The Idea Behind Jordan Peterson’s “Clean Your Room”

by Katlyn Phelps

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Anyone interested in personal growth would have no doubt heard of Jordan Peterson, a professor of Psychology, author of several self-help books and public speaker. He has gained worldwide recognition in recent years for his self-help motivated YouTube videos and his speaking out on controversial political matters. Peterson is looked up to by many as a source of wisdom and important life advice, and this article will look at the underlying ideas behind his “Clean your room” advice.

Echoing Confucian Wisdom

It’s hard to believe that something so simple and straightforward could serve as an important foundation for personal growth, and even a prerequisite for success in the world. Peterson's advice echoes the wisdom of Confucius who once said: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Organize Your Own Corner of the World, and Build-up from There

Peterson argues that you need to learn to be able to organize yourself, before you can hope to organize your wider life, including your affairs and working life. He believes that you need to be able to organize your own small corner of the world before you can organize the world to any extent.

He pointed out this fact on what has now become a famous and widely cited Joe Rogan podcast, where he commented on how there are many politically engaged young people that can’t even clean and organize their own room, yet are preoccupied with reorganizing society and the economic system.

Start Small to Change Your Life

In Peterson’s words “My sense is that if you want to change the world, you start from yourself and work outward because you build your competence that way.” Petersons “clean your room” went viral, and has clearly struck a chord with young people, many of which have reported on social media that following the advice helped to turn their lives around.

The overriding idea is if you want to achieve big things, it beings with starting small. And that if you want to improve yourself, it starts with taking individual responsibility for yourself and taking action.

Our Environment Is an Extension of Ourselves

Peterson states that cleaning your room is much more than just organizing your external environment, it is actually about organizing your field of being and experience. He believes that in essence, we are not separate from our field of experience. He points out that according to Jungian psychology as well as most Buddhist doctrines, at the highest level of psychological integration, there is no difference between yourself and what you experience.  In this sense, we should treat our immediate environment as an extension of ourselves.

Hoarder's bedroom vs clean bedroom - clean your bedroom for success
Our surroundings are an extension of ourselves

Tidy Home, Tidy Mind

This makes sense when you consider how much of an impact our environment has on our psychological well-being. It is quite common for people to feel bogged down, foggy headed, or stifled creatively when their home is cluttered and unorganised. If we think in more depth about the psychology that underpins this sound advice, it builds a strong case for adding the clean your room principle to your own personal-growth tool kit.

About the Author 

Katlyn Phelps

Katlyn Phelps is a freelance writer and editor who has spent most of her career working as a life coach and counselor.

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