What Makes “Tidying Up” So Magically Life-Changing?
Spring cleaning—a thorough and deep cleanse of our homes at the end of winter—is a common tradition that’s as old as the hills. In many cultures it marked the onset of a religious or seasonal celebration or festival. The home was cleaned as part of a preparatory purification process.
And over the ages, it has somehow seeped into the crevices of our consciousness – this need to clean house as we emerge from the darkness of winter. When the sun shines brightly and highlights the smudges from months of wet weather on our window panes, we want those smudges wiped clean so we can see clearly beyond them. We want to be able to fully take in the beauty of the burgeoning springtime.
And when we do clean our windows (and all the other grimy corners of our homes) we just feel so good afterwards. Lighter and brighter.
Spring cleaning is the ancient precursor to the modern-day practice of decluttering, the benefits of which Marie Kondo is helping to bring into the mainstream. Decluttering is a whole other level of work that often needs to be done before we can even get to the spring cleaning. It has evolved from our insane levels of accumulating stuff.
Most of this stuff we don’t need to live a functional and fulfilling life. However, its acquirement has been salving some part of our souls that have been crying out for something—and the stuff gives us a brief feeling of having satisfied that need. It’s because of this subconscious association between our stuff and our emotional needs, or our unhealed traumas, that decluttering can have such a life-changing effect.
Truly, spring cleaning and decluttering does more for us than the obvious. The immediate, joyous effect is a beautiful calmness that descends on a room that’s recently been cleaned and cleared of cobwebs and unused, unloved stuff. But the long-term benefits can run much deeper.
When we clear out our physical space we also clean up our energy—physical, spiritual and emotional.
When we change our inner world it impacts on our outer world. And when we change our outer world it impacts on our inner world. Because our minds, bodies and spirits operate as an integrated whole, when we make improvements on one level we invariably start to experience improvements on other levels too.
And so, if we’re feeling stuck in some area of our life, by clearing up our physical environment we can give ourselves the mental, spiritual or emotional boost we need to get unstuck and get going again.
Here comes the science bit…(if you consider Feng Shui a science, that is—I prefer to look on it as an art).
Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway) is an ancient Chinese practice of balancing the elements of the environment and optimizing the flow of energy or chi. An environment where the energy can flow freely allows for good health, wealth and relationships. And the converse also applies.
Clutter causes the energy flow to stagnate, and the areas of our homes that are cluttered often represent corresponding areas in our lives where our energy may be stuck (and where circumstances may also be less than favorable).
An achievable solution? Keep our home environment clean, organised and simple. Don’t overcrowd rooms, cupboards or drawers with furniture, books, clothing or any other apparel that we don’t actually use, or love.
There’s a simple rule: have only what we need and adorn strictly with items we love. And nothing more!
Poverty Consciousness versus Prosperity Consciousness.
It’s certainly pleasing and comforting to look around our homes and see that we have plenty. That fosters a feeling of abundance. But when we have stuff jammed into cupboards and drawers that we can’t even access because they’re so full, then we have unnecessary excess. And far from fostering abundance, it actually blocks the flow of abundance.
Ironically, hanging onto all our possessions regardless of whether or not we need them is known as poverty consciousness. Which simply means that we don’t trust that we will always have whatever resources we need, whenever we might happen to need them. Prosperity consciousness is trusting that whatever we need will always be available to us at the time we need it.
So, instead of hanging onto something that we might need ‘someday’, the answer is to let it go. Trust that if you do ever need such an item in the future, either you will have plentiful resources to acquire another, or you will receive one as a gift at the perfect time.
I used to be like a squirrel, afraid to throw things out in case I’d need and regret it later. I don’t do that anymore, and somehow or other I generally have what I need when I need it. (I might not always have what I want, but what I want isn’t always for my highest good!)
Paring back our possessions to only those that we actually use and those that make our hearts sing doesn’t just lighten up our homes. It lightens our hearts too. So much of the unnecessary stuff that we accumulate is bound up with an emotional need or pain. Making the choice to let go of the items often brings up the pain. And when we sit with it for a while, acknowledge it, feel it, its grip on us starts to loosen. When we choose to let go of the item, we often let go of the pain too.
And sometimes we can go through a massive clear out without the emotional stuff getting in the way of the clearing—but we still benefit from a freeing lightness anyway.
Even if you don’t believe in the energetic principles of Feng Shui, living in a decluttered environment has many practical benefits:
- Less items to accumulate dust makes it easier to clean and improves respiratory health issues.
- Precious time is saved when we no longer need to hunt for items.
- Decluttered spaces are calm spaces, and calm spaces are easier to relax in than busy ones. They promote greater relaxation.
- We can use our space and furniture properly—for example, sitting to eat at the dining table instead of balancing a plate on our lap because the table is buried under books, paperwork and ironing.
- We can see all the clothes we own and access them more easily. Although the quantity of our clothes will decrease, the variety of what we now wear will probably improve.
When our homes only contain what we need for the day to day functioning of our lives, and just enough artistic and decorative pieces to give us a lift, we gift ourselves with a home that is so much more than a shelter from the world. It becomes a true sanctuary for our bodies, minds and souls.
Piles of stuff that need to be sorted through, or cleared around, or moved when we need to get to whatever they’re blocking, is a constant drain on our energy—even if we’re not conscious of it.
A home that makes our heart sing doesn’t need all that much. Simply surround yourself with items that you truly enjoy. Our home is our castle and it’s in our best interests to enable the energy to flow easily and make it as uplifting a space as possible.
So, if you’re a bit of a squirrel, but skeptical of the energetic benefits, I challenge you to have a clear out of just one room of your home and pay attention to what you notice in your life afterwards. It will be an interesting experiment and all you have to lose is your clutter.
First published on Elephant Journal
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