The Power of Clean

I finally finished cleaning my room. Ever since writing about minimalism back in February, I’ve been on a slow-paced crusade to declutter and deown a lot of unnecessary things I’ve been holding on to for so long. There’s still a lot of stuff in my room that I want to eventually give away, but for now my room is a nice and clean decluttered that I can live with. In fact, my room might be cleaner than its ever been. I know two people that’d be more than happy to agree with that statement.

Sometime after I finished cleaning I decided to watch a Taiwanese drama as a way to practice my Chinese (it’s been a while) and the funniest thing happened. My dad poked his head into my room to tell me something or ask me a question and upon seeing my room clean he swung the door open and started taking pictures. I kid you not, this is real life. He walked into my room, looked around, and immediately began screaming for my mother shouting, “Come here. You’ve got to see this. You won’t believe it!”. Of course my mom came rushing to my room and as soon as she hit the door her eyes turned to saucers and a long dramatic “Wow” escaped from her. In her awe she decided to sit herself on my freshly made bed and for the next five minutes they stayed in my room exchanging, with each other, their varied levels of disbelief. Honestly, I’m really not THAT bad when it comes to cleaning, but the fact that there was actually less stuff in my room made all the difference.

Right before leaving my dad actually patted me on the back. My mom lingered a little longer than he did making a note to tell me that I needed to take this sort of cleaning dedication to the rest of the house. That’s why I made it a point to remind her that my room wasn’t just cleaner, but emptier as well. I told her that I was more than happy to tackle other parts of the house as long as she realized that would mean me throwing and/or giving a lot of stuff away. She scoffed at the idea and said she didn’t trust me to clean alone. A few weeks ago we actually tackled a couple parts of the house together. We cleaned a lot of the sheets out of the linen closet like I wrote we would and thanks to all of the added space I was able to permanently clean of the bathroom counter top and store all of the miscellaneous hair stuff that belongs to my sister and I in the closet. After that we went for the basement closet and hit it hard. In all we gave five or six full outdoor sized trash bags of stuff, two or three suitcases, an old TV, and a sack of toys to the American Kidney Society. It was a lot of stuff and I was really proud of all that we’d accomplished. A bit of a mess stayed in the basement for a while, because my mom wanted to do some moving and rearranging of her own, which I understood. Over the weekend something told me to go to the basement and have a look at how much different the closet looked with all the stuff now gone from it. I was really excited to see how clean it was, but to my surprise the closet looked almost exactly the same as before we’d ever cleaned it out.

That’s a telltale sign of just how much stuff has been collecting in my parents house over the last 25 years or so. I remember thinking multiple times while cleaning out the binds in my closet, full of my old school assignments, that the idea of keeping all your kids grade school things is really cute and sentimental in thought, but a dramatic waste of space and time in reality. The original decision to keep everything was my parents’, but since everything was stashed away in my room the end task of disposing of everything landed on me. There was a reason why it took over a month to clean my room and the bulk of that reason is, because I spent the better part of my weekends and off days sifting though papers, figuring out what was still usable, what was recyclable, what cute little things I wanted to keep for a little while longer, and what old school junk just needed to be thrown away. It’s been a long month, but the end prize was well worth it. I now have, quite literally, the cleanest room in the house.

So many different feelings come with cleanliness that I’ve never been acquainted with before, mainly because I grew up in a household where materialistic giving and feeding each other is how we all showed our love. I have fantastic parents and they did so many things right in raising me, but two things I wasn’t taught as a child were how to clean and how to eat healthy (there wasn’t a lot of financial advice either, but that’s for another post). Even now, if I dare mention to my dad that I’m eating a meal without meat, he’ll walk away from the conversation with a very audible, “Yuck” as his last word. Now that I’m an adult and I’m starting to learn where true value lies in life, along with how to clean away the non-necessities, I’m realizing that other areas of my life are affected for the better.

There’s definitely a level of stress that gets washed away by turning a messy environment into a clean one. After I finished cleaning and before the Taiwanese drama I actually spent twenty minutes meditating. I hadn’t meditated since the week that I took that seminar on Consciously Resting Meditation (CRM). Simplest meditating process in the world. Close your eyes, think a sound, and let thoughts slowly slip away. That’s literally the entire process for the whole 20 minutes. Meditating is proven to reduce stress and I’m sure that I can find studies that say the same about living in clean environments. I like how my room looks and it’s such a contrast when going into any other part of my house that it really makes me want to clean (i.e. minimalize) more parts of the house. If I am given the ok to do so, one thing my family will have to keep in mind – the same thing that shocked me while cleaning my room – is that when in the process of decluttering, the home gets messier before it gets cleaner. So if they can handle a few weeks of cluttered cleaning, they’ll be just as happy and surprise at how minimalism can improve the look of the rest of the house.