I’m sure most people would list living in a clean and orderly environment as being high on their list of self-care priorities. After all, living in a messy environment is not nurturing or supportive for anyone. For quite some time now I’ve been pondering whether the way I clean my surroundings is truly caring and supportive, or pure function carried out only for the sake of keeping up appearances.
When I create mess and disorganisation, I know it is a reflection of the relationship I have with life and the relationship I have with myself. At times I have found myself heaping harsh judgement on others when I clock the mess they live in, and I’ve certainly harshly judged myself too.
I have begun to appreciate that the reason why we do things and the resulting quality we do things in is more important than what we actually do. My hurried tidy-ups before guests arrive and hidden drawers full of odds and ends don’t honour the importance of my relationship with myself and my environment. In fact, they show me that I am living in a way that is anything but supportive.
Each pile of clothing or solitary utensil left on the kitchen bench seems to make it more difficult for me to feel what is going on around me. When the kitchen is a mess, I can’t even cook a decent meal because I feel ‘all over the place.’ This revelation has helped me to make sense of the tangled relationship I have had with mess throughout my life. I am beginning to see that I’ve often found myself living in a messy way, despite the fact that I dearly love simplicity and order.
When I was a child, my room was constantly messy. I can remember ‘cleaning’ my room by shoving whatever I was playing with under my bed. This went unnoticed for quite a while. It got to the point where I had trouble sleeping, as I would lay in bed feeling stressed about what lay beneath me. Yes, the mess was horrible but it was my secret; it felt too big to sort out on my own and I didn’t seek help, as I was scared of the consequences.
Eventually I stuffed so many clothes, toys, shoes and half-eaten sandwiches (yes sandwiches!) under my bed that they lifted the mattress! When my ruse was eventually discovered, I felt a mixture of shame and relief. I was in big trouble and I had no choice but to start cleaning up. It was hard to face at the time but when everything was back in order I was able to sleep soundly once again.
I grew up feeling that cleaning was either a punishment or a chore. My mum worked hard to keep the house clean for the whole family but I took this for granted as being ‘what mums do.’ I only helped out when it suited me. I struggled to keep my bedroom in order right up until my early 30’s and I often felt ashamed of the way I kept my personal space.
I’ve lived in share houses for most of my adult life and although I was generally able to keep common areas tidy, my bedroom was more often than not a huge mess that I did my best to hide from others. Around seven years ago a friend needed to use my ensuite at short notice and discovered how messy my bedroom was. I was completely mortified and I have cringed whenever I thought of this moment as the years went by as I felt that my messy way of living exposed the fact that I was not a good, ‘normal,’ clean and caring person.
Real changes began for me about three years ago when I had a chat with Serge Benhayon. Serge shared that he religiously makes his bed every day, as this is part of his commitment to himself and his commitment to life. I realised that up until this point I would usually only make my bed because I was hastily preparing for a visit from a friend or family member. I viewed cleaning as a waste of time, something that you occasionally did to keep up appearances and I absolutely could not see the point of making a bed that I was just going to sleep in again that night.
After this conversation with Serge I began to make my bed every single day, even if there was no chance anyone except me would see my handiwork. My choice to make my bed has become as important to me as getting dressed.
And if I do leave the house without making my bed or tidying my room?
Well it’s a sure-fire sign that I’m choosing to create stress and complication for myself. Cleaning, keeping my environment tidy and making my bed each day have become essential parts of my commitment to self-care and order.
It has taken me a long time to admit that I was making a mess in order to avoid feeling how powerful, aware and responsible I really am. Now I can see that I have used mess as a (somewhat putrid) security blanket to help me dull down what I feel.
Today I started to clean up some mess that I had begun to accumulate. I felt more clarity as I brought order to each part of my room. When judgmental thoughts about the choices that lead to the mess being there in the first place came up, they were swiftly thrown out with the garbage.
Now I know that cleaning up my mess can support my connection to the truth of who I am. When I make my connection to my Soul my first priority, when I am cleaning or in fact doing anything for myself and the quality is truly caring and supportive, I am then able to offer true support to others.
Cleaning up our mess is a task that goes far beyond our relationship with the physical world. As I bring order to my environment, I begin to see that my relationship with objects and mess is simply a reflection of the relationship I have with myself and with life. And the more I throw out the things that do not support me, the more space there is to feel just how amazing I really am.
Over the past seven years I have cleaned up the mess in my body through the elimination of alcohol, cigarettes, gluten and dairy, and I’ve cleaned up my relationships by taking responsibility, letting go of reactions and supporting myself to give and receive love. I am beginning to see that there is always something rotten to let go of and something wonderful waiting to take its place. When we clean to keep up appearances or meet an ideal, we are cheating ourselves and everyone else. True self-care simply supports our connection to ourselves. When we choose self-care we support ourselves to feel the truth of who we are.
A huge thank you to Serge Benhayon for giving me the support I needed to start pulling things out from under the bed, and making it too!
By Leonne Sharkey