The spring equinox takes place on March 20, heralding the transition from winter to the beginning of the spring season. During this time, the sun is at the midpoint of the sky, making days and nights about 12 hours long.
With the changing of seasons, people often feel the need to cleanse and purge themselves of winter doldrums. Many people take part in a spring cleaning ritual at home. The clutter that once piled up because it was too cold or dreary is now at the forefront of your “to do” list.
But spring cleaning is not just about the cleansing and purging of physical possessions or external influences. The seasons’ cyclical nature allows people to create a new slate for themselves and is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the internal clutter we might feel. Ideas can be changed. Attitudes can be evaluated and adjusted. Stress can be reduced. Health can be prioritized. This is the time for us to take inventory and assess the unused and unnecessary excess in our lives.
SEASON OF REBIRTH
For many people, spring represents rebirth. Water from gently melting snow gives life to flowers and plants just peeking out from the ground. People around the country come out of their indoor hibernation.
“It’s a fresh start, literally and figuratively,” said Kelly Jayne McCann, owner of Perfect Order Organizing in Essex, Vermont. “Things dormant from winter’s chill come alive. Daylight lasts longer. The planning of crops comes to an end as the seeds are put in the ground; the focus is now on tending to the land.”
All around us, humankind is in tandem with nature, said Laura Benko, a Brooklyn, New York-based feng shui consultant and educator. From the large-scale planetary cycles down to a woman’s individual fertility cycle, nature’s phases are all around us, she said, adding that people are more efficient when they harness the power of nature.
“When the seasons evolve through their phases and winter comes to an end, spring holds the promise of new beginnings,” Benko said. “This time of renewal offers a natural boost in motivation to shed the old, to clean out and clear out. Bottom line: We feel better when we live closer to the rhythms of the planet.”
McCann believes this makes springtime an ideal time to rid ourselves of the negative energy that clutter brings. She said the first step in de-cluttering is to create a vision of what you want your space to feel like. “Keep that vision at the forefront of your mind as you embark on letting go of that which no longer serves you,” she said.
There are three questions to ask yourself for every area of life: physical items, commitments and relationships. Ask yourself, “How does this serve me? Will holding on to it help me reach my goals and live the life I desire? If it doesn’t help, does it hinder?”
“Our lives should only have that which we love and that which we need,” McCann said. “Loving it means it brings you pleasure to use or look at, adds value to your life in some significant way or makes you happy. Needing it means you use it regularly or you must keep it because of legal reasons, like tax returns or insurance policies.”
GOING GREEN WHILE DECLUTTERING
The season of change can also be a good time to change your environmental habits. From homemade cleaning products to organic laundry and maid services, there’s no reason why spring cleaning can’t be done in an environmentally friendly way. As Margaret Pearson Pinkham, an organizing consultant based in northern California, noted, people having a difficult time getting rid of excess objects may have an easier time knowing it is being done in a positive way. “Knowing that it is going somewhere to be used or appreciated again or made into something else often helps them let go of it,” she said of her clients.
For excess clothing or linens, Pinkham recommended first trying to donate items and then recycle them. “Old linens and towels can be taken to animal shelters and put to use a few more times,” she said. “Hopefully the garbage can is the last resort.”
Other items can also be purged without hurting the environment. Freecycle.org allows users to give away items some may see as trash but others may see as treasure. The best thing, Pinkham said, is that it keeps the items out of landfills.
“I’ve given away used doormats that looked ugly but had tons of life and rubber in them. Someone wanted them for outside their barn door,” Pinkham said. “You can also ask for things you need. I’ve often seen a request for something I’ve had laying around taking up space and I was thrilled to give it to someone who needed it.”
E-waste events are a way to get rid of excess computers or appliances that could be hazardous. Most Goodwill locations, Pinkham noted, offer events where people can bring in their used equipment and recycle. Excess paint, furniture and appliances can be donated to local Habitat for Humanity chapters to use for future homes. Old, dust-collecting books can find new use at your local library, school or college.
KEEP THE END RESULT IN MIND
When cleaning up, it’s important to focus on the end – how you want the situation to look like – not the “mess” or “what it is today,” said Laura Rose, a certified efficiency coach in North Carolina. This can also be used in external life matters, like relationships. For example, if you are de-cluttering matters of the heart, focus on what you want in a relationship, not what you didn’t like in the past one.
“Don’t try to forget or remove bad habits or memories,” Rose said. “The more you focus on forgetting or removing something, the more attention you are actually placing on the unwanted items. Replace instead with the habit or attributes you really do want.”