Cleaning Up My Mess – True Self Care or Keeping Up Appearances?

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

Further Reading:
Clearing Out Clutter – The Room at the Back of the House
The Power of Making My Bed in Love
What’s all the Fuss about Self-Care?

558 thoughts on “Cleaning Up My Mess – True Self Care or Keeping Up Appearances?

  1. “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.” Giving myself enough time – and space – to organize myself is something I am learning late in life. I used to pride myself on being a multi-tasker which meant that although I was doing various projects at a time, everything appeared disorganized on the surface. Slowing down and staying present with one things at a time – and clearing up after myself as I go is a task I’m still learning to master. The knock-on effect with my relationship with myself is noticeable.

  2. This has really made me think about clearing mess, creating space and getting rid of stuff no longer required and see if it creates space for me to do all the stuff at the moment I haven’t got time for.

  3. My room and my house are not always spotless and all organised. I am not interested in keeping up appearances for others because usually before anyone comes to my house, I would feel compromised not tidying up for me! But yet there is no perfection sought in my day to day, even though I would love a more organized house and more space, I am accepting that as a step by step process with the intention in appreciating rather than wanting to change or not accepting my current choices, would allow it to happen. I have to be very honest to myself that life is constantly asking me to be more, and that starts from within myself and with my closest environments and with my family and home, so with this focus, no matter how busy I may be, I would come back to my home and my room and deepen my relationship with it.

    1. This is gorgeous Adele as I can feel how you put no pressure on yourself to keep your home tidy and by bringing focus to the the relationship you have with with yourself you naturally strengthen you relationship with others and the envirmoment around you.

  4. Leonne you highlight well how everything is a reflection of what is going on in our lives energetically, all of the time. There is always opportunity to create more space in surroundings and open up more space within and vice versa.

  5. Leonne, I love this article and find myself coming back to read it often as it is very relevant for me, since reading this I too have been considering how I clean my environment; ‘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.’ I have noticed that if I clean for other people, for instance a visitor then this feels unloving, can feel rushed and not enjoyable, whereas if I clean for me and to have order in my house then I and my house can feel amazing.

  6. ‘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.’ And this not only happens with possessions but also habits and behaviours.

  7. I have lived in some ‘clean’ houses in my life, but on reflection I can see they were mostly about strict regulations and keeping up appearances to me. The place would be viciously vacuumed when aquaintences were about to come round in case they should see a speck out of place. It feels very true what you outline here Leonne about our outer surroundings reflecting the inner space. I get the sense we all deeply know this but some of us try to avoid it by using control. I can say from my experience this doesn’t work at all. Step 1 in life seems to be accepting totally with an open heart just where you are at.

    1. It’s an interesting point that we may judge a messy home but not a clean one, when they can both be the way they are from the same source of energy that is not from God or the soul.

  8. How we live matters so much more than what we do. This is how I have begun to cherish and be understanding with myself. If I have prepared well with Love, without an expectation about the outcome, and this relates to all areas in life, then I am able to stay in the quality that feels amazing and steady and the outcome will be what it will be. What is there to attack myself with if I have prepared with Love?

    1. This first sentence – ‘how we live matters so much more than what we do’ blew me away and reminded me that quality has to come first, with everything – and to treat everything I do with that same care and attention. Preparation with love comes first, and assures the quality of everything that follows.

  9. Before I left to go away, I had a clear out and left my home clean and tidy (no perfection here) and it feels lovely to know that this is what I will be returning back to.

    1. I remember growing up not quite understanding and getting a little annoyed when my mother would want to have everything clean and tidy before going away on holidays…. we just wanted to get going. BUT now I know, and don’t like to leave the place not tidy before going away. It feels incredibly supportive to come back to a home that allows us all to get on with what needs to be done.

  10. You would not believe how dirty our plumbing was unless you talked with our plumber.. boy oh boy whilst we live in a very very clean house there are areas that can still hold pockets of uncleared energy that when recognised and cleaned offers such a great healing and support for us. Such simple medicine.

    1. I hear you Joshua, like looking inside our washing machine and discovering how filthy it was… and it is meant to clean our clothes that we put on our bodies. Nothing is ever nothing.

  11. I live in a house with a family. There are many opportunities to learn from one another’s reflections in terms of disorder and order. It makes such a difference to be responsible energetically, emotionally and physically.

  12. I find my most restful sleeps are when my room is at its tidiest and cleanest and even that is forever evolving as I take deeper care of how clothes are put away in drawers and hung up in wardrobes.

  13. I too am beginning to understand when we let go of the ideals and beliefs that we hang onto thinking they are who we are, that something more wonderful is there to take it’s place… Me, the real me without the props, pretense and masks that I have worn thinking this is the me that the world wants to see.

  14. I feel that often when we are faced with a mess that we can get rather overwhelmed about where to start and end up walking away, and hoping it will go away. Well that doesn’t work but what I have found that works is taking one little area of mess at a time and once that is done a feeling of space has already been created and I am more than ready to address the next bit. It feels so great as the mess clears that it becomes easier and easier to complete. I love the feeling of spaciousness in me and around me when I begin to clean up my ‘mess’, no matter what form it takes

  15. I feel that often when we are faced with a mess that we can get rather overwhelmed about where to start and end up walking away, and hoping it will go away. Well that doesn’t work but what I have found that works is taking one little area of mess at a time and once that is done a feeling of space has already been created and I am more than ready to address the next bit. It feels so great as the mess clears that it becomes easier and easier to complete. I love the feeling of spaciousness in me and around me when I begin to clean up my ‘mess’, no matter what form it takes

  16. I love the title of this blog – cleaning can be very much about what is on show or done to relieve the body. It is quite different to clean where the starting point is love and care.

  17. When kids are explained why it is important to put things back in their place and how it supports them and every –one else, then more often then not they will do it with out a fuss. When it from an order and/or control by the parent then they tend to react to the energy and not want to play ball with it. In the first incident they feel connected to and considered, in the second they feel controlled and bullied.

  18. “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.” Clearing the things that do not support me is like taking blinkers off and discovering a world I was not able to previously see or feel.

  19. The purpose and intention behind why we do something makes such a difference to how we feel whilst we’re doing it and the energetic imprint that we leave in our wake, and also our willingness to do it in the first place!

  20. Cleaning up by putting everything out of sight is like putting on a smile when we actually are sad or unhappy. It looks good but it doesn’t feel great.

    1. I agree Lieke, as years ago we would have visitors from the States come for a couple of weeks and my life was so chaotic that the house was never ready in time, so we would put everything in back bags, stuff it in a cupboard and sort it later. But I remember standing in the kitchen feeling the space around me and it did not feel loved or cared for, yes it was clean and free of clutter, but it felt horrible.

  21. Like refining our diet or sleep patterns or exercise routine I find I am always refining cleaning and organization of our home. I can feel when something needs to go or a space that needs to be re-organised but when this gets left and is well overdue it makes a big impact on how the house feels. The same with leaving repairs and maintenance for too long…. it is like leaving addressing and healing something in our selves for too long also.

    1. Thank you Aimee, it’s a great point you make that whether we attend to our body or our home it’s all the same thing.

  22. I find cleaning and clearing for me at times removes the cobwebs and the lingering effect of an old pattern, at times it feels like paving the way for what is on its way, and at times it simply allows me to deepen my relationship with the area that I am engaged in. Whatever the flavour, I could be doing more. Thank you for the inspiration.

  23. I like the title Leonne. ‘Appearances’ ‘veneers’ ‘masks’ ‘shows’ have all become an integral part of what we see it is to be human. There is so much judgment that we have to protect ourselves with appearances. Also we know what is true deep inside and when we don’t match that we put up a pretend smoke screen or do an imitation of the truth. Time for genuine dedication to being true in our lives not matter how imperfect that may be. Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance.

  24. Living an ordered life in honour of ourselves and others, provides for a natural flow that is supportive of us all.

  25. So taught into me is the ‘keeping up appearances’ approach that I have to be very attentive to the quality with which I tidy up… I am freer than ever before of the pressure to to prove my worth through being seen to manage my home efficiently, but the whispers of the rules still appear.

  26. This blog reminded me of cleaning up before a cleaner came to my house to do a spring clean, this was definitely because I wanted to keep up appearances. But I equally know and appreciate cleaning to allow the flow in my house to occur and feel the gorgeous space I can create.

  27. It is very telling how we can rush around to clean and detail when someone is coming over , but sometimes forget to give ourselves that same level of honouring.

  28. Leonne, since reading your article previously, what I have noticed is that now if someone is coming over to visit and I tidy the house for this reason – rushing round to get it done in time, then this feels awful and not loving for myself, my house or my family. If on the other hand I tidy to support myself and my family the house feels amazing and this feels truly supportive.

  29. I am finding clearing and refining myself and my environment an ever deepening process and as I do so I am discovering that my horizon forever expands.

  30. Yes!, i love this feeling of clarity and space when i tidy and clean up…” I felt more clarity as I brought order to each part of my room..” The body certainly does relate and respond energetically to the changes we make in the environment we live in… a wonderful reflection – one that indicates we do register and feel everything.

  31. ‘Serge shared that he religiously makes his bed every day, as this is part of his commitment to himself and his commitment to life.’ So I ‘am getting that cleaning is not a chore but is a commitment to life as is everything else we do. So if we work and are not committed to life does this then reflect in our cleaning? Could it be that starting our day with a commitment, that is to life and that commitment can start to flow into the rest of the day? Then one Loving act leads to the next act, which can then also be Loving because the first was also a commitment to Love and life? Maybe this is how we then move into the day starting out with a Humble act of Love that is a commitment to life so as we go about our day we can be connected to deepening levels of Love and thus greater serves to humanity!

    1. Thank you Greg for your comment about commitment to life in making our bed, and starting our day with “a Humble act of Love” and that “one loving act leads to the next”. When we break all of life down into energy everything is an opportunity to express and be the love that we are.

      1. So true Melinda it is the domino affect. When we allow life to unfold we start out with the first domino being at-least gentle on the way to being self-loving. Then True Love can start to takes it place in our life and that first domino never leaves us for we will always find an area in our life where we can bring a deeper awareness and be at-least gentle.

  32. What stands out was reflected in a session recently, that we can be doing the same thing but what is the quality of energy and ultimately what is moving us? What type of energy is this, is it for us to look good to another or are we fully appreciating and multidimensionality of each movement that we make, what its actually doing.

  33. The love of myself now is my motivating factor for a life of clarity, order and cleanliness, from my taxes to my kitchen cupboards.

    1. Awesome Heather you inspire me to work on this, commit to living with more simplicity, clarity, order and cleanliness in all areas of my life.

  34. Mess is simply showing me how i am living – living messy! It’s annoying and uncomfortable on some level because it does not support me.

  35. There are so many ways we can reduce and distract ourselves from the otherwise vast space that is all around us – in this space, everything is revealed, it’s just a matter of being open and present with it and our movements within it.

  36. There is mess on the outside and sure that is a reflection of something (and could be many things), but this is nothing as compared to a mess on the inside (especially when covered up with a nice controlled environment on the outside). I’d rather see the honest mess then a cover up that makes it difficult to pin down exactly what is happening.

  37. Its an interesting thing to reflect on why we would choose not to clean and therefore live in a messy or even dirty space. I find that some areas are easy but others I find more challenging to clean. Its important to contemplate what this means for each of us in terms of the reflection of each area on the house for ourselves. What I can see is that there are areas in my life that I am willing to compromise on, but what is the effect of this compromise?

  38. ‘True self-care simply supports our connection to ourselves.’ And when we are truly caring for ourselves we are caring for everybody and the amazing thing is we find ourselves equally taken care of by those around us whether they be friends family or strangers.

  39. This is so supportive to read again Leonne, and another great reminder to examine my relationship to my home, and to see cleaning as an opportunity to express my love and the qualities of my soul in every task.

    1. Yes indivertibly Melinda, our responsibility is to look at each loving act as a blessing and then the next place where ever that is will as be blessed so that we appreciate the space in-between.

  40. How we are with ourselves will reflect how we are with everything else in life. The Universe has an order and rhythm to it and the stars know their place in the sky and what they bring to the whole. Keeping our home tidy is like a micro version of the Universe, if we don’t do our bit then this affects the whole. I love your honesty about hiding things under the bed as a way of tidying up Leonne, we may think we can get away with it but our lack of care affects us in so many different ways.

  41. I was helping someone clean out their room and what I realised was, it was more enjoyable than I first thought. Clearing, organising and cleaning felt great. I find it is easy to help others declutter but when it comes to my own room or house I hesitate to start or make excuses to be busy with other things. Decluttering is simple and easy but my mind often makes it more complicated than it is.

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