It was the first day of my (hopefully) year long happiness project yesterday. This month, I’m focusing on boosting my energy.
So what does ‘boosting energy’ mean to me? I’ve discovered that it means a number of things, some of which I’ve neglected. One of those things is the way I treat the space I live in, and how I organise my environment. By my environment, I mean our (Dan and my) bedroom and bathroom – currently we’re living with my parents and sister and have a small bathroom and large loft room. We have two defined areas in the room – a desk/entertainment area and a sleeping/dressing area, then there’s the bathroom. Over the past year, our space has been neglected because it wasn’t a priority what with how we were both feeling last year and because of the wedding planning and creative projects connected to that.
I’d be the first to admit that I’m not a very tidy person. I try hard to tidy up after myself and keep mess to a minimum but in the past there has always been an explosion of mess in our space, and sometimes I just can’t work out why. Some of it is getting stuck into bad habits, some of it is because other things are more important at any given time. The past few days I’ve been tackling the mess that has built up over the past year – trying to sort out those areas of the room that just don’t have a purpose, and those things lying around that are best gotten rid of.
There are a few types of ‘things’ that I find meaningful – things we use, things we haven’t used for a while but use occasionally and stuff we are never going to use that are festering away somewhere. There are also those objects that are both beautiful and sentimental that will always have a place of their own on shelves or tables. Of course, there are a lot of shared books, DVDs and filing that also has to fit somewhere in the room, until we have a place of our own. These are mostly under control.
The bathroom has been a dumping ground over the past year because we had such a large amount of cardboard and boxes for making the book sculptures that even after the wedding it just became a sort of halfway place for random things. I managed to tackle everything yesterday and we finally have the bathroom back. I’m lucky that I’ve had two days to sort of gut everything and get it done. It really does feel good to have the weight of another thing off my shoulders – and I think it does matter to my state of mind and energy that our space is as clear and neat as it can be. I know it’s a sign of a space being lived in for it to be a bit messy, and I’m okay with that, but there is a point where messy becomes uncontrolled, and that is when it starts to sap at your energy.
Tackling the larger space and tidiness issue leaves my brain free for other things that I’d like to deal with – like those unfinished projects sitting around waiting for some attention, rearranging the bookshelves and giving away books I’m not going to read/don’t want to read again, sorting out my filing, and so on. I’m learning that even though I dislike tidying and cleaning, I get a good feeling from the results. It might not be ‘happiness’ in terms of ecstatic (!) but it definitely gives me more breathing room. Going even deeper, I would say that environment has a big effect on mental health – when you’re low and depressed, it gives you a feeling of panic to see mess, a feeling of paralysis – of frustration that you want energy to tidy the environment but ironically the environment is making you feel less energy.
Another thing that interests me is the part objects and ‘things’ play in our daily lives. Some people prefer simplicity, less clutter and less ‘noise’ in their environment. For me, there has to be a balance – I get aesthetic pleasure from a stack of beautiful books, typewriters, fairy lights and illustration/art/photography. Everything has to have a place, but I’ve also discovered, as with mess, that there is a tipping point at which I feel there are too many objects around which becomes clutter. I value objects that have meaning to me or Dan or both of us, and I also value things that I use.
A pile of interesting books next to my laptop will inspire me just by looking at them because they remind of their contents. Brightly coloured pens in a mug, notebooks and a camera or two also inspire me. Having these things near me give me energy. People have a personal attachment to things that mean something to them or represent something. There is a lot to be said for simplicity if you feel that makes you feel good, but I know I would find that difficult and not as inspiring. Each to their own. As attractive simplicity and making an environment less ‘cluttered’ is, I’m accepting that I enjoy having objects around me.
“Keep it simple’ wasn’t always the right response. Many things that boosted my happiness also added complexity to my life. Having children. Learning to post videos to my website. Going to an out-of-town wedding. Applied too broadly, my impulse to ‘Keep it simple’ would impoverish me. ‘Life is barren enough surely with all her trappings,’ warned Samuel Johnson, ‘let us therefore be cautious how we strip her.” – Gretchen Rubin.