Ah, Spring! The days are longer. The sun shines brighter.
Oh, and as it shines in and brightens my home, I’m suddenly aware of a winter’s worth of dirt on the windows, dark paths on the carpeting from tracked-in winter slush, and cobwebs in the dim recesses that were invisible in the grey light of winter.
Hey, it’s time for Spring Cleaning. Let’s bring in some fresh air and bright sunshine while we get rid of the crud that’s accumulated over the past year.
Here are some ideas to clean up your physical and emotional houses this month.
Spring Cleaning Tips
Wash the Windows. Windows don’t get dirty overnight. But over months and years the drips and streaks build up a little at a time until even a sunny day looks drab and colorless. So it is with our emotional lives. We build up judgments and beliefs ever so slowly, and then one day we wake up and think, “When did the world turn so negative?” To reveal what is truly happening in the world, we need to occasionally clear the film we’ve allowed to accumulate.
So in your house, use your favorite window cleaner and a dry rag. In your head and heart try scraping away a few assessments that are no longer serving you. Wipe away any opinion you hold that includes NEVER or ALWAYS, conditions that cloud judgment. For example, is your sister/neighbor/coworker/boss ALWAYS that way, or is it that your “filters” only let through the evidence that supports your expectation? Clean windows let you see what’s really happening and give you a brighter experience.
Clear the Cobwebs. Spiders weave their webs and then move on to new locations. A dust mop or a rag on a stick will clear away the dusty old webs that got left behind.
Old stories are the cobwebs of the mind. What’s gathering dust in your head? Do you hear, “I can’t …” or “I don’t deserve…” or “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unlovable.” If the story ain’t workin’ for you, try poking it with a stick and then spin a new story in its place, like, “I’m enough,” “I can…,” and “I deserve to be happy!”
Shampoo the Rug, Move Some Furniture. Rug trails come from people walking the same path over and again. In a similar way, things you do over and again form deep neural pathways until they become what we call Habits.
To unmark the path, clean the carpet. Then rearrange one or two pieces of furniture to shift traffic patterns to a new location (this really works!)
To create new Habits, follow a similar process. First, observe your old pattern of reaction. What one small shift will support a new or modified habit? For example, if you can’t seem to get to the gym after work, consider shifting bedtime and then get up earlier to fit in your fitness before work. Repeat the new pattern until you form new pathways that work better for you.
Change the Air. One of my favorite ways to refresh the house is to open all the windows and turn the furnace to Fan mode. In a couple hours the air is completely turned over and all the accumulated odors of winter have disappeared.
Fresh air is a great tool to improve your mood, as well. Try this simple exercise from the yoga world: Sit quietly. Using the thumb of your right hand, gently press your right nostril closed and take a long, slow breath in through your left nostril. Now shift your hand and, using the pinkie finger on your right hand, press your left nostril closed while you exhale long and slow through your right nostril. Repeat this for ten breaths. I promise that whatever you were concerned about when you started will have fallen away, as you experience a moment of stillness and calm.
Toss Out the Junk. Your surroundings affect you emotionally – cramped spaces evoke emotions that restrict, such as frustration, sadness, and despair. Creating a simpler, less cluttered environment opens up space where calm, happiness, and optimism thrive.
You need not overhaul your entire home to enjoy the benefits of decluttering – just pick one physical space that causes you to feel restricted when you go there. Maybe it’s your desktop, the front seat of your car, or your kitchen counter; tackle only what you can complete in an hour. Remove everything that does not belong there permanently and forever and either toss it, give it away, or store it where it belongs. Polish up what’s left. Ahhhh!
Change Your Wardrobe. As seasons shift we typically rotate the seasonal clothing, right? In spring, sweaters and turtlenecks give way to shorts and t-shirts. As you rotate clothing, take a second with each item to ask three questions: Did I wear it in the past year? Does it make me feel beautiful/handsome? Does it support the Image I want for myself in the world? If the answer to any of these is NO, it’s time to go. (exception: you can keep one set of rags for painting and digging in the mud. But just one!).
Now check out your emotional closet. For each person in your life ask these three questions: Has this relationship supported me in the past year? When I’m with them, do I feel good about myself? Does this person inspire me? If the answer to any of these is NO, consider where you can reduce time spent with those who drag you down and spend more time with those who pull you up. Remember, research proves that the people you hang out with affect your Happiness!
Enjoy Your New Clean Space. Whatever you do – or don’t do – in the way of Spring Cleaning, please don’t forget to enjoy the beauty of the season and of what you’ve created.
Join a good friend for coffee and sit in the sunshine while you chat. Take in the bright view through your “windows” that are clean of judgments. Sit quietly in the simplicity of your decluttered space. Pause to breathe in the heady scent of hyacinths in bloom. Close your eyes and listen to a spring rain (and breathe it in, too!). Applaud your progress as you create a new habit. Marvel at a hillside of daffodils on the roadside.
Most of all, pay attention to the thousand shades of spring green, and remember that hope and happiness come in a thousand flavors. All you need is one.
Happiness Principle # 8 reminds us that when we shift our environment, change becomes easier because we get pulled forward rather than always having to push. For more ideas on living a happier life, why not post a copy of the original 13 Principles on your workstation wall or on your refrigerator? You can download a 1-page summary here. Choose Happiness.