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Messy House, Messy Mind

an illustration from The Hobbit of dragon Smaug on a pile of gold

Smaug has nothing on me at my messiest!

All right everyone, it’s group activity time. I want all of you to picture for a moment the state of your homes, especially your bedrooms. For those of you currently at home, this task may be simplified by taking a moment to look around.  Stop whatever else you’re doing just for a few seconds and just take in your environment.

Have a good image in mind?

Those of you who just pictured a comfortable, organized space with visible floors and no dishes in the sink, feel free to pat yourselves on the back and go back to your regularly scheduled blog-browsing.

Those of you who just grimaced as you realized that you still haven’t taken the laundry out of the basket this week or have a pile of cereal bowls in the sink that is starting to make the Tower of Pisa look insignificant may benefit from a brief jaunt down Sophie’s memory lane.

For many, many years I was definitely one of you guys. I was the type of girl who lived out of a suitcase even when I had a closet full of hangers at my disposal. I let books and homework pile up on the floor until I had to choreograph a very specific jumping pattern in order to reach my bed, and I hoarded enough cups, bowls and glasses on my desk that I put Smaug and his gold to shame.

My excuses were always the same: “Sure it’s a mess but it’s my mess” and “It’s a specific type of chaos that I can thrive in” or even “Yeah, it looks bad but I know where to find everything I need.” I lived this way in my single dorm for my freshmen and sophomore years and when I got roommates as a junior I just contained the disaster to my own room and didn’t let it bother them. I figured that would be good enough.

However, at the beginning of last semester I moved into a single apartment. As my class workload increased and the rest of my free time was being devoted to my new job, I realized that the controlled chaos was no longer as manageable as I thought. Halfway through the second month I realized that I’d never actually developed any reasonable cleaning skills. The clever hopping to my bed became a tedious path that I could barely navigate as I stumbled to bed after class and the bowls around my desk were frustratingly unavailable as I woke up early for work and needed a quick breakfast.

Without me even realizing it, my home environment had become just as stressful as my school and work.

It was then that I decided something had to change, but I couldn’t just undo years of perfect chaos. I had to develop a plan.

I started slowly by cleaning each dish immediately after using it. Later, I dumped my laundry on the bed so I’d have to put it away before I slept. Every time I stepped on something I picked it up and put it on a shelf. Each task was small in its own way, but it made a difference over a couple of weeks.  Slowly, the mess began to unravel and my cute little efficiency apartment actually became visible.

It wasn’t an immediate change, and now that I’m two months away from graduating, I’m finally in the habit of just putting things away as I finish with them to the point where I don’t even think about it anymore. I even bought a vacuum cleaner for myself. Seriously, I was actually excited when it came too. I am officially that person.

When I come home from class or work to a clean apartment it makes everything feel simpler. I can focus on homework without constantly hearing my mother’s voice saying “You should really take out the trash, Sophie.” My apartment actually feels like a sanctuary instead of a cave I rent for sleeping.

I obviously can’t convince some of you lovers of chaos that having a clean home can lend to a clear mind but I will vouch for it till the ends of the earth. Just starting small with a little floor-pick-up here and there is enough to give it a go.

Just know that your environment might be affecting you more than you realize, and even if the pile of socks by your bed says otherwise, you definitely have the power to control it.

Keeping your space clear can be a quick fix to help keep your stress maintained and it can be the first step in creating an environment that actually feels like home.  At the end of a long day sometimes that’s the best comfort in the world

Unless you count hot chocolate, of course.

–Sophie Kaplan

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