Krishnamurti said that you cannot reach a meditative state when your living environment is not in perfect order. This is debatable, of course, especially if you read the Stoic work Meditations, in which Marcus Aurelius states that we can take refuge in our minds, regardless of external circumstances. Psychiatrist Carl Jung states, however, that our living environment is part of the subjective experience of ourselves. If that’s the case, keeping our environments clean is a requirement for attaining a calm mind. The cleaning process itself can be regarded as a powerful form of meditation.
When you meditate you declutter your mind. By watching your thoughts passing by like clouds in the sky, without attaching to them, the excessive thinking patterns consisting of worries and ruminations will dissolve. Meditation is a practice that is incorporated in many religions. However, religion is not necessary to reap the benefits of it. Now, how can we apply meditation to cleaning?
I think we can agree that a peaceful mind is a happy mind. But the mind operates in an environment that is, objectively, not the mind. The mind is hosted by the body, and the body moves around in an environment, like a house, a dorm room, a workplace, and his most likely accompanied with other bodies and minds that can be our friends, relatives, co-workers, et cetera. If we see our living space as an extension of ourselves, we can conclude that keeping your environment clean will contribute to your sense of inner peace. The idea that certain aspects of your living environment become parts of the subjective experience of “ourselves” was proposed by psychiatrist Carl Jung. That’s why the manner in which our environment is organized has a direct effect on our wellbeing.
Many people, including my past self, tend to underestimate the psychological and physical effects of our living environment. A study from Indiana University indicates that people with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses. A study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin states that cluttered living spaces are more likely to lead to depression, fatigue and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another study from Princeton University found that a messy living space makes it harder to focus and complete tasks efficiently. Also, a clean environment is at the basis of every religion and spiritual practice. I mean: have you ever seen a messy church, temple or yoga room? Probably not. Simply put: if you want to be healthy and happy: clean your room!
Like sitting meditation is a practice for decluttering the mind, the act of cleaning is a practice of decluttering your living space. When you clean you create order out of chaos. For many people cleaning the house is probably the least desirable thing to do after a long stressful day. Cleaning, in general, gets a bad rep. And many people who earn enough will pay another person to do it because it’s regarded as a dreadful task, not worthy of your valuable time and energy.
However, the act of cleaning can be a great meditative moment, in which you not only sort out your living space but show gratitude to your material possessions and experience the present moment if done correctly. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, once wrote a passage about how washing the dishes can ease the mind.
“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”Thich Nhat Hanh
The way Thich Nhat Hahn describes it, by immersing yourself in a mundane house chore, you can engage in a Buddhist practice called mindfulness, which can ease stress, anxiety, and depression.
Dr. Jordan Peterson advises his clients to clean up their external environment to fix themselves psychologically before starting a treatment. He puts it:
“Your room isn’t not you. It’s actually you!”Jordan Peterson
This means that if you want to take care of yourself, you take care of your room. Also, the act of cleaning is an experience of progression from chaos to order, and that experience alone can be a very fulfilling one. It’s like the satisfaction of solving a puzzle. Add mindfulness to in the mix, and you have an insanely powerful and useful meditation practice. You kill two birds with one stone: you decrease your suffering by creating a proper living space and you’ll get calm and peaceful while doing it.