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Clean Your Damn Room!

Rocco nytimesJordan B. Peterson’s Edict for Starting the Adventure of Sorting Yourself Out

Jordan B. Peterson, Clinical Psychologist, and Professor at the University of Toronto with over 120 heavily cited publications in Academic Psychology Journals,[1] a YouTube audience with over half a million subscribers and nearly 30 million views,[2] and a 100% ‘would re-take’ score on “Rate My Professor”[3]  is telling the world how to sort ourselves out, one messy bedroom at a time. Countless individuals have taken to Peterson’s message and have been inspired to make their lives better. By searching “sorting myself out” on YouTube, you will find pages of videos where people describe their journey of turning their lives around through embracing Peterson’s message of personal responsibility.[4]

The journey towards sorting yourself out invariably begins with cleaning your bedroom. In several lectures, Peterson advises audience members who feel like life is out of control to “clean your damn room!” In this article, my intention is to discuss the significance of cleaning your room, and how the practice of cleaning your room will start you on a positive path towards balancing order and chaos.

For Peterson, cleaning your room is a way of remedying the chaos of life. To understand this clearly, we need to recognize the dichotomy Peterson is urging us to recognize, that there are two forces or operatives which dominate our existence: order and chaos. With an understanding of these two operatives, we can understand how cleaning one’s room is the start of an antidote to chaos, and how we can take further steps to keeping order and chaos in balance.

Order is essential to life. Where there is order in the world, there is organization, systematization, cleanly drawn distinctions, and separations which are guided by a purpose. Living creatures are scientifically referred to as organisms, with the root organ- operating in the word which suggests that there is indeed something organized about living things. The human body is organized with a brain, heart, lungs, and a liver among so many other organs. Even animal and plant cells are organized into organelles; microscopic blobs that keep your cells alive! Life itself is made of order, down to the microscopic level, and even to the macroscopic! Our societies are organized into various branches of government, public and private sectors, financial and entertainment districts, and rural, urban and suburban communities. All this organization provides a framework in which we can live our lives.

Order can easily be contrasted with chaos. Chaos is simply the force of nature that dismantles order. Every day our bodies are attacked by germs and viruses, which the body is designed to fight off. Where the body (read order) is weak, we become vulnerable to the chaotic forces of disease which cause malfunction. The chaos in our lives ranges from that morning we are hungover and have no idea where our car keys are, to traffic accidents which make you late for school/work, to something as simple as changes in the weather. But we don’t need to go too far out of our homes to find chaos, at least I don’t. There is plenty of chaos in my bedroom, between cat hairs and underwear which seem to end up everywhere, there’s plenty of chaos to contend with every single day.

What does any of this have to do with cleaning my room?

As law students, perhaps being organized is not a significant issue. As future lawyers, we are likely to be above average in “having our shit together” simply by the nature of the demands imposed upon us by this intensely competitive and mentally straining discipline. Nonetheless, Peterson’s message provides useful and practical guidance for anyone feeling a lack of control or satisfaction in life. His advice is: if your life isn’t going the way you want, if things are broken in your life, start fixing them now. But where to start? Peterson advises us to start someplace manageable and low risk: our bedrooms.

In one of his lectures,[5] he tells us to just take 15 minutes, look around at our bedroom and ask: how can I make this better? You must do this seriously, and be honest with yourself. When you look at your room, you will be surprised how easy it is to spot inefficiencies; clothes on the floor can be picked up, there might be a useless stack of papers you haven’t looked at in months, and perhaps your bed doesn’t get made regularly. I am sure you will be able to spot plenty more if you take a moment. This is important because your room is where you begin and end your day (usually). By creating order in the origin of your days, you have simultaneously rooted out a bit of chaos in your life.

Peterson advises us that our objective should not be perfection. The pressure of having to do a perfect job will stop us before we even get started. Excuses for why we can’t make it perfect at this moment will creep into our minds and provide us with a reason to delay getting started. The problem, quite frankly, is that we never have the time to make it perfect. In fact, we may not even have the time or ‘know-how’ to make it good. Short of this, we may not even be able do it moderately and decently! So as Peterson says, just “do it badly,” it’s better than nothing and at the very least, it will be slightly better than it was before. More importantly, it means you are now going in the right direction. Your first try might only make your room 0.00001% more perfect, but it’s still better than it would have been if you hadn’t even tried!

Room cleaning is a great step towards taking more responsibility and freedom

As you are all law students, I am assuming you are all generally responsible people, perhaps above average, though I am sure we all have room for improvement. Taking responsibility is always a step towards more freedom. By taking responsibility for something as minimal as your room, you are actually freer in your room. Your room is you.[6]  By being responsible for organizing your room, you will become more responsible yourself. My mom would always tell me the same thing – a cluttered room is a cluttered mind. So, as we clean up after ourselves, we in a way clean up our psyche. Disorder is something that naturally stresses us out no matter how used to it we may be; having less of it usually comes as a relief.

Taking responsibility is one of the noblest things we can do for ourselves, and it empowers us to make choices and shape the world around us. For all of you who want to make the world better, ask yourself this: have you made your room better? The world is a large and complicated place; a bedroom is much simpler. Your room is a small corner of the world, and it’s yours! Cleaning your room is your first step towards changing the world; it is your world. So when you get home from reading this paper on the bus, in the library or the cafeteria, remember to clean your room.

And as Jordan Peterson says: “Do it badly!”

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jordan_Peterson2/publications

[2] Urgo. “JordanPetersonVideos YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics.” JordanPetersonVideos YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics – Socialblade.com, socialblade.com/youtube/user/jordanpetersonvideos.

[3] “Jordan Peterson at University of Toronto – St. George Campus.” Jordan Peterson at University of Toronto – St. George Campus – RateMyProfessors.com, www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=32245.

[4] Here is a link to a YouTube channel where a Canadian man moved to beautiful British Columbia to document his journey of turning his life around: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2i_hx_UfauBFh5DA3YWfDg

[5] I cannot remember which one.

[6] ManOfAllCreation. “Jordan Peterson – Effects of Cleaning Your Room.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Sept. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7E3LZGHmpc.