This is a photograph of a gift given to me for my birthday this year…
It’s an eye mask and was given to me by two dear friends for a giggle, as they know I ‘like to clean’.
They also know that I can’t ‘settle’ until things are clean, hence the implication that I would only be able able to don these fine purple beauties when all had been cleaned to perfection!
Cleaning is something I have always embraced. I was one of those rare children that never had to be asked to clean her room, namely as I enjoyed it so much. To be fair I would usually tie my cleaning in with a little room rearrangement at the same time (story for another time about my inner-interior-designer), but the point here is that I found that cleaning allowed me to feel much more relaxed and able to enjoy my space. For that reason, it was worth the time investment.
Habits that stick
This habit of cleaning is one that has stayed with me through the years (hence the eye mask, and the occasional reference to being ‘Monica’, a la Friends!).
I would however like to be clear here about why I like to clean.
First of all, I don’t enjoy cleaning per se.
I enjoy the look, feel and experience of being in my space when the cleaning is over. For me cleaning is about a cleansing. A purification and dusting away of stuff that allows for clearer workspaces, and airier rooms.
It’s really clear to me that it is not just about the physical need to want to live in a clean environment, but just as much about how I feel in a space that is clutter free. I love then, the fleeing of lightness and calm that comes over me when I have cleaned, and tidied, my space and know for me that this allows me to work better, feel better and function better. For me, a tidy house really is a tidy mind.
Don’t be confused…I don’t want to become a cleaner!
A lot of people have confused this trait in me over the years, thinking that there was something about the actual cleaning itself that I enjoyed. ‘Do you find it relaxing Serena?’ people would ask. ‘Are there any parts of your home you particularly like cleaning Serena?’. ‘Why does it have to be so clean all the time Serena?’. ‘Would you like me to leave this messy for you so you can clean it? (!!!!).
The process of doing this is a selfish one. I do it for me as I’ve illustrated here, as it is more about the feeling it gives me. I certainly don’t want to go into other peoples spaces and start cleaning it as it’s not my space. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel itchy in places I don’t find clean and tidy, but I don’t have to stay in these places. They are not my space and so therefore don’t require the same investment.
Cleaning is obviously a habit that I developed young. But there are lots of habits we have as children that don’t stick around into adulthood. This one clearly serves me and so not only have I continued to keep the habit, but I have developed it too.
You see, I have developed my cleaning to include periods of massive decluttering and ‘paring back’ as well. Every few months I tend to take a new area of my home and do this…often having to start with my wardrobe!
I enjoy seeing the space created by the taking away of what is not needed. I enjoy the feeling I get of lightness and have a sense of freedom created by having fewer things on my back, fewer things I feel attached to.
Do you relate to this?
I’ve noticed a massive influx of cleaning and decluttering books on the market at the moment, not to mention programmes and documentaries about cleaning and hoarding! You may for example be familiar with some of these popular ones in the marketplace:
Many people are learning to understand what having a decluttered space can feel like and are therefore turning to books and programmes like this to not only have a nosy at how others live, but to maybe understand where they are on this spectrum?
Understanding our own relationship to our space
As a psychologist as someone who works with people who often come with issues around their use of space, it’s interesting to look at ‘where these patterns of being’ came from?
As I’ve illustrated here, for me it was a habit I started as a child and this came from liking a ‘pretty’ environment, hence my cleaning is heavily intertwined with room and space rearrangement/redecoration. As an adult this grew into room-design as well as decluttering. It’s also about my feeling and journey towards being more ‘stuff free’, something I’m constantly working on as I do think I can live with less stuff, thats for sure!
Figuring out this stuff can help you to understand why you act the way you do within your own space. If you then want to change things or indeed are finding it difficult to change things, you have a better understanding of why you may feel attached to things or why you struggle with things in your environment.
Ultimately though, this is about finding a way of being that you are happy with. That serves you and that works with anyone else that you have to share your space with.
How do you relate to your space?
I’d love to hear from you about your cleaning and tidying behaviours.
Have you figured out where they stem from? Are there things that you have to do or avoid when it comes to cleaning?
What books or insight have you found useful to understanding yourself and relationship to your cleaning and tidying practices?
I look forward to hearing your stories and ideas, especially about a topic so close to my heart.
Tel next week!