Therapeutic Flat-Cleaning

Each time I clean my flat, I’m amazed at how radical an effect it has on how I feel. Less stressed, happier, calmer. I need to live in a reasonably tidy place, but being the way I am, clutter accumulates at great speed, even with a well-organised flat (can still do better, of course).

Cleaning up never takes ages, but it looks huge on my to-do list. A friend reminded me to indicate approximate time needed next to my to-do list items, which is a very good idea, as I tend to scare and stress myself by making things that need to be done seem much bigger than they really are.

How can I remember that my first priority must be keeping the place I live in tidy? In an hour I can turn a dump into a place that’s comfy for me, but I don’t do it. The more stressed I am, the less I do it.

Take these last weeks, for example. The period around the beginning of November is difficult for me, each year. I’m starting to know that. (So next year, instead of loading that part of the year with conferences, paparazzi work, tests to correct, and an explosive financial situation, I’ve already marked “go slow” and “take it easy” in iCal, and I’ll pay special attention to not adding extra stressors during those weeks.)

Well, cleaning my flat took a couple of hours yesterday and far less than that today to tie up some loose ends. Result: I actually feel relaxed. I’m keeping up with the dirty dishes. I’m Doing Things.

Of course, I’m never sure where are the causes, where are the consequences. Did I clean the flat because my mood had shifted back into “doing mode”? Does the process of cleaning the flat actually do something to me? (Think of all those cleaning rituals — cleaning one’s living space does symbolise cleaning oneself, purification of some kind.) Is it simply the fact of being in a tidy place which allows me to unstress enough to get going? Maybe a bit of everything, as usual. Pure one-way cause and effect relationships are so rare I’m starting to doubt their very existence.

Enough rambling. Next time, when I start feeling stressed and my flat starts being messedmessy, I’ll try dropping everything I have to do to clean it. Let’s face it — I don’t do things when I’m stressed, anyway: I’ll spend hours sorting photos while incapable of writing a simple letter.

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