This week, I have faced dreaded deadlines piling up out of nowhere, time seems to have suddenly sped up and I have transitioned back into working from home, whilst engaging in other online activities and lectures for two weeks until my next placement. I have to say it has been quite an adjustment adapting to this life; but one thing that has really stood out to me so far is the importance of a tidy environment to set me up for the day.
I have always found separating my work and home environment incredibly useful to switch off. Often I would rely on the library as my focussed work hub for the day to come back home to relax, but now with COVID and having to book restricted time slots, I have not always found it as beneficial to my time. My approach at home therefore has been separating the rooms I work in, so I tend to spend a lot of the time in the lounge on the dinner table or sofa to work.
However, that is not always possible living with four other students, who often have the other approach, working in their rooms and then coming downstairs to relax and watch TV. Having to respect the use of shared spaces, this has ultimately meant that there are times when I have to work in my bedroom too. Here are some things that I’ve learnt in my experience:
I’ve found that having mess in my room is actually quite distracting, even stressful as well. Mess for me is in the sense of an unmade bed, the classic “chair” with clothes that need to be put away, disorganised shelves etc. When my room is tidy, I feel at peace and gives me the space to think out loud.
I also like to keep my floor as clear as possible as well as space in general. I think when spending long periods of time in a room working, it can feel quite claustrophobic after a while so it’s important to have that space to breathe. For example yesterday I had my clothes dryer in my room, gym bag and violin case on the floor and a heater in the corner- just by tidying them away, it made such a difference and felt like a less hectic environment.
– prioritising items that give you joy
Writing this reflection reminds me of a Netflix series my mum would rave about called “Tidying with Marie Kondo” – at the core of her KonMari method, decluttering involves prioritising items that give you joy. I’ve found in my experience as a student, I’ve suddenly acquired more items, whether that be clothes or books or miscellaneous items.
Now I make a conscious effort every few months or so to go through my room to see what I actually need. To help with this, I think it’s important to make that distinction between a “need” and items which are desirable. This is often highlighted whenever I go to my family home, my mum will always stress only bring what you need and of course everytime I overpack and bring unnecessary items as well!
– confronting the things immediately in front of you
I was reading a similar article on this topic which interviewed Marie Kondo in the role of tidying can have in soothing anxiety as well and this quote resonated, she says that sometimes “it is difficult to confront your mental health issues directly, but tidying allows you to confront the things immediately in front of you,”.
I personally thought this was quite profound, because we have different ways in how we care for our mental wellbeing, and sometimes can even try to suppress feelings and emotions. I liked the parallel that she drew that even if there is small ounce of satisfaction from removing items in our personal spaces that no longer give you joy, “it follows that you can get even more satisfaction from ridding your life of toxic behaviours.” I had never considered this before as an initial approach to addresing aspects that will ultimately impact and improve your mental wellbeing.
In this way, I think it’s useful to think that a tidy mind can contribute to a healthy mind, and ultimately a healthy mind is an important aspect of general health.
A final thing to add is I’ve found that by taking the time out to tidy is important. A half-hearted quick fix might help initially but actually an indepth thoughtful approach has enabled me to be more consistent and easier to maintain a tidy environment. This may seem boring or dull to do, but actually I found it enjoyable by having some music on, having a sing song whilst spending some time changing my sheets, organising my wardrobe/shelves, and clearing empty boxes/bags from my room.
I have a bad habit of seeing every thing as a task, which is useful for my organisation and workflow, but actually can sometimes create unnecessary stress for myself. So actually for me if I am working and I see mess around me, it distracts me because I realise I have another task of tidying to do when finishing my work, whereas if I had done it in the first place, it’s nice knowing I have a relaxed environment to transition to when I have finished my work
Thanks for reading my insight – feel free to comment or message any thoughts!
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