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Food &Love Hack Friday: Clean your Space, Clean your Mind

November 30, 2012
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Wow!  What an enormously long break we’ve been on from Food &Love Hack Fridays.  And what an enormous gift it is to be back at it.  Hi, I’m Stefani.  It’s delightful to be back.

As I sit here and contemplate the sticky, smeared path of some neglected spill streak through my computer screen, it seems obvious to me what I have to write about today.    I don’t know how long it’s been there.  Months.  Balsamic vinegar, I think.  Why haven’t I cleaned it up?  Have I grown fond of this spill?  A tiny way to say “fuck you” to cleanliness norms?   And what’s wrong with cleanliness norms anyway?

Do we subconsciously surround ourselves in disorganization or filth?  Why?  How might cleaning this all up help us  hack our relationships with food?

Today’s hack: Clean your space.

The idea behind today’s hack is simple.  The more areas in which we take care of ourselves, the easier it becomes to do so in others.  If we sleep or rest more, we feel more energized and can exercise or do chores.  If we take great care of our skin, that might translate to great care of our hair, or our teeth.   If we exercise or do yoga, we might feel good enough in our bodies to forego sugary snacks.   It goes just as quickly in the other direction.   The more and more we slip in good health, in self-love, or in taking care of ourselves in one realm– for example, in sleep quality or in exercise– the less and less willing we feel to go the extra mile for the rest.

One of the most powerful of self-care projects I have personally experienced is keeping a clean, organized space.

Treating ourselves to a clean space, even though it takes a bit of work, is a way to tell ourselves that we are worthy.   Clean spaces are welcoming, warm, and enable us to really relax into them like a true home.  You deserve a welcoming space.  Your deserve cleanliness.  You deserve a home in which your soul feels as peace.

Studies in evolutionary psychology have demonstrated time and time again that the human disgust reaction runs deep in our bones.   Thinkers who take that disgust reaction even further and use it to talk about religion and values (related to my own work in philosophy) find that the body’s physiological reaction to disgust sits at the bottom of our value, purity, and worth-based decisions.  What kind of psychological message do we send to ourselves when we can feel crumbs crunch under our feet, see newspapers pile up in stacks next to the sofa, or cringe just a little bit when we step into the shower?   Think of how much worse it is considering the fact that this mess is not just a fact of the universe, but is instead a result of our own regard for ourselves.

Did you ever have a roommate who didn’t clean up after herself or wash her dishes, and feel as though she was disrespecting your space and your worth?

Why not do the same thing for yourself?

When I’ve let my room move into warning mode–like when all of my pants are living in a pile on my floor–I have noticed that I naturally want to eat more.  This probably has many contributing elements, though I think one of the biggest parts of this is the fact that I escape into food as a distraction.  There are two big factors I want to be distracted from here: a) I don’t want to clean, so I am going to ignore that duty by eating, and b) I don’t want to think about the nasty thing it is that is occupying my space.  I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to experience it.   I’m having a disgust reaction to it.  It might be minor, but it’s there.   So I eat.  Eating helps me forget things, at least for the moment.

Maybe you know what that feels like.

But I think the most important factor is that with a mess, I don’t benefit from the buoying feelings of self-love I get from cleaning.  Instead, I just feel blah.  Disorganized.  Lazy.  Average.  Unmotivated.   Less spiritual, less whole.   I want to watch TV more than I want to be productive.  Messes tend to facilitate poor self-care and poor self-love, and that’s never good for any of us.

The flip side gives us a pretty nice boost.  When we clean our spaces, we clear up our minds.   This is what things like feng shui, interior design, and architecture are all about.  The environments in which we spend time naturally permeate our brainspace.  If pristine, healthy, or organized, then the space facilitates a more peaceful existence.

This peaceful existence creates a space into which greater self-care can step.  We can breathe more deeply, feel more comfortable, and relax into the world.   We can absorb the serenity around us, and in doing so think of ourselves as increasingly integrated with that serenity.  We become one with the peace our environment is trying to give us, and we become worthy of it.

With things like comfort, peace, and beauty surrounding us, we feel more spiritually whole.

We feel less like we need to be distracted.

And we feel less like we need to be fed physically, because we have not been fed spiritually.

Today’s task: Clean up!

We all live in different states of cleanliness.  Some of us feel at ease with a bit of disarray around us, whereas others require pristine environments.  Test your boundaries, and see if pushing beyond your norm into cleaner spaces makes your feelings of comfort and/or self-worth rise.

Clean your bedroom and your kitchen, or the places in which you spend the most time, first.  Maintain it for as long as possible, and see if integrating consistent cleanliness into your life works for you.  Maybe the time you used to spend munching on snacks can now be healthfully and happily diverted into cleaning-based self-care.   Cleaning really is an act of self-love, so over time, if you think about it this way, it can become a truly meaningful and happy activity.

Once you have a clean space, think of what you might do with or in it.  Yoga?  Stretching?  Lying on the floor and listening to music?   Cooking for yourself, rather than ordering out?

Or shall you just go about your day, and just see how tidying up affects your soul?

You deserve a peaceful place, and both your body and your happiness may thank you.

 

 

 

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Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.

8 Comments

  1. Love this! An awesome articulation of the deep-seated reasons for which I’ve always considered myself a clean freak. :)

  2. I think you are so right on so many fronts. I feel more at peace in my home when it is tidy, I want to be there more often….time for a tidy up.

  3. I LOVE this! I just read “The Joy of Less,” and am getting rid of anything that isn’t “treasure.” Old coat I’ve been guilty about not wearing enough: not treasure! Half-burned candles that have been on the mantle for two years: not treasure! I’m just getting started, but it feels so liberating to pare down to just my most beloved and useful items. Of course, having a clean space is awesome, as well! I’m hoping that by having fewer things, it’ll be easier to keep things tidy.

  4. Agree totally. Clutter is depressing, and clearing it up always makes me feel better about myself. I get more social, invite people in cheerfully and do more in general. I tend to be a clutterbug and live with two clutterbugs, so I have researched and developed the quickest, easiest way to dispose of the clutter and clean my space. I might not do it as often as I should, but I know how I’m going to do it. I also get the other two by the collar and enlist their help.

  5. Very true stuff! I tend to “pile” things and think of cleaning in black and white, all or nothing ways but sometimes just cleaning up one space inspires me to clean more!

    And I agree that clean tidy spaces make you feel more relaxed, more at peace.

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  8. I love this article! Totally makes sense to me. When clutter creeps into my space I tend to get anxious. A clean orderly space for me = serenity!

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