Growing up every time when Mom and her friends, or my girlfriends saw my room nice and clean, or caught me cleaning in action, the conversation always went like this (in Chinese, regardless the dialect being used):
"Aww what a good girl! One day when you get married, you're gonna make a great housewife!"
"Haha..." I pulled my awkward dry laugh routine, dashing out murmuring "jau mou gaau co" (Cantonese way of saying 'are you kidding me?')
I never give a damn that particular skill - or a quirky trait to be exact - is essential to be a good wife. Well from a rebel teenage to a grown-up sophisticated lady, my opinions about what it takes to be a good wife has been building up and shifting over the years, but seriously I never think liking to clean and being organized is really a big deal - I mean everyone can do that if they really want to (or hire someone to do the job according to my friends who have very lazy asses...)
As a young girl geek back to the old Windows days, for some reason I was strangely obsessed about the "Cleanup the disk" task. Once initiating that action, I could just sit there, quietly and patiently, staring at those Tetris-like color-coded little tiles being shuffled, tossed, compressed, and deleted. Within just a few seconds or minutes, the system reset to smooth running status just like new. That was the original place where I got the idea of applying it to myself may magically help sort out my thoughts.
Most of times I didn't even realize what had been bothering me, or why I needed the change, until I actually did the cleaning and reorganizing. Things only started making sense and the picture in my head became more and more clearer as I cleaned up the dirt. Little by little, I realized what needed to go away, and what needed to stay for moving on in life (ok I was totally not that sophisticated back then, but that's the idea).
I like it felt the same as walking into my favorite hair salon and telling the hair dresser "give me a hair cut and surprise me", and then as gradually revealed through his cutting and trimming, I find a completely new girl with a fresh and light-weighted look in the mirror (of course the hairdresser is very skillful and trustworthy. ;)
Every Spring is the time of the year all life style experts including Martha Stewart put together bunch of articles about tips for cleaning the closet. Though I have found myself coming up with my own rules, and doing it several rounds a year, not just cleaning, but also getting rid of stuff that I don't need or should not keep. And it's always one of those one-thing-leads-to-another kind of snowball effect moments - starting from the kitchen counter top, then the whole kitchen, then the whole apartment, inside and out, even the garage. I did that so often that some people at some point suspected me having OCD. But I knew I did not.
Only till later when stepping into the world of design, I learned there was a such thing called minimalism. All of a sudden I understood why periodical chopping off the belongings made me happy. We've all been there when thinking that extra pair of shoes or another new dress can make life good. But in fact no. It's not the materials that make life awesome. It's the quality of what I already have. Not quantities. If things meet my essential needs and I can manage to bring them to their full potential, that's fantastic. Do we really need another shade of lipstick or another flavor of perfume to boost our ego or establish our identity? Naah.
Nowadays, in this "smart" world, besides physical belongings, we're also getting more and more used to "there's an app for that". The other day a friend glanced at my iPhone screen and said "you're such an app addict". I know he's just teasing me (though thanks to that trigger I did delete almost half of the apps as I haven't used often enough). But that unintentional statement actually pointed out the fact that we are all incautiously falling for being slaves of gazillions of apps.
Even for some very trivial things supposed to consume our memory or attention only at a normal level, such as remembering where the car was parked, we latch onto yet another smartphone app. I forgot where I park my car once in a while too, but come on it's fun cruising around the parking lot if not in a rush for something, or just use your damn brain - it can handle that little exercise.
I get that people are getting psyched about "laziness is the mother of invention" because that's how those apps were created at the first place. But the "smart" invasion seems to make us dumber, not smarter. Things somehow are going backward. Shall we reclaim some space for exercising our own brain cells? It's an eternal battle in this digital era.
This cleaning thing has definitely become something more than physical - it's psychological to me. My massage therapist lady once told me that people are like everyday china. By the time we reach maturity, we all have some chips and cracks to make us who we are, and remind us that life has tossed us about. Those emotional baggages from past scary moments needs to be visited more often and closely than we think. To me, the actual action of wiping out the dust and shuffling things around is just a bonus point comparing to merely doing meditation (something I still do pretty regularly).
As Marilyn Monroe said "sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together", carrying those unhealed traumas from past experiences is not going to do any good. Learning some life lessons the hard way may be indispensable, but we also need to learn to let go of those emotional junk so haunting flashbacks can't take up any more precious space in our heart. Instead, we reserve it for something/someone beautiful.
We all, at one point or another, get emotionally attached or clingy to the stuff we own, even for a fairly short period of time, regardless its size, value, or the memory they carry. Four years ago when I relocated to the Bay Area from Michigan, I stuffed the chunk of my car with "essentials" to survive. A few months later, when I made through the hump standing on my own feet, I found that I didn't even "need" half of the stuff because I hadn't used them semi-regularly. So I got rid of them. Believe it or not, I hadn't thought about or missed any of those "essentials" since discarding them. Yes I did feel crushed but that's it.
My most recent "possession" loss is 2+ years of my Gmail messages mysteriously disappeared for whatever reason. I had my panic moment. And I'm still trying to restore them. But the worst case is they might be just gone indefinitely. It'd be nice if Google can help get them back into my life, but if not really it's no big deal. We don't have to make life harder than it has to be.:)
I may never become an extreme minimalist like Mark Manson, but man I've been practicing - and will continue - living by the spirit of minimalism, doing my cleaning action and "mental cleanse" periodically. I like it a lot when hearing the "whooshing" sound of checking things off. ;)