By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth

Housekeeping and I share a tortured past. As a child, I knew I could find anything I needed if I could see it, and that was easy, because my things were scattered all over my floor. As a teenager, both my room and my car were reliably messy, and in college I continued to be oblivious to clutter (sorry, roommates!). I’ve developed considerably tidier habits over the years, but still silently congratulate myself when I put my clothes away at the end of the day, instead of toss them in a heap on the floor.

Tidiness is not one of my natural gifts. (I have other gifts, I reassure myself). So when I’m particularly busy, I find that maintaining my home — something I really have come to value — is one of the first things to go. I stop tidying up here and there, and I dismiss my faithful practice of rinsing the dishes right away, and there’s no way on earth I’ll pull out the vacuum until the project at hand is finished.

Even though I believe in the gifts of order, and I love the feeling of our clean living room, and the smooth sweep of the empty kitchen counter, when I am under pressure, I say goodbye to those gifts and watch clutter pile up while my head is down, focused on my deadline.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, shares some thought-provoking wisdom: “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” It’s got me wondering if a different approach to my extra-busy days might be helpful. Would life feel less hectic if my kitchen were cleaner? If my home were more ordered on those deadline-driven days, would the subsequent calm increase my productivity?

One of Gretchen’s simplest suggestions for living a happier life is to make your bed, for the very reason that it’s a quick and easy way to create order. Interestingly, of all the advice she offers, people most often mention the difference this one small change has made in their happiness.

I’m eager to hear if  you find outer order does contribute to your inner calm? Do you find tidying up is worth the time even when you feel distracted by other pressures? Are there simple chores like making your bed that make a difference for you when life is especially busy?