3 Spring Cleaning Ideas for the Mind

Category: Musing

If you’re like me, you feel a tinge more hopeful with room to dream when you look out the window and see the days getting longer and warmer as we edge our way to full-bloom springtime.

Even our ancestors shared these positive feelings of anticipation with festivals and ceremonies. Egyptians went so far as to align their Sphynx, and the Cambodians their Angkor Wat, with the spring equinox, showing us their appreciation for this season.  

Fast-forward to present day and beyond ceremonies or carved limestone, and you’ll find a different preoccupation with renewal—the time-honored tradition of cleaning and decluttering. My dad loved to clean this time of year. I vividly remember the window-cleaning weekend in our home where my dad would climb the ladder with Windex and newspapers and tell me to hold the ladder as we inched our way around the house, him dropping the used newspapers to me and landing some of them on my head. When he was all done, we’d sit on the porch together, and he’d ask me to pick up all the newspapers we’d left behind. I was never sure why he’d wait until the end to pick them all up, but I was happy to help since he was so enthusiastic about the task.

While spring cleaning may cause you to think about the dusty variety, I challenge you to think about a different kind—mental and emotional renewal. Why not update your spring-cleaning regimen to include a tune-up for your well-being?

Consider the following three ideas for pushing reset mentally and emotionally with your coworkers or your family members this time of year:

  1. Declutter your space (physical and mental) – I’ll start with the most obvious first so you know I’m not suggesting that you ignore your bursting closets at home and your office drawers. Cleaning your physical environment positively impacts your mental well-being and makes room for better focus and ability to meditate on what’s important rather than be distracted by clutter. Now consider what’s cluttering your headspace. What nonessential paralysis of analysis do you need to let go of? What can you say no to every week? Refer to my post about Greg McKeown’s Essentialism and one of my favorite tables that I highlighted. And as we all know, no one knows better about how to help us declutter our physical space than Marie Kondo. If it doesn’t bring us consistent joy, why do we have it? 
  2. Clear emotional vampires – I know this sounds harsh but hear me out. If our friendships or relationships are regularly sucking more out of us than we’re getting, it’s time to assess their value. I once did an exercise and listed all the relationships in my life and put a plus, minus, or neutral by each one. I looked at the short list of minuses and realized that I had been losing so much energy in each of those relationships. I needed to create different boundaries, renegotiate the relationship, and be clear about what I needed for us to be good to and for each other. It was terrifying for me, as I’d learned to always just “live with it.” In the end, all relationships but one changed for the better and people even thanked me for my honesty. I did lose one friend in the deal, which made me feel very sad. She was not up for changing the nature of our friendship. The loss was outweighed by the gain of energy I got in return.   
  3. Digitally disentangle – A client of mine, Micah, recently shared a suggestion that is simply brilliant: remove the scrolling apps from your phone. Try it for thirty days. So when you need to look at Instagram, you’ll intentionally do it on your desktop versus using your idle time at a stoplight or in the grocery store to scroll. I followed his suggestion and recently traveled for two weeks. My airport, plane, and Uber rides were transformed because I found different ways to be in that time and space. I called a friend, read my book, meditated on the plane while people were still boarding, and I enjoyed the scenic drives to my hotel.

What’s more, I haven’t met a single person yet who has told me that looking at the news makes them feel better and awesome. It’s stressful.  We all know it. Yet we still look. Can you decrease the number of times you look each day? A week? Can you set boundaries around it? Can you tune into how you feel after you look at the news and ask yourself what you really gained by spending your time and putting your attention there?  Give yourself some tech challenges for thirty days to declutter in this area and test the challenge yourself. How do you feel before and after? Here are some more ideas on how to set boundaries.

Extra credit: Explore your procrastination habits. Stalling drains our energy, confidence, and courage–it’s a way to avoid perceived future discomfort but, in reality, we actually create present-moment discomfort because we know we “should” be doing something yet we’re avoiding it. We clean our desk or get busy elsewhere to trick ourselves into feeling productive–at least on something else. Though, the lingering guilt and possible shame is underneath it all, and that reduces our energy flow.

Lean into curiosity about why, what, and when you procrastinate, but more importantly, lean into it gently, oh so gently, so “sitting with the emotions” surfaces what’s causing your procrastination. In the end, the real practice for us is sitting with and befriending the feelings we have about the world around us, without rejection and avoidance. Hard stuff–for me at least–as it’s so much easier just to numb myself to the real emotions and forge on. More on this in future conversations on The Stoop. In the meantime, read this helpful article for more information about the “what” and “why” we procrastinate.

American poetry and fiction writer Kwame Alexander said, “You can’t have a dream come true if you don’t have a dream.” A simple yet powerful reminder that we need to declutter our minds and make room for dreaming. Let spring symbolize renewal and rejuvenation of your imagination for what’s possible—the transition from darkness to light as nature emerges from a dormant winter. The hibernating bear in you is ready to shed your relaxed winter state and burst into action. Which of these ideas will you try so you have more time to dream and feel inspired?

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