Clean Room, Clean Mind

Why do I avoid the backlog and overflowing todo list? Why do I shove one more tool into a drawer already full of bits and bobs? Why do I squeeze yet another outfit into an overflowing closet? Because confronting this mess is hard work. It means making tough choices. Most of the time, I’d rather not decide.

To make sense of my environment, my work, my life—I need to confront the mess. Once the clutter is gone I know I’m left with just the essentials. Once the dust is clear, I can get to work.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo explains that while the process of decluttering and cleaning your home is important to your physical wellbeing, the true outcome is happiness and clarity in your mind. The habit gives you the freedom to take responsibility for important decisions.

I learned so much from this book, from awareness and mindfulness to practical tips on folding and hanging clothes. The habit of tidiness is now a mindset for me rather than just a chore to be completed.

The process starts by discarding the inessential items. Tidying up defines what is valuable: learning what I can do without; learning which books, clothes, keepsakes, or kitchen tools give me the most joy.

In applying her principles, my books were the hardest. I had hundreds and many in the category of “I’ll read this someday.” I trimmed it down to 80-90 best of the best — including this one! Hah. Keeping sentimental, must-read again, and books I reference often. The rest I gave as gifts to a new home or donated.

Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.

A clean home is a perfect metaphor for a clear and organized mind. If my room and desk are clear and tidy I can face the reality of what’s in front of me. “It is by putting one’s own house in order that one’s mindset is changed. When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Am I scared of what I’ll find?

Because you have continued to identify and dispense with things that you don’t need, you no longer abdicate responsibility for decision making to other people.

Decisions are now easier as I see more clearly the work in front of me. And I enjoy even more the treasures, clothes, and tools I chose to keep.

8 thoughts on “Clean Room, Clean Mind

  1. Love it! I read her book as well. I’m in the process of minimalizing and it’s been challenging and wonderful. Books are a hard one for me too. I have a huge collection that I call my “Library of Congress.” In the end, I decided to start de-cluttering everywhere except the library. Because it brings me joy 😉 I’ll probably get to it eventually. – Sara

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hooray for simplifying, Sara. I love this tip: “For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. To avoid missing that moment, I recommend that you keep your collection small.” So true.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I did not read this book, but I came across its name in the other parody book: The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k.

    But yeah, I too feel light and relieved when I keep my home, computer, to-do lists and mind tidy 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rachel, thanks for your comment. Yes! We should find new new homes for things we no longer need. (One trick I’ve used with a relative I was helping declutter was to fill trash bags immediately. Then once out of their sight, I sorted into recycle/trash/donate.)

      Liked by 1 person

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