When I was a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, the first robins of the season brought hope for an end to winter and the promise of a new Easter bonnet. They also seemed to remind us that it was time for our annual cleanout of kitchen cupboards and closets. Nowadays I wonder: is spring cleaning still a thing?
If you’re anything like me, it’s been a while since you laundered your pillows and comforters, washed your walls, or dredged gunk and goo out of your drains. I have a good friend who loves to clean, and the more stressed she becomes, the more she cleans. But most people I know would rather move than deep-clean.
Here’s something to consider if you haven’t already: an
Audible membership. It’s not cheap, but if you love to read and spend a lot of time on your feet (cleaning?) or commuting in your car, it’s a great way to pass the time while being entertained or enlightened as you go.
No, that’s not a typo.
So there’s annual spring cleaning to make your house sparkle. And then there’s that bigger job that can be even more daunting: the task of cleaning out all your junk. Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, calls it döstädning, from the Swedish words for death and cleaning, and she describes it as doing a “good, thorough cleaning and [getting] rid of things to make life easier and less crowded.”
Many of us have had the experience of helping a loved one go through their stuff as they prepare to move into assisted living or a nursing home. Others have had to go through belongings after a loved one has passed away. My siblings and I encouraged our mom to go through her stuff as she began to age, and she did make it through some of her belongings. But she had accumulated so much over the years, as many of us do, that the task became overwhelming.
As long as you’re thinking about spring cleaning, why not take it a step farther? Magnusson suggests we start cleaning out our stuff long before we’re too old. And in response to the idea that it’s an overwhelming task, she suggests separating stuff into categories: books, clothes, linens, etc. Then start with large items first, like extraneous furnishings. Save the pictures, letters, and other emotional treasures for last. Here are some of her other tips:
- Consider giving away your cherished items bit by bit over the course of years.
- Take the time to enjoy reminiscing as you sort through and dispose of your stuff.
- Organize all those letters and cards you’ve saved and return them en masse to the sender. The gift will serve as a journal of your relationship.
- Document names and places in your photos now, before you forget!
- For those mementos you can’t part with but that will have no meaning for anyone else, put them into a box marked “throw away.”
- Get rid of your embarrassing stuff so nobody else has to do that.
- Ask yourself if anyone’s happiness will really be impacted by whether or not you choose to keep something or get rid of it.
Washing walls or getting rid of old stuff sounds way easier than cleaning up my computer. My laptop contains documents dating back over a decade, a hodge podge of disorganized photos, and apps or other software-ish files that I don’t understand and which I’m afraid to delete. They say a messy desk is the sign of a genius, but I doubt that theory applies to a messy computer.
I came across a great article to help with tech cleaning. You might want to check it out: 25 Areas of Digital Clutter to Minimize.
Now that your personal possessions are all spick and span, it’s time to reel in your focus and think about yourself. Ayurvedic and Chinese healing practices have promoted detox regimens for centuries that allow your internal organs to rest and also work to eliminate toxins. Just as I don’t do such a great job with spring cleaning, I’ve been remiss over the past few years in undertaking a spring body cleanse. I think I’ll return to one that was recommended to me by a healthy friend of mine several years ago. It’s a mild cleanse that lasts 2 to 5 days, and the hardest part is the pre-cleanse prep: giving up all your favorite vices!
1. For 2 to 5 days before the cleanse, eliminate caffeine, alcohol, processed and chemical foods, and…yes…sugar.
2. For 2 days prior to the cleanse, eliminate all animal products.
3. Just before your cleanse starts, make a big batch of soup with spring water, leafy greens, mushrooms, seaweed, and onions. Season with soy sauce or miso, lemon juice, and rice vinegar.
4. Once the cleanse starts:
b. For breakfast eat a bowl of your soup and a piece of fruit.
c. For lunch and dinner eat steamed leafy greens (with the water you cooked them in) and raw radishes and/or salad greens. No butter or oils; no salad dressing!
5. If you find yourself super hungry, you can have a serving of hearty grain each day (brown rice, mullet, barley).
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all for body detox routines. You may want to check out the thousands of books and products out there, and consult with your doctor or naturopath, to figure out what’s right for you.
Cleaning your mind
No, you’re not done yet. But almost! No spring cleaning routine is complete without cleansing the mind. (I’m not talking about potty jokes or 50-Shades-of-Grey images you’ve been conjuring up.) I’m talking about how to really give your mind a break.
Yes, there’s meditation.
Yes, there’s communing with nature.
Yes, there’s taking a nap.
They’re all good. But here’s one more idea you may not have actually tried: Watching Slow TV.
No, I’m not talking about watching golf on TV. I’m talking about watching videos of trains slowly rolling across Norway or cruise ships sailing through dense fog or people knitting for hours on end.
Slow TV is sometimes called the new kind of reality TV, and it’s caught on in Norway, the UK, and Australia. It’s filmed in real time but there’s no story, no educational points, no…anything. As a fiction writer, I have a hard time wrapping my head around this—but that’s the whole point when you’re trying to clear your mind, isn’t it? Turn off the old brain! Some have called Slow TV the perfect antidote to this fast-paced sound-bite chaotic world in which we live.
Maybe sometimes we all need to stop trying to make sense of the world and just let it go on all around us. Maybe we need to let go of our need to control once in a while. Have you ever had a day when you just don’t feel like meditating or hiking through nature or taking a power nap? When you just want to slip into your Ultimate Couch Potato costume, lie down on the couch, and zone out for a while?
The next time that happens, give Slow TV a try. And let me know what you think. Did it work in cleansing your mind?