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A meditation on cleaning my dorm room

| Friday, October 29, 2021

The chaos starts with some accounting notes scattered on my desk, messily bent and out of order. Then, some food wrappers and bottles lay astray from days when walking to the dining hall seemed a daunting feat. The dresser drawers are agape with disorganized, unfolded clothes, which slowly migrate onto my desk chair and ground. Slowly but surely, the blue rug is covered in boxes and bubble wrap — a by-product of my Amazon shopping addiction — forming a carpet of disarray, which I rake through during my daily search to find some missing items.

As I survey my room on a Sunday morning, the light from my window illuminates a week’s worth of havoc I have inflicted upon my room. As I wade through piles of mess to get ready at my sink, I notice my reflection in the mirror is covered in tiny water stains and specks of dust. To my annoyance, I cannot find my hairbrush in its usual spot on the edge of the sink. I shove aside a hodgepodge of clutter to find it camouflaged by a mishmash of items that fell underneath the futon. Surveying the small dorm room I call home, I see what my friends lovingly refer to as “the room that was struck by a tornado,” with debris scattered everywhere.

This amount of disarray may inflict a heart attack on my parents or invoke a sense of dread in my fellow students. However, as I begin the slow process of cleaning my room by collecting the trash around the room, my mood soars knowing that everything will soon be back in their proper place. After taking several trips to the trash room down the hall, I am pleased to see that the room already appears substantially cleaner. As I tackle the main task of organizing my clothes, the floor clears as clothes are thrown into my hamper and folded back into drawers that finally are able to shut with a forceful shove. After clearing my clothes, the primary culprit contributing to the mess of my room, I focus my attention on smaller details such as my desk, where I make smaller adjustments such as reordering my textbooks in the order of my classes and placing my colored pens in order of the rainbow.

The cleaning process is one that cannot be rushed or done haphazardly. Any task I fail to fully complete will simply present a future problem for myself, whether it be having to wipe down my mirror later or not being able to find a pair of earrings. Cleaning truly is a process that holds me accountable since I actively face the consequences of doing an inadequate job. As I sit on my carpet, folding what seems like a never-ending pile of clothes, I am at peace knowing that the time I invest in tidying my room is not time wasted. Future exams or the email I have been putting off writing move to the back of my mind as I meticulously rearrange items in my desk drawer. While I may not be actively working to complete an assignment, clearing my workspace allows me to clear my mind as well. Whichever task I need to complete seems far more feasible in a clean living area. After arranging my room in an orderly way, I feel ready to embark on other challenges my day may present.

Even after I finish cleaning, motivation and productivity still course within me as I start my assignments due in the upcoming weeks. As I survey the pages of theology texts I must read, I am tempted to skim through the document as quickly as possible. However, much like cleaning, I remind myself that any task I do not complete to the best of my ability will simply present an issue for myself in the future. Suddenly, the temptation of rushing through the reading dissolves as I think of how long the assignment over the reading will take if I do not fully comprehend the text. Even looking beyond the near future, thinking of having to reread the document again in the midst of final exams motivates me to focus on completing the readings. With this mindset, I steadily complete my homework feeling the same satisfaction of completing tasks around my room when I am able to check them off in my planner.

As the days progress, I attempt to maintain my room’s cleanliness, making sure to put my trash in the bin and putting back clothes in my drawer each night. However, as I rush to my 8 a.m. accounting class across campus and hurry to complete 11:59 p.m. deadlines, I find clothes and trash slowly accumulating around my room. I am vexed that I can no longer locate my AirPods and have to spend 10 minutes rummaging around my room — only to find them under a pile of papers on my desk. As I slowly neglect the upkeep of my room, I find myself feeling disorderly and unmotivated even outside of the confines of my room. The cluttered state of my dorm mirrors my headspace as I begin to forget deadlines and lose sight of the goals I mentally set for myself to complete.

As I crouch over accounting notes I half-heartedly scribbled down in my notebook, my head is a jumble of terms I continue to mix up. What was the difference between labor efficiency variance and labor rate variance again? Despite rereading the same definitions over and over again, my mind feels as if it has reached capacity in the amount of information it can retain. As I stare at concepts I skimmed over, I am frustrated when I continuously am greeted with a red “X” and the message “this problem is not fully correct” on my homework assignment even after multiple attempts.

Much like the fine buildup of dust on the top of my desk shelf since the last time I cleaned, I find that a strange, mental fogginess has built up in my mind as well. As I begin the gradual process of cleaning my room again a week later, the calming monotony of folding, wiping and tidying numbs all other concerns. The process of cleaning is grounding as I remember that the process of thoroughly completing a task to the best of my ability is just as important, if not more so, than the final result. Looking upon my clean room, I find that the fog in mind has dissipated, leaving me ready to complete my remaining tasks in my day. As I review my accounting assignment, this time with a clear mind, I take time to carefully review the concepts I previously struggled with by cross-referencing my notes with the PowerPoint and textbook. I feel a rush of accomplishment when concepts begin to register and am rewarded with a green checkmark on my assignment.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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