Lately, the desire to clean, organize, or de-clutter may be more forefront in your mind.
Our world has changed in recent months as we face a future of uncertainty. Many will find they have more time on their hands, causing the impulse to get organized. A common effect of uncertainty is having feelings of anxiety that tend to spike when we feel like we are losing control. So, a natural response is to fill that time in in order to gain some control back.
Prior to this, we had become a society of being overscheduled and having too much stuff. Not having enough time was normal. Having time, caused feelings of unrest and discomfort. A world pandemic does not offer the option of getting used to this new reality, rather, it shut our society down in what seemed an instant. The time, we often wished we had more of, was suddenly a scary mass of unknown. Without a jam packed schedule, how does one know how to proceed?
Our need to fill in time often corresponds to cleaning. On the other hand, it can do the opposite, and cause us to procrastinate. It can also be a great source of guilt for many. This year, on National Clean your Room Day, it might be a chance to re-evaluate how we are cleaning and why.
Spring cleaning, itself, originated generally in the 1800s and came out of necessity while households took advantage of warmer weather to open windows and rid the house of soot of fire and grease from lit kerosene or oil lamps. At one point, the whole concept became almost a guilt ritual. The need to tell others about our cleaning escapades was evidenced even in 1864 in one housewife’s diary...
Swept and dusted sitting-room & kitchen 350 times. Filled lamps 362 times. Swept and dusted chamber & stairs 40 times (Washington Post).
Since that time, our world has lived through many changes. In particular, we experienced two world wars followed by the Great Depression. Living through a recession can cause a person to learn frugal habits, buying only what one needs along with being resourceful with what you have. Later, around the 1950s, consumption was vital for our expanding nation, as indicated by former economist, Victor Lebow. He was famous for realizing we needed to make consumption our way of life in order to have a thriving economy.
Well, we did a good job of listening. In later years, society began to relax, the economy grew and we became very good at acquiring stuff. We accumulated more stuff simply because we could, as prices steadily declined for our stuff and demand went up.
In recent years, we can add the ability for one click shopping via online and the leading giant in this, Amazon. Although convenient, online shopping also removed a crucial step in the psychology of shopping – that extra time to think over our purchase. We had less reason to ask ourselves whether we needed what we were buying.
As our schedules continued to fill and our homes started breaking at the seams with more stuff, we became used to this way of being. It was like a whirlwind of emotion and ultimately, a cause and effect of increased anxiety. Our lack of time combined with an ultra convenient society produced an unrealistic desire to gather more stuff. The act of going online to buy more things can release dopamine in our brains, which gives us that euphoric feeling…but this eventually goes away and we are faced with all the stuff, causing anxiety to build yet again. It’s a vicious cycle.
The benefits of our convenient society has had an added element of removing our moments for reflection. Now, as a world pandemic has forced society to stop and interrupt our busy schedule, we have a choice about how to live differently. Being mindful of how we fill in our time, make purchases, and clean up can influence our future days.
These uncertain times may appear scary, but can also be a gift. This year, during clean your room day, try to go slow and reflect on your stuff while putting it away or choosing to get rid of it. Try to resist that familiar urge to fill in time with more online purchases and instead learn from our predecessors to be resourceful with what we have.
You will not only be cleaning your room on Sunday, but you might start cleaning out your mental space too. Just remember, go slow, and be okay with that.