self-expression for the self-strong

The Zen of Clean Spaces

(A thousand thanks to Cazzy for suggesting this topic.)

Have you heard about the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm? “As above, so below” – or “as within, so without”?

Not only is it true, it can apply to the state of your surroundings and how they relate to the state of your head. While some people are very comfortable in a cozy clutter, others need spaciousness and cleared surfaces before their minds can tackle new ideas or large projects; some people prefer low, intimate lighting, while others function best in streaming sunlight that floods the room.

However you prefer your living or working space to be – and for the sake of this post, we’re talking about spaces over which you have some control, rather than a sterilized cubicle that you can’t personalize – you can change your space to suit you. And changing your outside space helps change your inside space, as well, making room for the flow of your work and play.

Personally, I like an individualized, clean place to live. I like having pictures and books and furniture that is distinctly Mine and Me, in colors that appeal to me, arranged in ways that usually cover the walls but leave the rooms themselves quite open. Having a bunch of clutter or mess distresses and distracts me.

Turns out, I am not a very good writer when I am distressed and distracted. I’m not very happy when I’m distressed or distracted. So, the first step to clearing my head is to clear the table.

I tidy up – I don’t care for the sound of the phrase, but it’s apt – by putting things where they belong. Even if that means piling the laundry in the corner, at least it’s not strewn across the floor; likewise, the dishes get stacked in the sink, even if they don’t get washed right then and there. I clean the litter boxes, take out the trash, light some delicious incense, and may even vacuum – having the air smell good and the floor feel clean beneath my bare feet are Very Important to my sense of space.

The state of my surroundings can have an almost palpable atmosphere to me. If my home (or wherever I am – a restaurant, my workplace) feels bright, open, spacious, and clear, I feel expansive and happy and competent. If the space around me feels crowded, dim, unclean, or “foggy,” I feel uncomfortable and small and inclined to hide in a corner.

What about you? How do your like your space to feel – and what do you do to make it happen?

4 Responses to The Zen of Clean Spaces

  • I’m like you, the first step is to tidy. Clean floors and bare surfaces are the most important, but mostly, it’s the sense of possibility that those things entail.


    In fact… I’ve noticed that this impacts me on multiple levels.

    As an example:

    I’ve taken recently to random rampages of cleaning & pruning all over the place… I’ll get an itch to clean up the office. I’ll go through things that are in plain site, things hidden away from easy viewing, things even that are already in their proper place. In the process, I tend to make a major mess. Once it’s done, though, I feel this spaciousness… this freedom to just breathe. To just be. It’s such a relief to do this, I think I’m becoming (just a bit) addicted to it! Strangely enough (if you think these types of things strange, I suppose) is that I absolutely notice a shift ‘outside’ in my life in general when I do this as well. Again, it’s a sense of being able to breathe freely.

    it is wonderful…. now I only wish I could go home and do some clearing at this moment!!

  • I constantly generate clutter. I enjoy clean, tidy, spacious places with open surfaces, but by nature I’m a stacker, a piler, a spreader…

    Stuff piles up on tables while bookshelves stand half-full, coats pile up on chair-backs while the closet stands empty, papers and notebooks *everywhere*…

    It’s very frustrating, but I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Clearing space takes concerted effort over time, while cluttering space happens as a natural process, taking only an instant.

    I think this may be a case of “as within, so without” rather than the other way around.

  • I love striking a common nerve with posts like these. :D

    Shanna: Yes, the sense of possibility, absolutely. Blank slates are excellent things (or just, room to work on something!).

    Hi Angel! I get what you mean, though for myself, I have to clean up the mess I made in cleaning up… My partner, on the other hand, will leave it as-is and say he’s done enough for the time being. Which is totally okay, and which usually leads me to finishing the job, because I don’t like giant piles on the floor/furniture. :D

    Nice to see you here, Anthea. :D I think, in this case, the mirror of within/without definitely goes both ways. There’s nothing wrong with clutter if it’s how you like things, after all, or if it’s how you live and work best!

    Myself, I use junk drawers for all the stuff that accumulates as clutter in my place, and I have a lot of fun pawing through them when I’m looking for something. I also have one of those giant tupperware-type tubs tucked under my desk, which holds all my miscellany in one messy pile. It totally works for me – I don’t have to stay neat and organized, but I have open spaces elsewhere that are quite soothing.

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