Musical Playlist: Another One Bites the Dust, Dirty Laundry, Movin On Up

I don’t know if it remains the case but when I was coming up in the world professionally, prospective employers would always ask about your strengths and weaknesses. The weakness question was silly. You would inevitably prepare an answer that was really a strength masquerading as a weakness. Classic responses included “I care too much,” “I work too hard,” “I tend to be really hard on myself,” or “I don’t like to disappoint.” That last one is an Obliger thing. You know what I’m talking about if you read my earlier post on personality types and meeting expectations. Had I ever been entirely honest in an interview, I would have shared that my greatest weakness is disorganization. This is not something I would ever share or recommend anyone share in a job interview. My physical environment always devolves into a mess.

I have been fortunate in my life in that I am well aware of this weakness so I find workarounds and I surround myself with organized types who support me and make me better. I count those qualities among my strengths. Nonetheless, I default to clutter. It doesn’t fill me with pride but I accept that it’s the way I am. A few post-it notes to keep me in check seem to turn into an avalanche of post-it notes stuck to everything. I know what’s in every pile of papers until the moment I no longer know and then the thought of sifting through a pile to find out overwhelms me. I tend to live as I am and declutter whenever the clutter begins to extend to my mind. As it inevitably does. It always feels so good to declutter.

Spring Cleaning

As the weather warms up each year, many people engage in spring cleaning. Maybe it’s because the outdoor environment is brightening up and feeling happier and we want our indoor environment to match. On some level, we must recognize that an organized physical environment makes us happier than the alternative. If you’re anything like me, spring cleaning is right up there with new year’s resolutions – not on my list of favorites. I love the idea and hate the execution. I set goals and get tired halfway through (I’m looking at you, bedroom closet). The prospect of spring cleaning elates and depresses me at the same time.

So let’s dispense with labels and lofty goals. Let’s focus instead on the fact that changing, decluttering, or organizing your space in an effective way doesn’t look the same for everyone. And it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. But it is important. It makes us feel happier, focus better, and stress less. Some psychologists suggest it helps us sleep better and motivates us to take better care of ourselves.

The process can look like organizing your closets. It can also involve cleaning out the junk drawer in your kitchen, clearing an area of your bedroom for a yoga mat or weights or turning a now-grown child’s former bedroom into a home office. Organizing can be about clearing off the desk or table where you work. Decluttering your space might mean putting papers into file folders or organizing the files on your computer. It might involve moving furniture around to give a room a different look and feel. Changing your physical space can even be as simple as choosing a comfortable background (real or digital) for Zoom calls or putting up a new piece of art. Changing an aspect of your space, by decluttering or otherwise, is creating space for yourself and signaling that you’re worth it. Even the smallest change may come with a big reward.

Changing My Physical Environment

Despite my aversion to spring cleaning resolutions and my inability to declutter my zone entirely, changing my physical environment has been one of the most significant and effective life changes for me during my own wellness journey. I hit a stride some time ago when I started feeling better physically and emotionally than I have in a long time. Several factors contributed to this healthier me, including forays into learning, joining different groups, minimal drama among my children, walking, starting a new career, and therapy. One factor stands out, though, as potentially most impactful for me and that’s the fact that I moved after living in the same home for close to 30 years. Not every environment change needs to be quite that big but I was in a “go big or go home” frame of mind and took it literally.

When we think about changes we want or need to make to improve our overall health, we tend to think of diet and exercise first. Some people think about sleep but many of us just accept that once we reach a certain age, we’ll probably never sleep well again. Physical environment gets short shrift and deserves a little shine. Changing your physical environment means making a change to your living space that gives you a lift. It doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a new home.

The Duke Wheel of Health

Duke University’s Wheel of Health is a concept based on seven interconnected core components that contribute to a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle. The components are nutrition & lifestyle, mental & emotional wellbeing, fulfillment & purpose, physical activity & fitness, sleep & rest, and physical environment. The Wheel of Health commentary provides “A clean and healthy physical environment is important for your overall health and well-being. It is important to reflect on how your physical environment can support your health. To maximize your understanding of how your physical environment impacts you, explore options for dealing with concerns such as noise, safety, clutter, and other aspects of your environment.” Easy to overlook because it doesn’t seem life-changing but it can be.

Respect for and making the most of your physical environment is a sign of self respect. Entering a space that makes you smile is impactful. When it’s your own physical space that sparks joy for you, your entire being benefits. As the cleanup queen herself, Marie Kondo, says, “the objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.”

Thinking and Trying

“Clutter isn’t just the stuff on the floor. It’s anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living” – Peter Walsh

Something to try: I have a few good friends who are exceptionally well-organized and neat. They may not even be familiar with the word “clutter”. To them I would say, simply, no homework this week. To everyone else, try the 12 12 12 challenge. Find 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to return to their rightful place. 

Coaching Can Help

For some people, organizing their space becomes an all or nothing proposition. Like anything else, though, small steps can lead to big change. Do you want to make changes to your physical environment but feel like the prospect is too daunting? Consider working with a coach. I’d be happy to talk through what this might look like during a free 15-minute discovery call. You can schedule one here.

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