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Spring Cleaning for the House and the Mind: A Guide to Self Care

At this time of year we often think about going through our closets, basements, drawers, shelves, anything and everything where belongings may have overstayed their welcome. Out with the old and in with the new. Reorganize and re-prioritize our physical space. A cluttered home only contributes further to a cluttered mind, so lets’ get back to basics, practice a little self care, and get rid of all the extra noise we surround ourselves with. I myself face the task of organizing our basement which seems to have no real purpose other than a holding place for furniture and boxes of items we cannot use in our daily life right now. There are likely lots of things down there that we can part with for good. I like the idea of taking this one step further though, and while we purge the physical items that are no longer doing us good, let’s do the same for the mental items that are no longer (or never were) helpful to us.

Spring cleaning, both physical and mental, can feel like a daunting task. It is one meant to bring relief from clutter but the mere idea of beginning the process can feel even heavier than the baggage we’re carrying around. This is why many people choose to just leave things as is and not venture down this road. The question becomes then, how can we make spring cleaning feel less like a burden and more like the act of self-care it truly is? The truth is, there’s no easy answer to this. We all work and think differently and the mental constraints that may hold some people back from successfully cleaning house are likely not the same for everyone. The key is to find the tricks that work for you… and follow some general guidelines that are sure to assist anyone in this process.

Make lists! I cannot stress this enough. Lists are an invaluable way to concretely view the progress you are hoping to make. Many people say “oh I don’t need list, I have it all in my head,” and I am guilty of doing this at times myself, but I have to say, there are few things as satisfying as looking back on a fully completed written out “to do” list. Crossing off each accomplished task is so satisfying! The down side of lists is that writing every single task, chore, etc. down can look scary all on one giant scroll that stretches out the front door of your home and down the street. So how can we prevent our list from making spring cleaning even more difficult? Why make the lists smaller of course! Divide tasks/goals up between days, weeks, months even. Spring cleaning, physical and mental, does not have to be (and usually cannot be) accomplished in a single weekend… and it doesn’t have to stop just because it’s not spring anymore!

The key of lists is to make them manageable. For one’s home we can list the things that need to be done by room and attach realistic goals to each room. If in the kitchen, the fridge needs to be cleaned, silverware organizer de-crumbed and washed, food cabinets re-organized, and the floor mopped, this is likely something that can be done in a day or weekend, depending on your schedule. So for that weekend, the kitchen list is your goal. We often self-sabotage by assigning ourselves far too much to accomplish with the time we are allotted and then can end up feeling defeated. If the task is something like, say, my basement, I know I likely cannot clean, weed out donate-able items, and rearrange furniture for function in just one day. I can maaaaaybe get it done in a weekend, but I also want to allow room for other responsibilities that may pop up in that time frame. So, my goal for myself might be to clean the areas that are in need first and then settle in for some serious sorting into keep, donate, and throw away piles. Maybe I will finish the sorting, maybe I will only get halfway through, but if I have made a solid effort to get the process underway, then I can count it as a successful and productive weekend. I can have smaller goals during the week to spend at least 30 minutes each night continuing the basement process until it is complete. We want to remain proactive while not overwhelming ourselves or completely taking away any time for relaxation or quality time with loved ones we might have. If I’m on a roll I might power through one night leaving the next night free for whatever I want. The structure of the schedule is up to you, there is no right or wrong way.

How can this translate into mental spring cleaning though? Well that’s easy, the fundamentals are basically the same, but we do need to prepare to put in some serious time taking stock of our life priorities and goals. This is usually more difficult than cleaning one’s house so make sure that you dedicate yourself to the process and also reward yourself for a job well done each time you make progress, not just when you think you are completely finished (Tip: we’re never really finished). There are a few key areas that we can start with to help get the ball rolling: Family/Friends; Money; Work; Self.

Family/Friends: Healthy relationships are critical to mental health and a happy life. The important factor here is “healthy”. Make note of how you are feeling during and after time spent with people in your life. If at the end of an afternoon with a friend you are feeling wiped out and annoyed, it may be time to rethink the amount of time you are dedicating to that person. Sometimes once healthy relationship begin to feel like they’re not on track anymore. One of the best ways to move beyond constraints in a relationship is to try couples or family therapy. Healthy relationships will make us feel positive, peaceful, relaxed, even energized after time spent with those people. Focus energy on the people that bring out the best in you and make you feel fulfilled.

Money: Cash is one of the biggest stressors there is. Not having enough money to pay bills or do the things you want to do is sure to decrease one’s satisfaction with their life. Take a look at what you are actually spending your money on. Often times we are wasting a good amount of money on things we don’t need or even want. If you look at your bank account and wonder where all the money went spend some time writing down every single thing you spent money on in a week. I guarantee it will be eye opening! Eating out or ordering in every night? This is just one example of a great way to drain your bank account. Try to reduce the number of prepared meals you’re buying and start cooking… or at least making sandwiches a few times a week. You will see the difference quickly!

Work: Most people spend a minimum of 40 hours per week at their job. That is a lot of hours! If we are unsatisfied with the work we are doing it can take its toll on our happiness and home life. For many it is very hard to leave work at the office and they can carry that frustration with them all the time. Reassess your happiness within your job. Is changing jobs and option? If it’s not take a look at the small things you can do to improve the job for yourself. Boss or coworkers rubbing you the wrong way? We cannot control other people, but we can control our reactions to those people. Letting yourself get worked into a tizzy every time that one coworker does that one ridiculous thing you hate isn’t a productive use of your time. No matter how upset you get, they are going to do that same thing again tomorrow or next week. Rather than being mad at them for not changing, change yourself. Work to get yourself to a place where that thing doesn’t affect you so much. Bring able to laugh at it is a great thing to.

Self: While all the things I have discussed above are technically ways to take care of one’s self, I am asking you to go above and beyond. Addressing issues with money, family, friends, and work can do SO much for you and enhance your happiness and satisfaction in the life you have made, but nothing defines self-care more than some good old fashioned “Me Time”. We tend to take for granted the glory of small pockets of alone time. I love the people in my life and want to be with them making memories as much as possible, but those moments here and there where I find myself alone and relaxed with just my thoughts are invaluable. Everyone has different ideas of what self-care means to them, so make this totally your own. For some a good book is exactly what they need, others it’s a jog with their dog, basically everyone would benefit from individual therapy with a qualified therapist, and for those that love a little pampering a massage is a great way to unwind. It doesn’t matter what type of alone time helps to refuel you, just make sure to figure out what it is and fit it into your schedule as often as you need.

This is your life! Do the things that make you happy and focus on the small victories! 🙂

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