I’m sitting in front of my laptop right now with my eyes looking straight into the screen as though I’m wearing blinkers. On second thoughts, I’m glad I’m not because I’m not too sure they’d sit well with humans- especially those afflicted with myopia. Not that I would ever need blinkers- my room is such a mess that the only thing I can look at/reach for without obstruction is my laptop. Well, on good days at least. Usually there’s a pile of something lying on top of that too. My room is an Olympic grade obstacle course. Does this sound familiar? Please say yes because I’d like to believe I’m not alone.
I don’t spend as much time in my room as I’d like to. By that logic, it should be mostly clean, right? I digress. I’m always in a tearing hurry and I land up leaving the room looking like a hurricanes last victim. Not a pretty sight. My parents go to the extent of calling it a pigsty. Yes, it’s quite the mess. The table is strewn with all sorts of baubles and trinkets and pieces of junk and memorabilia lying on top of important papers marked with coffee stains, yellowing earlier than they should. The soft-board is tacked with long overdue to-do lists and appointments which were either met successfully or never rescheduled. The cabinets are filled with old books which haven’t been read since technology took over, eating dust and aching to be stroked. The walls are peeling in places where I had stuck Christmas decorations as a kid with tape I had been forbidden to use. The photo frames remain but some of the people in them do not. Yesterday’s and tomorrow’s clothes are thrown across the back of the chair on which I am sitting right now. My multiple backpacks and duffels are lazily hung upon the handles of my wardrobe doors which never seem to shut because they’re always bursting to their seams with clothes for which I’ve been in too much haste to fold. A raw wire of my worn out charging chord hangs loosely from the socket with the switch still on. The towel I’d forgotten to dry is still lying on my bed, leaving the bedsheet damp and cool. The telephone receiver has been knocked off the hook and last night’s make-up is lying open on the dresser with the eye-liner having become dryer than a dessert.
The room is a mess- much like its occupant’s head. But the good thing about a mess is that it can be cleaned. It also needs to be cleaned and it should be cleaned. But let’s begin with the knowledge that it can be cleaned. And if we put in the right kind of effort, cleaning can mean a lot more than stuffing everything unsightly that is lying on the surface into drawers and cabinets with opaque doors so that nobody can see them. The thing about this kind of superficial cleaning is that it only makes room for breeding grounds for bigger messes. You stuff everything into a drawer and forget it exists. Then when you need what you’re looking for, you can’t remember where you’ve kept it. Or worse, you can’t find it amongst the mess you’ve made because it has multiplied. Or has it really, now? Maybe it just looks worse because you haven’t checked on it in so many days and have forgotten what it looks like. Or maybe it really did deteriorate as you were focussing your attention elsewhere. Either way, it has to be tended to now so that you can get what you’re looking for.
My mum often tells me to get my room cleaned by the help. But I have strictly forbidden that. It might be a mess. But it’s my mess. And even though things may be thrown around and it may look like it hasn’t had a haircut in years, I know where my things are in my messy habitat. I’ve spent so little time every day but so much time over the months and years living with this mess, that now I almost know this mess inside out. It’s like my friend, a companion I’ve been living with, my roomie, my reminder of everything that is around me. And though it might be a little difficult, I have learnt how to course through this mess. I know where to look for the spare rubber-band under the pile of tissue papers though it might be a little hard to get there. If someone else were to clean it up for me, it would tick me off because it was my mess to begin with and I should be putting it right. Also, they wouldn’t quite know how I want my things to be arranged. They wouldn’t know where to file the papers or which baubles and trinkets don’t have to be thrown out. They’d keep everything in places they don’t belong, however good their intentions might be, and it wouldn’t be long before everything would be all over the place again. Only I can clean my mess.
One day Mum said I should starting cleaning. Or else I’ll contract some horrible infection because of my living conditions. She suggested I begin with my books. I’ve outgrown a lot of them, they’re just lying there doing nothing for a good measure and wouldn’t require creation of non-existent space. In fact- quite the opposite. Besides, I’ve moved to a Kindle now. So I went at it with an unforeseen burst of enthusiasm. I removed all the books from the cabinets which gave me a bit of a coughing attack and started sorting them out quickly and without much thought. I packed many, many of them into sacks, ready to be taken to the library, loaded them into my car, drove, reached the library, turned around and came back home. I couldn’t part with all those books yet. Not with such little thought. Not for the sake of simply making some space. No. I had to rethink this and redo this. So I unloaded and unpacked all the books and started sorting through them once again. This time, more slowly. I considered why each book was important to me. I dusted them and kept the ones which I’d decided had to stay, carefully back in their place and repacked the others. The number of books I was giving away had reduced and so had the sinking feeling of separation in my stomach.
I realised that spring cleaning was a good approach. Instead of trying to clean the whole mess in a single day and not being able to lift a finger the following week, I began to go at things gradually. One day I threw out old make-up, the next day I filed my papers, the third and fourth day I organised my closet. Slowly, everything fell into place. My room looked like it should. Peaceful- albeit, temporarily so. Of course the mess would come again- there were no two ways about it. But now I knew that I didn’t have to let it build up. I knew that a little spring cleaning every day didn’t hurt anybody. And just in case it got really bad, help would always be around as long as I was willing to give it direction.