Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind is a quick read that poses as a book about cleanliness, but really is about the power of discipline. Cleanliness of the home and body cultivates a calm, clear mind, and a calm and clear mind is the foundation of a good life.

The book has many thematic similarities to Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Being clean and orderly in your home enables you to have a calm and clear mind.

Shinshin ichinyo refers to the idea that the mind and the body are one. Trying to think fo them as separate is folly. Meals, manners, and gratitude: put these elements together and you too can live in harmony.”

“Cleaning isn’t just about removing dirt. It’s also linked to cultivating the mind.”

It is only natural to expose yourself to nature; the further we are from nature, the less we are at ease

“Exposing your body to the cold in the predawn air naturally makes you feel charged… By the time everyone else is emerging, you’ve finished your cleaning and are all set for the day’s work. Cleaning in the morning creates a breathing space for your mind so you can have a pleasant day.”

“Air-conditioning, which creates the same environment throughout the summer and winter, amounts to a refusal to communicate with nature.”

“Open the windows to allow fresh air in.”

Don’t put things off. As an aside, this framing is the first that has ever motivated me to get things done on time or early.

Zengosaidan is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all of our efforts into each day so we have no regrets… People today are busy, and we have all experienced feeling tired and then leaving dirty dishes and laundry untended as we go to bed. But did you begin the next day feeling refreshed? Was it not depressing to wake up to the new day with yesterday’s chores still to be done?

Comments on materialism: even broken items can be given a new life…

“The Dust Cloth: In the world of Buddhism, reusing items is a standard that guides our day-to-day lives. There is no such thing as making a dust cloth out of a brand-new piece of fabric.”

“Be grateful for things that have served you and give them to people who could use them, where they can have a purpose and shine again.”

…and buying new things will not fix the hole on your heart.

“People who endlessly chase after new things have lost their freedom to earthly desire. Only those who can enjoy using their imaginations when working with limited resources know true freedom. What sort of life do you wish to lead?”

Instead of buying new things frequently, buy high-quality things rarely and care for them

“A life free of possessions is very comfortable. After Ippen Shonin’s pilgrimage, he continued living a life without possessions and never again settled down to live in one specific place. By not being anchored down by worldly possessions, his mind was able to achieve true freedom. There are some things you start to realize when living the Zen life of simplicity, name, that you only keep things of good quality.”

How you care for your belongings reflects on you and seeps into how you treat others

“Rather than chasing after the new, live your life in which you use the same objects for a long time. If you do this, you will naturally be able to care for and treasure the people around you as well.”

“Dishes must be carefully help in both hands. Holding things in this way displays a sense of natural sophistication and shows that you take care of each and every thing you hold.”

I also appreciated these two quotes about your toilet and kitchen:

“The Toilet: This is where the true colors of a household are revealed. However, while many people pay particular attention to cleaning the entrance of their home before guests arrive, not all give the same amount of attention to the toilet (tousu)… If the toilet is a poorly kept room where guests are unable to relax, this will negatively impact their impression fo both your home and the head of the household: they will not feel truly welcome.”

“If a kitchen is kept in good order, anybody who needs to work there can immediately begin to do so with comfort and ease, keeping preparation times short and allowing delicious dishes to be served while they are still hot.”