It is a bit of a cliche title and to be honest, I never really took the concept seriously until this year. It has always baffled me why the term and idea of spring cleaning exists in the first place, when one should do proper housekeeping on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, depending on what the chores are. In my book, if you are consistent with this structure, there is very little left for annual chores. Trust me when I tell you that if you ignore the annuals, they tend to take root in a horrible manner and haunt you like weeds in a messy garden. It is ridiculously convenient to shove things in the basement or attic and forget about them until, God forbid, our heirs end up doing the dirty work for us. Nobody appreciates inheriting old things that should have been discarded decades ago! Nostalgia only goes so far…
When you move around the world as many times as I have, and most of my soul sisters will understand this (calling AGR, SBK and BS), each major relocation took care of emptying out the basements and attics of accumulated “treasures”. When your life becomes confined to a 40-foot container, there is no choice but to weed out the necessary essentials and dispose everything else for a song. Over the years, I learned to adopt the following policy for sorting:
* if you haven´t touched, used or worn it in 12 months, out it goes.
* If it hasn´t fit you in the last three years, and you had childbirth in the meantime, chances are it has gone out of fashion or will never fit you again.
* Can I make someone else happy if I give it away?
* Can someone else put it to better use?
* What charity can I donate all of this to?
* Why, oh why, do you want to keep those old mixers, lawnmowers, monitors, spare parts, etc. ? Think of the fire hazard involved.
* There is no need to keep the entire childhood wardrobe of your children – one item from each stage in life suffices for nostalgia. The rest can be put to much better use elsewhere.
I remember all too clearly how much I resented having to clean out all the things my parents squirreled away over the years, and as my mother stood beside me and watched me, tears streaming down her cheeks in frustration, she told me to burn as much as I could and have no regrets. So do yourself and your heirs a favour, and don´t procrastinate.
In this day and age, however, there is another form of housekeeping that has become essential to our efficiency: digital cleaning. How many of you are guilty of keeping emails that are over two years old in your inbox? File the important ones you need for documentation purposes in a separate folder or backup drive, and empty out your inbox. The more you keep, the longer it takes your provider to load! Adjust your spam filters as well so you waste less time filtering through mails everyday. And please, stop mixing your private and professional mails under a single address. You can set up any mail manager to automatically sort out the mail into folders for you, and that way you also detract the spammers. For example, I have a designated email address that I use for shopping (online or otherwise). This is an address that will receive purchase or subscription confirmations, and I know to check this on a weekly basis to throw out the trash. No personal mails ever come in through here.
Photographers and writers are also guilty of accumulating far too much data on the hard disk. Either use your mega storage on the cloud (which is multi-device friendly) or move it to a safe external drive (make sure it is shock-proof as well if you happen to be the type to carry external drives around). And for heavens sake, clean up that desktop screen! Folders are there for a reason in the memory!
Lastly, there is emotional decluttering. This, if you ask me, is the most difficult of them all. Letting go of the past, of traumas, pains, accepting mistakes and embracing shortcomings is far more difficult than throwing out the clutter in the basement or great grandmother´s old spinning wheel in the attic. In the same way that we hoard books, jars, stamps, pots and pans, we also hoard traumas, emotions, false notions, distorted values that pile up and prevent us from moving forward. You only have one life, and there is no need for you to constantly carry around all that luggage with you.
May this be your mantra today: declutter, declutter, declutter.
Reduce, walk away, and create harmony. Everything I just wrote above I learned the hard way. My spaces are occupied by plants now, and spring cleaning means physical, digital, emotional, and spiritual. I am learning how to breathe all over again, and continue to let go of things two by two.
For further reading on emotional decluttering, check out this blog.