The Calming Effect of Cleaning House

The last couple of weeks I have been insanely busy–work, events, project deadlines… As a result, this morning my place looked like it has experienced its own apocalypse. So when I sat down this afternoon to try and sort out my schedule and projects for the coming week, I became instantly overwhelmed. If I couldn’t even find my planner under the mountain of mess on my desk how was I supposed to get any planning done? The solution is obvious: clean the desk. But when you’re already feeling over-committed and behind schedule, taking time away from pressing projects can feel like a luxury you can’t afford. So forward we plow, not realizing that the 10, 15, 20 minutes it would have taken us to do a quick clean and organize would have been more than made up in saved time and enhanced focus.

The same can be true of prepping, especially for those of us who live in small spaces. The thought of trying to find space for gallons of water can just be too much when you barely have room for your shoes. Luckily the same steps that can clear your brain for the next important project can help make prepping easier, too:

  1. Stop thinking about prepping, or whatever your most pressing project/s may be.
  2. Look around your room, paying attention to which areas are most contributing to your stress levels.
  3. Choose one area that: is making you crazy, is manageable in size, and will not take a ton of brain power to complete–dishes are especially good for this, so are folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom. Cleaning your desk can work, too, if you focus on sorting and filing and don’t get caught up in everything that has to be done.
  4. Clear, clean, wash, dust, file or whatever your chosen spot requires your hands to do, while keeping your mind gently focused only on the specific task before you and your emotions detached from the action. If you chose dishes, for example, focus on the warmth of the water, the swirl of the sponge, and the methodical spread of open counter space.

As you work, a couple of things happen:

  1. The mess begins to disappear, taking at least one part of your stress with it.
  2. Your mind begins to relax and calm from the repetitive, meditative action of moving your body while giving your brain a break.
  3. Your pressing projects and problems are allowed to percolate just below your consciousness, making connections with possible solutions–like noticing a more space-efficient way to organize your kitchen cupboard as you put the dishes away, or realizing that you have two copies of a book that you don’t even need one of, which gives you more room on the shelf for a few of the books stacked on the floor.
  4. Cleaning and clearing can be contagious, and what starts at the kitchen sink can easily spread to the bedroom, office, family room, and beyond.

One last note: If you have time constraints due to other commitments, try setting a timer for 15 minutes and do as much as you can in that amount of time. While it does amp up the stress initially by adding the pressure of time, once you see how much can be accomplished in a short time span, it will actually decrease your stress over the long term.

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