“Spring cleaning isn’t just about sorting through things, and getting rid of clutter. It’s about taking stock of who you are, and how others see you. It’s a chance to redefine yourself, to change expectations, and to remember that it’s never too late to recapture who you were, or to aim for where you want to be.” ~ Unknown
The snow has melted (Bye, Felicia), the birds are singing, and the cherry blossoms have popped, which can only mean one thing – spring has sprung! While the season officially arrived over a month ago, here in good ol’ Southern Ontario, we are just now starting to see the hard evidence (you can imagine my shock).
Those that know me will attest to my love for spring, most recently evidenced by the #springspam that has taken over my Instagram account (if you haven’t already, stop by and see me @pearlslaceandgrace).
Spring has been my favourite season for as long as I can remember. The days grow longer, the light shines brighter, and everything awakes from a long winter slumber to start anew. When spring arrives, I joyfully shed the weight of winter (literally and figuratively), open the windows and doors, and let the freshness of the season come in. For me, that is one of the most attractive elements of spring – the fresh start.
With that said, it is no coincidence that one of the most popular activities during spring is based on “freshening” one’s surroundings – yes, that big spring clean. While I always enjoy giving my home a thorough scrub, this year I have also decided to give other areas of my life a good spring clean as well.
Spring is the opportune time to rid one’s life of stifling physical clutter; however, it is also the perfect time to reflect on the many other subtle ways that clutter takes over our lives, draining us of our most precious commodities: time, energy and peace of mind.
In an effort to get rid of the dust and dirt that keeps us from living our best life, I offer you three ways to give your life a good spring cleaning:
Spring Clean your… Relationships
In spring, many of us will reevaluate the contents of our closet, and discard items that no longer serve us in an effort to make room for those that do. In doing so, we may even come across long-forgotten items that have eluded us, but now found, make us feel like a new person! Isn’t it funny that we do this for our closets so regularly, but not for our relationships?
This spring, why not take the time to reevaluate your relationships? Firstly, check your social calendar. Does it truly reflect who you are, and the people and activities you value most? Or, are you too often grumbling about the commitments you wish you had not made?
If you identify with the latter, then I encourage you to take some time (at least as much time as you would give your closet), and make a list of the people in your life (family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc.). Then circle the people who mean the most to you. Now ask yourself, when did you last talk to or see them?
If the majority or your time is not being spent with those you value most, create a plan for how you can change that. Maybe it’s setting up a bi-weekly coffee date with your best friend, or having dinner with your parents every Sunday evening. Yes, to do so, it may mean that you will have less time to spend with that colleague who only drains you, or that acquaintance that only connects with you when it is convenient for them.
Whatever it is that will help you spend more time with those you value most, make it happen. Set the goal and stick to it. Schedule a time to reassess your progress in one to three months. If you are still not where you want to be, sit down and revise your plan.
My friends, this one is important because life is too short, and all too often, we come to that realization too late.
Spring Clean your… Health
During a spring clean, we may come across things in and around our home that are in a state of disrepair. While some of these things are more of an annoyance, like a leaky faucet, others can be downright dangerous if not attended to, like a broken staircase.
Just as you survey your home for things that may require a little fix or tweak, why not take the same amount of time to survey an equally important thing – your health? Just as a leaky faucet can eventually turn into a flooded kitchen if left unattended, so too can minor ailments become debilitating conditions if left unaddressed.
Spring is an ideal time to take stock of how you’re feeling and identify where improvements need to be made; however, before you go thinking you need to commit to a full renovation, know that even a few simple changes can improve your overall well-being.
The Body – I know it may sound cliche, but we only get one, so the sooner you learn to look after it, the longer it will last, and as previously mentioned, small changes can generate big results. For example, why not commit to a simple four-week “spring cleaning”, where you clean-up your diet by eliminating all the blatant culprits – fast foods, highly processed foods, items with a great deal of added sugar, as well as items with a heavy caffeine or alcohol content. Set them aside for four weeks, and do your best to replace them with things that are blatantly better for you – more water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
Also, if you have not had a physical since the fall of the Roman Empire, do yourself a favour and make an appointment. I know physicians can be all kinds of scary with their poking and prodding, but establishing a baseline for your health is incredibly important, even if you are feeling in tip top shape!
Finally, and this is the one I have the most trouble with, get moving – and let me stop you before you start with the excuses, because I literally wrote the book on excuses for not being active. No time, no energy (duh, because you aren’t moving), and so on. You do not have to go from zero to CrossFit in 60 seconds folks. If you live a sedentary life, as most of us do, adding a ten minute walk to your day will do wonders. Explore what type of movement excites you (don’t give me that look). Maybe it’s dance, maybe it’s rollerskating, maybe it’s yoga, or maybe none of those things, but keep searching. Us humans were made to move, so if you can, you should!
The Mind – The mind is a little trickier than the body; however, there is a great deal of evidence that shows just how malleable the mind can be. In my experience, one of the easiest ways to clear out the cobwebs is to do a brain dump. Quite simply, sit down with a piece of paper, or better yet a journal, and just dump all the worries and frustrations out on to the page – that act alone will do wonders for your mind – I’ve tried it. Next, with a highlighter or coloured pen, circle all the worries and frustrations that you can actually do something about, leaving behind all those things you cannot control. Then, over time, create a plan for how to take action or improve those items within your control. Set goals and establish timelines for yourself in order to assess your progress.
Another highly-recommended practice is meditation. Now, I myself have fallen in and out of love with this practice many times, because it’s not easy. While there are countless resources out there for you to access, the goal of meditation is really quite simple – learning how to quiet the mind and/or shift focus. The ways in which someone meditates are as diverse as the the people on this earth. What works for one, may not work for the other. Personally, I have found the most success with guided meditation – two of my favourite apps for this are Headspace and Calm. I have also had great success with the meditation tool Muse, which my husband kindly gave to me this past Christmas.
While you cannot fix everything that ails your mind and body in one day, taking steps forward is well worth the effort.
Spring Clean your… Finances
Forgive me for returning to the closet analogy; however, indulge me for a moment. When the warm weather arrives, we head for our closets to take stock of what we have to work with; what fits and what doesn’t. Well, wouldn’t it make sense to look at our financial affairs in the same way?
Spring is ideal, as it is also tax season, to spend some time organizing and simplifying your financial life. If you don’t already have a system in place, now’s the time to establish one. There is no right way to organize one’s finances – ultimately, it has to make sense to you. So, if you are a spreadsheet guy or girl, have at it. If you are a paper lover, go nuts! Whatever it takes to gain a greater understanding of your finances.
Admittedly, I am one of the least financially savvy people on this planet, and only over the last few years, have I come to truly understand my finances. If you are starting from scratch, my first suggestion would be to determine where all your money goes every month. Using a simple calendar or document, identify when the money comes in and when it goes out. Next, take a look at the money going out and assess whether that bill is a necessity (like a how a little black dress is essential to any woman’s wardrobe), or if it doesn’t really fit your life anymore (like those purple alligator-print bell bottoms in the back of your closet). If you are paying bills for services or things that are no longer serving you, say goodbye (provided there isn’t a huge penalty for breaking a contract) and redirect the money to those things that do.
Since, I almost fell asleep telling you about my first suggestion (#notanumbersperson), I have gathered a few more resources to help you in your quest to get those finances squeaky clean:
While spring cleaning may not be everyone’s cup of tea, putting in the effort, whether it be scrubbing that oven or organizing those finances, will pay off in dividends.
Editor’s Note: if you looking for more ways to make the most of this beautiful season, stop my post from last year – Embrace Spring, and if you have cleaned out your closet and are seeking some wardrobe inspiration, stop by my past post – Wardrobe Essentials: Spring.