start seeing the ways in which you have fooled yourself about your identity. You start to understand what you really like and dislike, who you are and what you want to appear like to the outside world. You start to see yourself clearer and it puts you in touch with your wants and needs. Thus, decluttering really helps to relieve the state of confusion you may find yourself in. It creates the space needed for self-observation. That’s why that Jordan Peterson meme about cleaning your room is so powerful. You need to sort yourself out before you can impact the world in a meaningful manner that is based on true understanding.
When you create this space you may start seeing the things in your life that are good or bad for you. You may find the cause of your anxiety, you may realize that certain activities don’t bring you joy, that certain things no longer work for you anymore or that you are no longer willing to accept certain behaviors in other people. What starts out as minor decisions on your home environment, can turn into radical changes in your life.
There is also an esoteric perspective on cleaning up. Clutter and uncleanliness is a magnet for negative energies. I experienced this first hand. When I decluttered I didn’t want to throw things away because I had a lot of books and clothes in new condition that I could sell or give away. So I put them in bags and deposited them in another room. There were like 8 to 10 bags of stuff. Then, after a while, when I decided to sell them on the Romanian equivalent of ebay, I had to unpack them and that is when I started feeling sick, like needing to purge. It’s as if I had bothered the stale energies that had settled there and they started to run amok.
Light is also very important for your state of mind, not only from a biological and psychological perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective. The Sun is after all the life giver and it heals the aura. We need natural sunlight for our well-being and a room that is well lit really helps improve your state.
Fresh air is another thing that helps with anxiety. During a time when I had trouble sleeping, I would leave the window open over the night. The air needs to be renewed and even 5 minutes of fresh air/day can improve the quality of your experience at home.
Lastly, I will leave you with a fragment of a lecture by Jordan Peterson that perfectly illustrates the idea that the environments we live in are an extension of who we are.
“Jung said first of all you unite your mind with your emotions so that makes one thing instead of two fighting things. That’s a good one! And then the next conjunction he talked about was that it isn’t enough to unite your mind and your emotions and he thought about that as a male-female pairing symbolically. That’s how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. So you take the masculine element and the feminine element, the thinking and the emotion, unite those and that makes you more like one thing. Ok, now all of a sudden that’s represented as symbolically male, that one thing. And it unites with something else that is now represented symbolically female, that’s the body. So you take the mind-emotion integration and integrate that with your body. So what does that mean? You act it out instead of just thinking!
So there’s this philosophical idea called a… now I’m gonna forget what it’s called, it’s a contradiction in action, there’s actually a technical term for it but that’s when you think and believe something but you don’t act it out. And so that means there’s a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. Well, that’s another form of discontinuity that isn’t doing you any good! You know, the driver’s going one way and the car is going the other and you won’t even be able to understand yourself if you do that. But even more, you’re not putting your principles into practice so your being is dissociated. So once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistently. So that was the second conjunction as far as Jung was concerned.
And then the third one was – this is the tough one and this is the one that is related to phenomenology – you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. That’s a tough one. So imagine you’re dealing with someone who is hoarding. People who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder. But then you walk into their house and there’s like 10000 things into their house. There’s maybe 100 boxes and you open up a box and in the box there’s some pens and some old passports and some checks and their collection of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and you know, a dead mouse. And there’s boxes and boxes and boxes, it’s like that in the house, it’s absolute chaos in there, absolute chaos, not order. Chaos! And then you think ‘is that their house, or is that their being, is that their mind?’ and the answer is there’s no difference. There’s no difference! So you know, I can say if you want to organize your psyche you could start by organizing your room, if that would be easier, because maybe you’re more a concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So you go clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk and you think well, just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you organizing your field of being like your field of total experience? And Jung believed – and I think there’s a Buddhist doctrine that’s sort of nested in there – that at the highest level of psychological integration there’s no difference between you and what you experience.
Now you think, well, I can’t control everything I experience but that’s no objection because you can’t control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you can’t extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself. So let’s say you have a long standing feud with your brother. Well, is that a psychological problem, is that him, is it a problem in the objective world or is that a problem in your field of being? And it’s very useful to think that way because you might ask what could you do to improve yourself? Well, let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be ‘why should you even bother improving yourself?’ and I think the answer to that is that so you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to and maybe so others don’t have to either. It’s something like that. There’s a real injunction at the bottom of it, it’s not some casual self-help doctrine.”