Every morning, I make a point to spend a minute or two cleaning up my bedroom. I make my bed, pick up any laundry from the floor or the dresser, and throw it in the hamper. If the weather is warm enough, I open the windows and let in the fresh air.
I don’t do this because I like cleaning up. Honestly, it’s the last thing I want to do when I first get out of bed. But I know that making a small effort to keep my personal space clean and pleasant can bring me a greater sense of calm and well-being during the day.
The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui is based on a similar philosophy. While it’s a complex system of practices, it boils down to the idea that your outer environment is a reflection of your inner state—and that conversely, changing your surroundings for the better can make you feel more peaceful on the inside.
Take a moment to look at your surroundings. If you’re at home or in an office, observe whether the space you’re in is tidy or messy. Is there a lot of noise or is it quiet? Does the air smell fresh or stale?
It’s easy to ignore these small environmental cues, but even when we’re not conscious of them, our bodies take notice. A messy desk or a lot of noise coming in from the street can cause us to tense up. Usually, we’re not even aware that we’re doing it.
We can’t control our surroundings when we’re walking down the street or riding on the Metro. But most of us have a few personal spaces where we spend a lot of time: our bedrooms, our living rooms, our work spaces, our cars. We can make a conscious effort to make those spaces more livable.
This can happen on a number of levels. First, there is the practical matter of de-cluttering. As a general rule of thumb, the more stuff we have lying around, the more cluttered up we feel too. So I suggest getting rid of anything you don’t need—either throwing it out or storing it away. Just spending a few minutes every day doing this means that the clutter doesn’t build up. This makes a big difference.
Second, there are the more subtle pieces, like smell, sound and visuals. I suggest opening windows whenever you can, and buying flowers and houseplants to put around your home. They smell nice, and have the added benefit of being beautiful to look at. Make sure to get as much light as you can, too—open the curtains and blinds even if it’s too cold to open the windows.
Third, there is the energetic level. Many of us are very plugged in, so when you can, take some time to unplug. Turn off your phone and internet in the evening. Being out of contact can be very liberating!
It can also be really special to set aside a corner of your personal space, maybe in your bedroom, as a spot for prayer and meditation. You can create an alter or get a meditation cushion to sit on, and dedicate that spot to developing your own inner peace and well-being.
Put a little time into caring for your space, and it will help care for you.