I’ll admit I have a bias here. Ever since I was little, I’ve been a bit of a clean freak. I remember being young (under 12) and sweeping my bedroom carpet with a broom because the vacuum cleaner was broken! My kids will happily tell you several stories about “Dad’s issues”.
Bias aside, I make the case here that cleanliness is important. It improves the quality of our lives. Here are some examples:
The magic of empty space
We have a large dining room table. It’s not ornate—just a big slab of butcherblock-like Ikea wood. It attracts stuff that really belongs elsewhere. Wrapping paper, ski clothes, old homework and tests. I am militant about keeping it clear.
Why? We use it for meals about four times a year. Who cares, right?
When clear, it’s a wonderful space. Good for working on school projects, playing board games, Perler beads, the list goes on. I contend that none of these activities happen without first having an appropriate space. Empty space = possibility.
Losing psychic weight
You have a junk drawer in your kitchen, don’t you?
Yes, you do. I do too.
It makes sense for most of us. Where else do you put the chopsticks, the random screwdriver, and the manual for the toaster oven that you’ll never read but are too nervous to pitch?
The problem with junk drawers (and junk dining room tables, and junk closets, and so on) is that they get so cluttered up that it becomes depressing to look at. Much like checking items off a to-do list feels good, and not checking them off due to procrastination feels bad, clearing items out of your life feels good. It may not seem that way when you’re initially decluttering, but trust me, when you open the newly-spartan drawer or open that nearly-empty closet, you’ll love it.
Steps toward minimalism
Zen Habits is a blog I read regularly. The author, Leo Babauta, has many good ideas, and I have implemented many of them. He has adopted a minimalist lifestyle, only keeping the stuff that adds value to his life.
Not only is that a good idea, but it minimalism lends itself naturally to cleanliness. No need to pick up the stuff you don’t have in the first place!
I highly recommend Leo’s mnmlist.com site for more minimalism inspiration.
A final note of clarification: when I refer to cleaning, I’m mostly talking about decluttering. I really don’t care about “true cleaning” like disinfecting, scrubbing, and even dusting (most of the time). I equate cleaning with the act of getting rid of stuff and organizing what remains.