Health Check / The mirror of what’s going on inside of you’

I’ve never considered myself a messy person, but for three months I’ve lived in near squalor.

I recently moved from my first post-college apartment and was so traumatized by the process of having to get all of my belongings through the door that I’ve neglected to organize, and am worse for it.

I often trip on the suitcases of clothes strewn around my room, and because it’s much smaller than my previous space, I’ve opted to put my overflow belongings behind the living room couch. I can tell my roommates are frustrated with the mess, so I’ve taken on extra chores because I feel guilty. I will do anything to help around the apartment but confront my pile of stuff.

To help with my organizational woes, I consulted Melissa Mack, a clinical therapist turned interior designer and general peaceful home guru, who recently opened the home-goods shop Om in the Home in Westport.

“Your space is really a mirror of what’s going on inside of you,” Mack said, adding clutter can have extreme effects on your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

“People hold onto stuff for two reasons: they either can’t let go of the past or fear not having enough stuff in the future,” Mack said. No wonder I could reorganize the shared tupperware drawer but not my room: decluttering personal belongings is not only a logistical, but an emotional task.

In tackling this challenge, Mack suggests surveying your home and writing down all the spaces that need cleaning, then prioritize based on which spaces irritate you the most, and declutter in small steps.

You have to look at each item. If you love it, keep it because that brings good energy into your life, but if the item is keeping you in the past, get rid of it, Mack said. Shoot for at least one major cleanup a year and ideally one at the start of each season to coincide with periods of renewal in nature, Mack said.

“When we free ourselves of clutter, we’re able to focus more and have more clarity. In a modern feng shui approach, we say clutter is defined as postponed decisions and the inability to go forward,” Mack said.

Last Saturday, I decided I needed to move forward, and that meant cleaning my mess. I picked the clothes off the ground and put them in a storage bin. As I cleaned, it’s true my life felt clearer, especially when it came to organizing my many books.

I got rid of the Benjamin Franklin biography I took from home, the miscellaneous novels I bought from used book stores, and the thousand-page books from the English class I started but dropped a few weeks in. These are good books, but I knew I would likely never read them, and their presence haunted me, reminded me of the person I thought I should be but am not.

I kept the books I return to often, the ones that meant something to me in college, the ones that keep me company on a difficult night. When I pared down my book collection to its essential parts, I was no longer reminded of who I’m not, but saw, with an exceptional clarity, who I am, which is an understanding worth cleaning for.

svaughan@; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1