NPW Self Curious: Do you really need to tidy up?

Do you really need to tidy up? 

Untidiness is probably the one thing we all got told off for at some point as kids. We may have always eaten with our mouths closed or remembered to take off our shoes, but leaving stuff lying around – or “where I know it’ll be when I next need it” – is something we can all relate to. 

As adults in our own space, we’ve got more rights. A right to be messy. A right to be super tidy. A right to be somewhere in between, or switch from one extreme to the other.  

It’s a great way to tap into how we’re doing and whether we’re in a particularly challenging time – and both tidiness and mess can signal where we’re at.  

Let’s take tidiness first.  

One: you are house proud and serene. Everything has its place and all is well.  

Two: you are a prisoner of your own high expectations. Everything must have its place or bad things will happen. 

Three: you are putting off your tax return. Or a difficult conversation. Or another household chore, like unloading the dishwasher. 

Four: you have just got to the end of “a roll” (as in, “I’m on a roll!”) and in an hour’s time everything will be messy again. 

Now comes the mess.  

One: this may look like mess, but you know where everything is. You are the monarch of your space and in centuries to come you will be known as the one who made it okay to live “unpacked”. 

Two: you have a twitch and are repeating “this is temporary” every time you step through your front door at 10pm and set a 6am alarm after tripping over the shoes you wore on Monday and Tuesday’s gym kit. Every Saturday morning after a vat of coffee you transform into tidiness scenarios 1 or 4. 

Three: you’re in the twilight zone between apocalyptic and acceptably tidy. It looks awful, you don’t know where anything is, but the small piles of clutter aren’t bad enough for you to do anything. You’ve stopped turning on the lights when you watch TV so that you don’t have to look at it.  

Four: you don’t know where anything is and you don’t care. You’re not judging you.  

You’ll be somewhere between some of these scenarios at different times in the week, month, season, tax year, or depending on where you’re at with the latest series of Luther. They all offer us a window into where we are with our day-to-day rhythm.  

Are we surfing the ebb and flow of our busyness by being wonderfully and productively messy or enjoying a tidy space when we want to? Or is our home (or desk!) environment crying out to us that we need to sit up and pay attention? There’s no right or wrong, just what feels good.  

Of course, if you share your space with others you might like to limit this to your personal space. Leaving a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes with a note that says “Saved for later – I’m riding the wave of delicious life experiences that the world is offering to me!” might not go down well with your housemates, partner or family members…

Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.

Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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