It’s Time to Clean Houses

While not specifically a New Years Resolution, since I’m more of the it’s always a good time to set goals and most New Years resolutions fail, over Christmas and into the new year, I decided that I needed to clean house – my apartment, but also my body, if you consider that another, different kind of house that I live in.

The two coincide because the world around you so often reflects the world within. My house always seemed to be full of clutter – dishes in the sink, craft supplies from my latest project strewn about the living room floor, chocolate and goodies scattered about the counters. At the same time, I also felt like my body wasn’t performing at it’s best – I felt more anxious than usual, scattered, sluggish after all the Christmas goodies and general toxins that we accumulate in this day and age.

First, I was inspired by a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, where the author, Marie Kondo, insists that the secret to a tidy house involves only keep those things that spark joy, and putting everything in a specific place. She said to go through everything in your house (by certain categories), touch each item, and ask whether or not it sparks joy. If it did, you got to keep it, and if it didn’t, it was time to discard it.

Asking if something sparked joy was tougher than I imagined it to be. Even beginning with clothes, which were supposed to be the easiest, I struggled to identify whether I was feeling joy. I’d pick up something and say, “Well I guess I like it”, or “Maybe I don’t love it, but until I get one that I love, I need to stick with it.” Sometimes, I’d also just feel other sensations, like guilt or obligation or attachment. It was interesting to wrestle with these feelings and I realized that I kept a lot of things because of guilty or an attachment to a specific time or person in my life.

As I was nearing the end of my tidying marathon, I decided to do a 3-day ayurvedic cleanse, where rather than fasting or suffering through a juice cleanse, I ate a mono-diet of kitchari, an incredibly nourishing but easily digestible meal of split mung beans and rice. Eating kitchari was supposed to give your digestive system a break, while also supporting your body to draw out toxins and reset your body. With the exception of breakfast, where I ate oatmeal with cinnamon, I ate kitchari for all my meals and nothing else. In addition, I couldn’t have coffee, only herbal tea and water.

At first, I didn’t think it would be that hard. After all, it was only three days. And yet, I came up with so many excuses and rationalizations as to why I really didn’t need to keep doing it. It might have been harder because 1) I get sick of eating the same thing over and over again pretty quickly and 2) I didn’t particularly like the spices in it (fennel -which is like licorice, and coriander – who likes coriander?)

On day one, after only one meal of kitchari, my stomach was already churning at the thought of eating only this for the next three days. Suddenly I was craving everything I couldn’t have, particularly a croissant from the bakery down the street.

On day two, my stomach actually felt unsettled. Those spices, while okay at first, were becoming unbearable. At the end of day two, I considered calling it done. Two days was long enough wasn’t it?

On day three, I jumped back and forth between sticking it out and ending it early to enjoy my Saturday coffee ritual. I didn’t think it would be so hard to go without coffee as I don’t rely on it to get through my day; I simply enjoy drinking. But it wasn’t just the coffee that I was missing, it was the ritual I have around my coffee. It was the feeling of a relaxing Saturday morning, where I make a french press pot of coffee and curl up on the couch and read.

Cleaning house, both literal and metaphorical, gave me the opportunity to reflect, learn, and let go of many things. It created a container for me to clean out a third piece – my mental / emotional clutter.

With each item that I parted with, particularly the ones that activated guilt or attachment but not love, I felt lighter, freer. In parting with the item, I could also part with the guilt of not loving the item but loving the person who gave it to me or the time in my life that it represented.

During the kitchari cleanse, I realized how tied I am to my rituals, my ways of being, particularly in my desire for coffee. To me, coffee represented warmth, comfort, peace, even love. Somebody laughed once, because I called coffee a hobby. But in my family it almost is – it’s not just the drinking of coffee that I missed, it was the time spent preparing it, the smell of freshly ground (or even roasted) beans, the company I share while drinking it, or the book I read. It is so much more than just the coffee.

I also learned that I tend to hold on to a lot of things. This cleaning house helped me to let of some things I’ve been holding on to from the past, to see them clearer, and put them aside.

I also learnt about my will power and my ability to rationalize things that are hard. In the end I made it the three days, but I made it because I felt too guilty to not keep doing it. If I didn’t finish it, I would have failed, and I felt guilty about that. It got me to the end of a cleanse, but is guilt the best motivator? Probably not.

For now, I’m enjoying my mostly tidy house and a day full of yummy goodness!




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