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?

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

  1. ‘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.’ this is certainly something I have experienced, feeling sensitive to other people’s mess, when in fact I was being judgmental of them because of the way I am with myself.

  2. This is a cracker of as blog Leonne, I love it. There is always another layer to our every move, and you have uncovered the layer of mess beautifully. I love how our home beautifully reflects our body. We can’t stuff our things under the bed without them being felt. Just as we can’t push down our issues without them showing up in our body. True self care for being is felt and seen in all we do.

  3. We can tangibly feel in our body the blessing of cleaning up a messy part in our house. This clearly demonstrates how inextricably connected we are with everything around us, our body of energy interacting with or in relationship with another form of energy (mess) that leads to a product or outcome… Life is a chemistry equation – seen and unseen – biological, physiological and physical.

  4. Cleaning up a mess / disregarded part in our house brings such order and spaciousness to not just the environment, but to our body too. Its such a healthy clean feeling in the body.

  5. Cleaning up my mess for me includes cleaning up my psychological mess – when I find myself going into reaction and getting angry, I am now able to stop and say, ‘I don’t need to be angry, I’m just reacting, what am I reacting to?’ and then I can express how I truly feel, to me cleaning up my emotional reactions is a good mess to clear up because it makes relationships messy. It is me not honouring how I feel inside when I know that honouring what I feel helps me to develop self worth.

  6. There needs to be a whole revolution around the way we see cleaning and this blog opens up the way for this, along with several other great blogs in this series about cleaning out houses and back rooms. Cleaning is a sacred activity and that brings a divine holding space for us to live the day from. To walk into a divinely cleaned office, work place or home is a great blessing and gives us the space to be who we truly are.

  7. Thank you for exposing how we can live our lives based on wanting to be seen by others but the levels of commitment to others lies in our commitment to live this quality with ourselves first.

  8. We can clean so it looks good and may look that way to others, as long as they don’t look too close! Have you checked the top of the doors and the corners of the windows? Is this the same thing we do with the issues we have swept under the carpet within ourselves, so on the surface everything looks good?

  9. I have a new relationship with order, simplicity, space and my home now reflects this. I’ve moved on to my computer files, very messy and with the support of a student, have been shown how to re-stucture and order folders and files. Using the streamlined and structured filing system makes me feel good, lighter, especially filing documents in a way that makes it easy to retrieve them. The work continues – I’m also off-loading old documents no longer needed – a huge job as my tendency was to hang on to everything. Cleaning and clearing is an act of love, and affects every aspect of our lives

  10. I love leaving the house or going to bed with everything sorted and put away. I’ve also done it before when going away on holiday. It’s like a present I’ve given myself when I return or wake up and go downstairs to have a lovely, clear space. If I can give that amount of care to a space, the possibility to do the same for me is equally offered.

  11. I used to live in chaos and the mess in my house, particularly my kitchen reflected this, some days much worse than others. I remember a friend once commenting how he always knew how I was by either looking into my eyes or into my kitchen. Those days are now past and both my eyes and kitchen now sparkle. This has happened through being inspired by Serge Benhayon to bring loving choices into my life, my home and my body.

  12. ‘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.’ This is so true Leonne and when I start clearing out one drawer and feel the space I have created it is only natural that I want to clean another.

  13. ‘I have used mess as a (somewhat putrid) security blanket to help me dull down what I feel.’ Good insight, Leonne which leads us to a possible cause of why we tolerate mess, the next question being, why do we want to dull down what we feel? I never could understand how people could live with clutter all around them and I did have a judgment of them, but understanding why they might need this ‘security’, has helped me to let go of that judgment.

  14. Taking regard for ourselves is reflected instantly in our whole life, our environment and our every living way.

  15. Mess = Stress! Thanks Leonne, a very honest sharing, there is always some little pile of mess making me a little anxious, defiantly more to look at than just time to tidy.

    1. It does make stress, and the fact is the stress can’t be shoved under the bed it is in or bodies 24/7. Not worth carrying around I’m discovering.

  16. I too find it super supportive when I have a clean environment, especially when I am cooking. I used to be a very messy cooker and now I clean up as I go and the order makes the whole process much more enjoyable and with a lovely flow and no big major clean after the meal has been cooked.

  17. The mess we create or clean can be around us in more than just our home but how we choose to live our day and make our choices – there is much opportunity here to cleanse also.

    1. Yes, an opportunity to appreciate, confirm our truth and to make our every movement and expression a loving one.

  18. Though I have been someone who has always been tidy I can relate too pushing other things aside in life and not wanting to deal with them only to have to come back to them later. At the time you think it doesn’t matter and that you are moving on but in truth you are carrying it with you and there will be another time or situation that presents that asks you to then address this.

    1. There are always stones that have not been looked at – it might be your room is tidy, but do you take the same care with your finances, or perhaps your achilles heel is the loose ends in relationships and the things that don’t get said. For me the gold in this blog is how we have pockets of behaviour that are private and we think no one notices, but deep down they are affecting us. One way or another that always gets exposed.

  19. It is important the point you raised about growing up feeling cleaning is a chore. I would think most of us in western cultures would have had the same. I felt no joy or love of restoring harmony and order to the home in the role models I saw cleaning. I now know how much this can be there through cleaning with presence and purpose. However the tendrils of treating it as a chore and something that women begrudgingly do are still there. It feels great to be aware of this and give more focus to the quality of cleaning I know is possible.

  20. I am loving living in my home having to clean up nearly every day because of having it in sale with people traipsing through. It is so very easy to do this every day (even deeper than usual) clean. The idea that cleaning is a chore still weighs a bit on me, but it is always surprising how joyful and how wonderful it is to be received in the evening by a clean and ordered home.

  21. I love your example of hiding your mess under the bed as it shows so clearly we cannot truly hide it because we will always feel it even if it is unseen.

  22. We can live in a way that supports ourselves, otherwise we just create a lie and then try to cope with the consequences.

  23. Could we be limiting the definition of mess to just mean that of a physical disorder and or disharmony? What if we applied the same principles of what we deem a mess to be to that of disharmony and disorder in our relationships, in the way we think about ourselves or the way we treat our body? Not that our relationship for instance is necessarily a mess but we tend to accept tensions, struggles, abuse, and conflict as normal but what if these aspects of our life could be so much more grander?

  24. Don’t you just love that feeling when things are all in order around you? Its so nourishing to the soul.

  25. Interesting comment ‘ even if there was no one else who would see it except me’. So often we put ourselves at the bottom of the pile of important people in our lives. How about if we made the bed precisely because or burnt the incense and we would be the only ones who got to enjoy that. That making sure we take care of ourselves, that our honouring and care for others would be so much more sincere and heartfelt because it comes from deep within.

  26. Cleaning up the house always feels amazing so I have to ask myself why is it I can let it go to ruin? Is it because I lose focus and don’t care and only when it gets too messy that I have to take note. Where am I at to not notice the little things? How about I complete one task at a time rather than getting all the toys out at once and leaving everything in a mess?

  27. Making our beds was something we as children had to do each day as part of our practical contribution to the home.We also had to wash and dry up the dishes as there were no dishwashers in those days. These were the basics and other jobs got added – my brother washed the car and I ironed my school uniform Sunday evening. Just simple little things but they got us into a rhythm, and also knowing that these were the basis of an ordered life. Now I am so much more aware of the love with which these things are done.

  28. It is great to look at the greater picture and what we are producing by our output – both in a physical sense but also the effect of our every movement, expression and intention.

  29. Many’s the time I have raced round and cleaned things up because I had people coming around so as not to show what a slob I was, but it is far more simple to keep things in order in the first place so there is no keeping up any sort of pretence.

  30. Something I have found very profound is that even with excessive and stringent attention to cleanliness and order, this can even be holding us back if it is done with a want for the out to be a certain way with first connecting with the inner and allowing that to order our surroundings.

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