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Spring Cleaning: An Outside Job

Anyone who has had a lived experience as a kid is well aware of the parental focus on keeping a clean room. While we may not have understood the insistence of keeping our rooms clean in the moment, there are clear implications over the long-term as to why this act serves more of a purpose than merely cleanliness. The way we organize our external world is often a manifestation or reflection of what is going on inside of us. To illustrate this further, there is a story of a college student who keeps their room immaculately clean. This individual, however, had one very specific quirk; they would leave one side of their closet a complete mess, and they did this intentionally. Every time this student would have an upcoming exam, or get into a fight with their partner, or get frustrated with their parents, they would systematically clean the dirty side of their closet. While this sounds odd, this individual did this specifically by design although it was unconscious to them as to why they did it. After much exploration in therapy, it came to be understood that when this individual felt as though they could not organize an aspect of their inner world (conflict with partner/family/friends), they would increasing feel the need to organize and sort out their external world (dirty side of closet).

After understanding that story, we can begin to see the interconnectedness of our internal and external worlds. They have a symbiotic relationship with one another, and it seems as though this could be the reason keeping our rooms clean as children was so important, whether our parents knew this fact, or they just wanted a clean room is irrelevant. The fact remains that if we want to effectively work on identifying problems, acknowledging where we could do better, and implement an action plan with respect to our internal world through personal inventories, and our external world through cleanliness and order, it is helpful to understand the connection between the two. It is also important to be able to deconstruct the problems in order to understand whether we are best utilizing our energy on one or the other in any given scenario. Finally, going back to the story of the college student, we want to avoid as best as possible the conundrum this individual was in. We cannot afford to clean our room when our psyche is what truly needs it, and sometimes we cannot even access our internal world unless we first organize the external. Remember, keeping our rooms clean has positive consequences that go far beyond merely a clean room.   

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