I never used to think of myself as a particularly tidy person. But as time goes on, it’s clear I’ve become one.
I’m not entirely sure how it happened. I know sharing a room in college was educational in realizing how my clutter could affect other people; then in Japan I was never sure when someone would stop by my apartment without notice, and I didn’t want to be that sloppy foreigner. All the traveling I’ve done over the years has made me very conscious about the acquisition of things, both in terms of saving my money for things I really want (like trips to faraway places) and in not having to transport large quantities of stuff (read: books). But it’s been a gradual process.
Now for the first time I’m living in a place that I chose. I bought and built all my furniture myself, and I designed a space for myself that feels like it’s mine. I live in a small studio apartment, and I’ve refused to acquire more than is strictly necessary because I value the space I have (really, impromptu dance parties are more important than couches).
And in this apartment, where I can take in almost the whole of it at a glance, it is Extremely Obvious when something is out of place. I keep my apartment very Spartan because I’m easily distracted, so when there are piles of envelopes or dishes scattered about they are glaring tics in my vision.
On one hand, when my apartment is extremely clean, it probably means I may have been cleaning rather than writing. For a long time, I felt that time spent cleaning was essentially time wasted, because it meant it wasn’t time spent writing when I should have. On the other, I’ve realized that I really do need a sort of tidiness here.
Ordering my space helps me order my mind. Controlling my physical environment helps me feel more in control in general, which helps me feel like a competent person who might actually be capable of writing novels.
Of course I’ve written novels before, so I ought to know it can be done, but I often reach a point in a novel where it seems insurmountable because I’m not good enough to do it properly. My apartment being so much a reflection of me has the unexpected side effect that when something in it is out of place, it feels like something in me is out of place. The state of my apartment reflects my state of mind, so if itlooks like a disaster, then I feel like a disaster, like “If I can’t even keep my apartment tidy, how can I organize anything in my life?” As outward, it seems, so inward: if I can create order in my space, I can create order in my mind.
Well, I can’t really, but I can usually de-clutter my brain enough to focus.
I could, of course, go to a café to write if my apartment is particularly cluttered. But it’s not just the place I sleep: it’s my space. Knowing that my space is as it should be eases a strain on my mind.
I think the same is true for me in regards to internet spaces, but this tidiness business is still a relatively new concept for me. One space at a time.
And for now, one story at a time.