The world can be an unpredictable place. Because so much of what happens is outside of our control, sometimes a healthy coping mechanism is being able to control what we can. As long as this control does not veer into obsessive perfectionism or anxiety, it serves as a nice compensation.
While we simply can’t control everything that happens in the external world, at least we can control—in most cases—our immediate physical environment by minimising visual distress.
2. Reflection of the internal
Some people say that the way we keep our homes is a reflection, or indication, of what’s going on inside our brains. While there are competing scientific theories as to whether “messy” or “neat” people are more intelligent or well-adjusted, what we do know is that this exists on a continuum and it’s the person’s own belief that matters.
Some people, for example, have “organised chaos” in their home or office—they know where things belong, though it may seem a mess to others. As long as the internal sense of organisation is there, that’s what matters most.
3. Sense of accomplishment
Tidying up can be a very tangible goal, and people achieve feelings of accomplishment after meeting goals. Whether it’s cleaning out the closet, donating unused clothing to a local charity or emptying out the kitchen of recyclables, these experiences make us feel accomplished and thus motivate us to continue achieving other related goals in an effort to achieve similar positive feelings.
4. Being present
There’s a belief among some psychologists that people who live in the past may often struggle with feelings of sadness and regret, while those who live in the future often experience feelings of anxiety and worry.
The best way around this dilemma is mindful presence-be here now. If the space around us is conducive to clearing our mind of past cobwebs (less clutter, less debris, less relics from a life left behind), we are better able to embrace the present and let it guide us into a fresh future that is different from our past.
As we can see, there are benefits to keeping the space around us neat and tidy. While not always true for everyone, external living spaces impact our internal sense of wellbeing. Since this can be the case, try a bit of spring renovation for yourself and see if it makes any difference emotionally; your mind may thank you for creating a cleaner environment in which it can conduct the often messy business of life.
Dr. Michael Eason is a psychologist and US licensed therapist practising at MindnLife in Central, Hong Kong.