When we think of ‘spring cleaning’ in Europe, it tends to be in terms of getting rid of the traces of winter: the pervasive remnants of dirt from muddy shoes, windows crusted in dust and salty rain, clearing away the cobwebs from rooms that suddenly are bathed in light… All the things we can suddenly see once the sun comes back and we open the curtains properly. All that has been hidden by the darkness of short winter days, with skies covered in clouds.
One of the things I mentioned was opening the windows and letting in fresh air after a long period where stale air in artificially heated rooms was our daily experience. Opening those windows is not just something we do in the realm of physical experience, but we often find ourselves embarking on new ventures (including cleaning the home) because we are suddenly feeling the urge to do so. We have awoken from a period of recovery, rest, in some cases even a state of stupor.
We are human, and we occasionally need time to let go of all things mundane, and just let things, thoughts, ideas, etc sit and simmer for a while. We also need time to be lazy and relax and not think about whatever it is we do regularly, to avoid becoming bored with it and get depressed. You might say ‘that’s what holidays are for’ and you may have been right about that even just a couple of years ago. It has become increasingly difficult to detach from our daily routines, especially since the advent of email, skype and text messages, and the expectation (our employer’s and our own) to be reachable day and night, and even when we are not officially at work. Winter time is, of course, the classic period for cocooning and retreating into our own homes, and with that should come a time of recharging. Sadly, that is also a thing of the past…
What about spring cleaning, then? Well, of course we still want to or need to thoroughly clean our homes, remove all dirt and dust and generally make things right, but there is more to it than that.
Decluttering your home is an important part of spring cleaning: rather than getting rid of dust and dirt and things we clearly identify as rubbish that has accumulated over time, it might be a good idea to take the opportunity to look at the things we move around while we try to physically clean the home. Here are some questions you might ask yourself in that process: “Are those things in the way?”, “Do I really need this (to be right here)?”, “Can I get rid of this?” and similar questions. Those questions are no other than the ones you would usually ask during a decluttering session, but this is the perfect time to ask them on a regular day, and potentially developing the habit of doing so more regularly.
Quite apart from the physical decluttering, springtime is a perfect time to declutter your mind as well. This time of awakening from a long winter sleep is perfect to challenge your own perceptions, break old habits that don’t serve you any longer and generally questioning the way things are. This might even be the origin of “new year’s resolutions”… because aren’t they all about changing habits, really?
Maybe there is something to be said for NOT speeding through the cleaning process, but taking time to properly EXPERIENCE the spring cleaning. I know, it’s a chore to clean and that won’t change anytime soon, but it’s also an opportunity to think about what you are doing, what you come across and question your beliefs and behaviours while you are taking care of the practical stuff. Whenever you move something out of the way, as mentioned above, there is a chance to ask yourself a question or two about your motivation to keep this thing, and to keep it where it is. Whenever you sit down to take a break, there’s an opportunity to ponder stuff that comes up in you – and potential to act on those thoughts.
There is a point to be made to take spring cleaning one room at a time, and making good use of the opportunity to evaluate your possessions and what they really mean to you. Yes: it will take longer and will be more intrusive a process than if you worked like a whirlwind and did it all in one single swoop. But it would also be a lot more physically demanding to do it all at once: remember how long it took you last time to get over the muscle aches? Considering these things while you clean will take your mind away from the tedious work, though.
Look at it spring cleaning as a chance to take stock of what is really important and what isn’t. You’ll probably be surprised by the insight you get if you give it a go.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.