Even as a young kid, I liked to organize and clean out my things. I’d spend hours pulling apart the medicine closet or the garage to discard things forgotten or spoiled. My room was spotless and I would extend that to each corner of the house as much as my parents would let me. I occasionally got in trouble for organizing and donating or throwing things out, but for the most part, they let it go. It even extended to other people’s homes and I thought nothing of spending time at a kids birthday party cleaning in the living room or that kitchen (trust me, an eight year old at the sink washing dishes can get pretty far before someone notices what they are doing if they are quiet). Growing up the 80s meant that my behavior could be written off as an oddity in what we can all acknowledge was a weird decade. Luckily, my parents were too busy with their full time jobs, owning their own businesses, and popping in terrifying VHS tapes for us to watch (Labyrinth and Gremlins come to mind…) to right the course of my habitual cleaning and organizing.
Years later my “special talent” would come in handy many times over. Like the time my dad needed an extra housekeeper at his business or when we moved cross country (5x) or lived in less than 500 square feet for a lot of years. It also helped me at work because it spilled into my filing systems; being able to find emails or whatever my bosses needed buried deep in the backlogs. It helped me have answers when no one else did at work, which also meant that others relied on me to have everything together and organized so they could focus on their jobs and tasks at hand. My weird childhood habit had finally turned into something useful. The physical cleaning had transitioned into mental ordering. In a world where we’re all going digital and some of our most valuable things are unseen, it’s sometimes the systems we build mentally that allow us the most flexibility.
The flipside is that I’ve realized that in order to try to stay mentally sharp to create systems for work, I need more time and quiet than a lot of people to recharge. I enjoy having less to stimulate my senses which have been overworked just in regular daily life. I can go as slowly and calmly as I want, but organizing and cleaning are methodical, marked improvement to something as tangible as my environment is getting me closer to the life and the person I want to become. Living more simply is a challenge that a lot of us face, and by creating a simple environment, I am able to start to give myself a mental break and appreciate everything in my life just a little bit more. I find I’m more grateful for the sun coming through the windows in the morning, the tall white ceilings, the basic furniture, and the fact that we have this house at all. I find that keeping our home clean and simple allows me the mental space I need to think more clearly and do more with my life. Who thought a building could do that?!
What about you – what environment do you find inspires you?