I believe individuals can reduce stress, anxiety and even the possibility of depression in their lives by the simple practice of keeping their surroundings clean, neat and organized. While this sounds simple, and is surely a better alternative to medications, it's easier said then done. Habits and disciplines can be learned and this one is definitely worth pursuing. No one can honestly say that they "enjoy" living in a house or working in an environment that is sloppy, disorganized or even worse plain old dirty. Yet many individuals both young and old can lose their desire to keep their surroundings clean, neat and organized.
This lesson was inspired by a visit my family and I took to the campus of my Alma Mater a couple years ago. It was during the summer months and after touring the campus I decided to show my family a house off campus that I lived in 35 years prior. As we pulled into the parking lot, one of the students who lived there, who was taking summer classes was sitting outside in the backyard. I told him my story about living in his house in the late 1960's and asked if I could show my family the inside living quarters. The student grinned and said sure, but warned us that the place was a little messy. I said we didn't mind and we proceeded inside.
To this day I have not been able to erase the vivid images of the inside of that house. It literally looked like a bomb had dropped on it. The mess we witnessed inside that house was totally beyond our comprehension. It looked like every available dish, pot, pan and piece of silverware was spread all over the kitchen and hadn't been cleaned in weeks. There was mold growing on almost everything near the sink. Every room had clothes; books; paper wrappers; and every conceivable piece of debris laying on the floors and sitting on top of the furniture. The bathrooms looked as bad as the kitchen, and had to be infested with bacteria's not know to man. It was unfathomable, that any of the parents of the students; the landlord; or the board of health actually knew what was going on inside these living quarters. The house was large enough to sleep 10 students and according to the current student, it was fetching $7500 a month in rent, as compared to the $550 a month when I lived there. Yet anyone who would venture into this house for the first time to witness this mess wouldn't live there for free. To this day, I can't imagine how any individual with an ounce of self esteem could reside in that house, under those conditions. And while the conditions these students were living in had to be the extreme end of the sloppiness spectrum, there has be some correlation of increased mental anxiety associated with living in this type of environment every day.
I have witnessed similar settings to the above in the workplace. Having been in the automotive parts distribution business for several decades, I have witnessed many small auto repair shops over the years, where the crew worked in an atmosphere of clutter, grease and disarray every day of their lives. Once again, it was as if the owner and workers put on blinders when they went to work and did not care about their surroundings. And too often the demeanor and poor attitude of those individuals, matched the sloppiness of their work environment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had the opportunity to tour an IBM semi-conductor plant, and its associated offices and laboratories. This was another experience of a lifetime. IBM takes the adjectives clean, neat and organized to a whole new level and meaning. The floors throughout the office facilities were marble and appeared as clean and shiny as the "clean rooms" set up in the testing labs. Every desk was neat and tidy and the standards set in this entire facility were about as high as anyone can possibly imagine.
While most of us work and reside somewhere in the middle of these extreme examples sited, I believe that it's prudent to invest the time and energy to keep raising the bar on the standards we set for our surroundings. Investing in fresh paint, proper lighting, and clean shining floors is the first step to make our work surroundings bright and cheerful in order to lift our spirits daily. Also investing in proper equipment and furnishings to keep files organized and easy to access not only saves time when searching for what we need, but also heightens our level of efficiency and self esteem and reduces the stresses of clutter and disarray. And of course there's the discipline of daily maintenance that must be adhered to, in order to keep our surroundings clean, neat and organized. It's just as easy to put things in their place instantly and clean up daily, as it is to make a total mess which takes dreaded hours to clean up and re-organize.
The choices are always there before us, regarding most everything we do in life. Should we take the high road which requires discipline and systems and leads to high self esteem and predictably positive results; or take the easy road of procrastination and sloppiness which leads to poor or mediocre results? I contend in this lesson that keeping your surroundings clean, neat and organized is the way to fly, in order to reduce stress and anxiety in your life!