I’m late for a meeting and I’m looking for a book I need to take with me. “Have you seen my copy of The Seven Habits…..?” I shout across the house to my partner. “No!” a disembodied voice floats back. “Wouldn’t it be on the bookcase where you put all your books?” I run over to face the shelves and see a horrid melee of horizontal, vertical and diagonal books strewn all over the place. My stress rises and frustrated I storm out the house without the book.
Hours later I return home, go to the bookcase and find the book eventually. I resolve to tidy the bookshelves that night. Within a week they are back to the way they were, a mirror of my overwhelmed and stressed state of mind I was living with at the time.
Have you noticed how your outside world is a reflection of your inner world? Maybe your inner world is a reflection of your outer world? Or perhaps you live with a partner whose messy habits reflect their mind which leads you to feel stressed, unfocused and inefficient. Maybe it’s the other way around?
It seems pretty clear- it is a two- way relationship that suggests that your mind and the environment you live in influence each other.
When I deal with environment on client calls, clients always report that they feel so much calmer in themselves when they have decluttered, organised their office, pruned their e- mail inbox or even tidied the bookshelves.
There is something inherently stressful about a messy environment. You can’t find things, there is no order, there is little or no space and the space itself feels unharmonious. The result is that you are less efficient and calm.
Because the mess creeps up on you over time, so too does the stress and pressure that comes as an outcome. You may not even notice it until you reach a crisis point and you want something at the last minute for an important meeting.
Now I am not saying that things need to be spick- and- span at home or work for you to enjoy peace and calm. The compulsive order of Julia Roberts’ character’s husband in Sleeping with the Energy is perhaps taking it too far. Some people prefer more order than others and for things to be cleaner and tidier than others. It is, as ever, about what really works for you.
Mess leads to stress
So, if you find yourself getting stressed because you consistently find it hard to find things, perhaps you want to look at your environment and see how you can be more ordered? And I do not only mean your physical environment. Any place where you inhabit space can be a source of order or disorder.
If your accounts or e- mail boxes are not organised they are also things that can prey on your mind and create discord.
This is really about taking care of the mind so that it remains as calm as possible for as much of the time as you can. That was certainly the mindset I arrived at that made me look at these sources of stress that were easy to dismiss. In fact, because they are so often out of sight, they remain out of mind so much of the time.
When you set aside time each week or month to do the books and keep on top of it, the mind can remain calm about how things are balanced. It knows where the paper work is and that things are up to date. If you don’t, the mind keeps going back to it, telling you that “you really must do the books you know!” It takes up mental space. That could otherwise be used more productively in creating more products or marketing material in business. You could use it to enjoy quality family time.
In my own experience, I think it comes down to prioritising the environment you occupy to allow you to be calm and efficient. For many it just doesn’t seem important and so gets pushed down the priority list. Until it becomes urgent and then it is a stressful scramble to get it done.
Peace of Mind
I invite you to make your peace of mind a priority. It may take a little shuffling to make the time. In my experience it is worth it.
There is a saying that “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. The truth of this is because a busy person who is effective and efficient HAS to be organised and that includes the organisation of their environment.
Saving time because you know where your pens are or where that e- mail is or you can find your invoice or even that book saves you seconds that build to minutes, hours and days over time. The peace of mind you maintain helps to keep you in harmony and tranquil. A person who can be relied upon to be efficient, trusted and reliable.
A stressed and overwhelmed mind is more likely to be untidy and disorganised. A mind jumping from one thing to another never truly completes a task. It’s deemed the tidying up unimportant because it’s already on to the next thing. To those with that mind set, keeping things neat and tidy is all well and good. Who has the time? Often, it’s more like who can be bothered? Yet, you now know that if you take the time to organise things, it does reduce your stress and overwhelm which in turn impacts on your productivity and creativity. A mind struggling with long term stress is never as creative or productive as a calm mind. When generally calm the mind may respond to short spikes of stress in a very creative and productive way.
A chance for compassion
I guess this gives us the opportunity to offer support and compassion to our partners and work colleagues. If you are less tidy and causing other people stress, perhaps it would be good for all concerned, including you, to be better organised and reduce your own stress as well as theirs. If you share your life with someone less organised and tidy as you, perhaps you can approach the situation with more compassion. Understand that they themselves may be stressed and finding it hard to cope. The mess and disorder is a by- product and so perhaps the stress itself can be dealt with first?
I am writing this because we have had our environment thrown into chaos. Damp proofing work has meant we are living and working on the top floor of our house. The mess we were warned would be challenging. Indeed, it has been. The challenge to our peace of mind has been quite something. Yet, we were prepared and organised. We created an environment that allowed space for relaxation and work while the builders were in. It has worked really well.
It was only possible because we prioritised our peace of mind. In the past I have been frantic about the smallest things due to my lack of organisation and discipline to keep my environment in order. Having learned the lessons, I am more mindful about my environment. As well as how it impacts my mind and so my productivity, creativity and wellbeing.
Over to you
What do you do with our environment to keep your mind calm? Do you notice how even things like a messy in box can impact your wellbeing? How does it feel to you to walk into a messy environment? What’s it like walking into a place that is clean and tidy? Please share your experiences in the comment box at the foot of the page or on social media. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Pass it on
Know someone who lives or works in disorder and clutter? Perhaps you know someone who complains about never finding things? Maybe you know someone living with a partner or family where this is an issue. Or perhaps it is a work situation? Why not forward this blog to them and see whether it helps. If you’re new to Potentiality Coaching and would like to sign up to the monthly newsletter you can do so here. Thank you.