Clean Up Your Room to Clean Up Your Mind

being mindful: a serene tree reflected in a serene body of water

Have you ever noticed the similarity between people’s state of mind and the state of their room? A messy room, a messy mind. A clean room, a clean mind. It’s very simple, yet highly accurate. 

Jordan Peterson, a renowned Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, hit the nail on its head by saying:

If you can’t even clean up your own room, who the hell are you to give advice to the world?

Let’s start, though, with a small sidenote. It could very well be that your room right now is messy as hell. Don’t worry. This is not an attack on you or the state of your mind. You might be doing perfectly well, mentally.

There is no one-to-one relationship between the state of your mind and the state of your room. That would be an overgeneralization. It’s just like the fact that taller people generally have bigger shoe sizes, and smaller people usually have smaller shoe sizes. That doesn’t mean that this holds true for every tall or short person. But we can see a correlation.


Correlation between the state of your mind and the state of your room

There is an evident correlation between the state of our mind and that of our room. I’ve noticed this strongly with myself for the past couple of years. Whenever I was in a busy and noisy headspace, this would start to reflect in my room. My desk would pile up with paper, with a stapler lying dormant for days, and I could leave clothes to dry for days on end. It also goes the other way around.

When I got back from my first 10-day Vipassana, I had a very clear mind, and would immediately clean up anything that was lying around in my house. So, the way I feel mentally reflected in the state of my room.  

You can verify this for yourself as well. Check all the people you know well at this moment. How are they doing? And can you see an analogy between the way they’re feeling and the tidiness of their room or private spaces? 

This goes back to Peterson’s saying from the first paragraph. If we cannot clean up our own room, that would mean that we also cannot clean up our own mind. In turn, that means that we will simply project our own issues onto the things we try to change in the world. Our own problems and all the things we have to deal with internally, will be projected on the things we do in the world, if we don’t first deal with them. That’s a powerful understanding, once truly understood. 

Is it a one-way street?

The way you feel mentally reflects in the state of your room. An interesting insight. But could we also reverse that? Could it be that, if you clean up your room, you’ll get a clearer mind as well? In other words, could this be a two-way street?

In some sense, I think we can. I recently experimented with this a bit, by cleaning up my – admittedly – very messy desk. It took about half an hour to thoroughly clean. Afterwards, only my laptop, lamp and speaker were still there. Beautiful! I felt relieved of some conceptual, mental burden that was there subconsciously before. I felt a bit lighter, and every time I would walk into the room, I would feel a sense of accomplishment. Cleaning up my desk helped me clean up my mind, and remind me of being peaceful whenever I would see it. 

I truly believe the space you’re in determines for a big part how you feel. Just think of being in a dark alleyway, compared to your favorite beach. Or the difference between a cold hospital environment and a candle-lit restaurant. Cleaning up your room will help in creating a peaceful environment, where you can create mental space and tranquility. Clean up your room to clean up your mind! A clear mind reflects in a clear room. 

What can you do?

Make your bed. Every day, I started the habit of making the bed after waking up. At first, I was thinking it’s ridiculous, because I’m gonna make them messy once I go to bed again anyways. But making the bed helped me in preparing for the day. Getting into the habit of doing this simple, half a minute task every morning helped me to prepare mentally for the day, and to start it off nicely. 

Keep your desk clean. In the example I illustrated earlier, I experienced so many benefits from the simple action of cleaning up my desk. 

I’m sure you can think of many more things you can do. Start to experiment. Try out different things and see what it does to you. If done well, this could mean a significant change in your life, since these things can cascade into actual mental growth as well. Let me know in the comments if anything in particular worked very well for you, so that others might be able to benefit from it as well.

And as always, above all: enjoy the process.