The mud in our lives

In the world we live in, programmers, marketers, strategists, executives, entrepreneurs, authors and others with cool jobs get all the attention. 

A group that doesn’t get anywhere near as much exposure? Farmers.

I am not a farmer. Of anything. I wouldn’t know how to look after a cow or what to do in lambing season. I have no idea how to plough a field or monitor a crop’s potential yield. But I do know this. Farmers work hard and get muddy.

They toil from dusk till dawn, often in conditions that you and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near. And after a long day, they retire to their homes. Maybe a cottage. Maybe a big farmhouse. They duck in the back door and into the mud room.

Here’s a description of a mud room I stumbled across:

“A mud room or mudroom is an area built into some houses to act as a barrier between the outdoors and indoors. Especially in regions with wet, muddy winters, this type of small, specialised room can be a useful addition as it helps to keep the house clean. In addition, it constitutes a clear boundary between indoors and out, which can be a useful reminder for animals and exuberant members of the household.”

​The mud room is a place where you cleanse yourself of the outdoors before you go indoors.

If you have an occupation that requires creativity and deep work, I suggest you think about more about mud rooms. Actually, if you’re just trying to manage stress and maintain your sanity, I would make the same suggestion. Consider mud rooms.

The mud in our lives is the inane small talk of the office. The news we’re bombarded by. The sensationalised media we consume. The mud in our lives is all the things that don’t contribute to our work or happiness, but are an unavoidable consequence of our existence.

The interior of the farmhouse is our sanctum. It is where we do the work that matters to us and to others. The work that requires patience, clarity of thought, synthesis of ideas, and courage.

Just like the farmer who doesn’t want to traipse dirt into his house, we don’t want to bring any metaphorical dirt into our most important space. The solution is the creation of a mud room. A space, ritual or routine that must be passed through or completed before access to the interior is granted.

I’ll give you an example. When I arrive home from work, the first thing I do is take off my shoes and unpack my bag. Everything goes back into it’s proper place. Bag under the bed. Watch on the dresser. Clothes hung in the wardrobe. I then walk across to the study and sit down at my desk. The desk is clear of clutter and in the middle is my journal with a pen resting on top. I’ll then sit for a few minutes in silence, or write a few pages.

This simple process—arrive, unpack, change clothes, reflect—takes twenty minutes, max. It’s my mud room. Or my mud ritual. It cleanses me of the dirt I’ve picked up throughout the day and helps me reset. It helps me regain equilibrium.

The exact routine doesn’t really matter. In the same way that the size or luxury of the farmer’s mud room doesn’t matter. The important thing is that there’s a space where you shed all the things you don’t want to carry inside with you. An areas which gives you a chance to reset as you move from space to space, or in my case, from state to state.

In a world where we’re endlessly connected, where all our activities are integrated, it’s necessary to build a little bit of separation into our lives. To have a version of the toiling farmer’s mud room. To keep the dirt out of our most sacred spaces.