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Blog // Thoughts
May 22, 2016

This Week I Quit Leaving Clothes On The Chair In My Bedroom

This week I quit leaving clothes on the chair in my bedroom. I don’t know how common this habit is, but since childhood I’ve always had a chair in my room, with a jacket, a pair of jeans and maybe some other clothes draped over it. Even when I travel, I’ll do the same. This […]

This week I quit leaving clothes on the chair in my bedroom. I don’t know how common this habit is, but since childhood I’ve always had a chair in my room, with a jacket, a pair of jeans and maybe some other clothes draped over it.

Even when I travel, I’ll do the same. This isn’t a problem when I travel alone, but it’s a nuisance to my family of course, as this sometimes means taking over the only decent chair in the hotel room. It could be a nice chair by a desk, or perhaps an inviting, comfortable place that could be used to sit and read by the window, if only it wasn’t tastelessly decorated with my abandoned clothes.

This week I decided to break this habit.

Bedrooms And Chairs

As a child I had a blue plastic chair in my room. Actually, it was more of a turquoise colour, what vintage guitar fans might recognise as sonic blue. It had a hard, dimpled, plastic shell, with a metal frame. The brand was Namco, as I recall, though I don’t think it had anything to with the Japanese video game company. I think we bought the chair from Clark Rubber, a huge, slightly odd store, where you could find everything from work boots to inflatable boats.

Not every bedroom chair since has been as memorable. But, the latest one is fairly special.

Our bedroom in Tokyo has a nice, slightly empty corner, which looks out over a pretty little tree that flowers in late spring. It looked made for a nice, comfortable chair, somewhere to curl up with a good book. So, we visited one of our favourite stores, Idée in Jiyugoaka, picked out a comfortable arm chair and had it custom covered with a great fabric from the UK.

Then, I started to hang all my clothes over it. Most days, it was impossible to sit on, becoming a poorly organised extension of my cupboard, a little shrine to a bad habit I’ve been too thoughtless to change.

This isn’t the way I want to live.

Chair_Flower

Building Rooms That Think For Us

Habits are not bad things, on the contrary, life becomes unmanageable without them. We obsess at times about our bad habits, trying to break them with New Year resolutions, or talking about them in comic or self-deprecating ways. But, good habits are an essential part of living well, a way of codifying our wisdom. Nowhere is this more evident than in the experience of using a well designed room.

Purpose built rooms, offices, studios, workshops, gyms, are the way they are because they’re designed to encourage certain activities. Walk into a library and you feel drawn to reading, or at least aware you should keep your voice down. The room is, in a way, thinking for you, encouraging you to get into a certain mindset, to accept a very limited range of activities. Walk into a cinema and you don’t suddenly get an urge to run or exercise, you start to accept that for the next few hours, you’ll be mostly immobile, mostly immersed in an experience you are willing to let happen to you.

Bedrooms, the way most of us think of them, are a fairly modern thing, a luxury of sorts. A room that exists for a fairly limited range of activities. A place to sleep, to get dressed, to have sex, and maybe to engage in other activities related to relaxation, perhaps reading or yoga.

Sleep has increasingly become important to me. The science seems to be in and the long term benefits of sleep for physical, mental, emotional and creative health are hard to deny. For me personally, I’m convinced there’s a big difference between the weeks when I can average 7.5 hours of a sleep a night and the ones when I don’t. And, there’s no doubt I can’t recover from a poor night’s sleep like I could in my 20s.

Hacking A Bedroom for Optimal Sleep

My home in Tokyo came fitted with nice curtains, but although they looked good, they weren’t great at blocking out the light. Living in the city, there’s a fair bit of noise pollution at night, so the room never really felt dark. But, the big problem was the sunrise. It isn’t even summer yet and already the sun is rising at 4.32am.

So, we soon bought some heavy, block out curtains. This wasn’t the first time we did this. Our home in India didn’t have curtains. In fact, it didn’t even have curtain rails. The first thing we did upon moving in was install heavy rails and hotel curtains in the two main bedrooms.

Going through the curtain experience again made me think about all the bedrooms I’ve had over the years. Since I turned 18 that’s 6 homes in Sydney, 2 each in London and Delhi, 3 in Hong Kong (all in the same building though) and 1 each in Singapore and Tokyo.

The bedrooms I remember fondly had similar traits. A big, comfortable bed, of course. But also, a large window, a small sparsely populated bedside table, warm low power lights, and a general lack of clutter, all things that build an environment for a calm mind and good sleep.

Yet, I was falling asleep every night starting at a chaotic mess of clothes! This had to change.

How I Did It

Not putting the clothes on the chair wasn’t hard, it’s simply a decision, like choosing to take dirty dishes to the sink, rather than leave them on the table. The really difficult to solve clutter problems happen when we don’t have a place to put things, but I have well organised places for clean and dirty clothes (it’s only X steps to the cupboard and X2 steps to the laundry basket).

The real challenge, as with breaking any bad habit, is to make this decision stick. Some say it takes 28 days to make or break a habit. What I’ve read suggests it’s closer to 40-60 days. Whatever the answer turns out to be I know it will take some effort.

So, I’ve added “didn’t Leave clothes on a chair” to my list on the habits app (a great way to track daily habits). And of course, I’ve written this post, not just as a way to be honest about this little bad habit and the bigger issue of sleep and healthy living, but also because it invites everyone in my life to comment on how the clothes on the chair thing is going.

This week, I Quit is a weekly series where I try, in a personal way, to address the habit of overcommitment. Each week I quit something, it could be an app, a habit, a possession, a word, anything that had a hold on my attention. I explain why I made the choice to quit and what it was like. Last week I quit saying “my younger self would’ve liked.”

Chair

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