“Spring is the time of plans and projects” said Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina. Spring cleaning is a popular tradition widely practiced by many of people throughout the world. Getting rid of unwanted clutter is the main domestic project for many of us this spring time.
In the Northern hemisphere, around March 21st, the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator causing the tilt of the Earth's axis to be perpendicular to the sun's rays know as March Equinox. In the months since the Winter Equinox on 21 December, days have been gradually getting longer and by 21 March the days are as long as the nights. The spring has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth.
Why do we clean in the spring?
During the cold winter our homes used to be heated with coal, oil and wood. Doors and windows were kept shut to keep the heat in. The coming of spring and warmer weather, brought the opportunity to throw open the doors and windows and clean all the built up soot and ash. Everyone in the family would all pitch in to clean out the living area.
Victorian houses were a nightmare to keep clean as they were dark and stuffy, filled with carpets and hangings and ornate picture frames that harboured dirt.
Today we live in modern climate-controlled homes which don’t get smoky, sooty or oily. Our homes are relatively clean due to the ‘mod cons’ such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners. They are relatively airtight yet we still need to clean them- not so much from visible dirt but from micro-organisms such as mould and dust particles to improve indoor air quality.
Keep your home clutter free
Often the problem is not keeping our home clean, it is keeping it free from clutter. Unwanted and no-longer used items together with our natural tendency to hoard, all add up to a very cluttered home.
Let the size of your home dictate how much stuff you have. For an example, if your wardrobe is bursting at the seams- give up the idea of buying a larger one. Instead, get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in the past year.
Put things away
Get into the habit of putting things back in their place. For example put the bottle opener back in the drawer, hang up the skirt that you didn't wear back in the wardrobe.
Keep clutter out
Place a receptacle near the door so you can immediately put all the junk mail, free newspapers and flyers in the bin. Don’t bring them into the house.
Don’t be tempted by advertisements
We do not need most of the things we have in our homes but are convinced that they will improve our lives. If you buy something make a place immediately where it is to be stored at the outset.
However before buying anything ask yourself:
- Do I really need this and am I buying it for the right reasons??
- Have I got a place to store this when I get it home?
- Monitor what you use
You will find that items you use follows the 80:20 rule - The Pareto Principle – that is you use the same 20% of something 80% of the time. What you haven’t used within the last year sell, recycle or give it away.
Declutter your computer
Scan and file important documents on to your computer and delete old information.
Be honest! Why you are keeping ‘stuff’
- I’m keeping it just ‘in case’ – Keep for the foreseen, not the unforeseen. The only way to plan for the unforeseen is through building personal resilience, not through hoarding.
- I’m keeping it because someone else would want me to (often someone who’s not longer there e.g. has passed away.) Keep things for yourself only.
- I’m keeping it for someone else – Let them have the responsibility. Give it back or get rid of it
- I’m keeping it as a memento of my past: Don’t hold onto your past – keep something small and then move on. Rule of thumb: If it serves no purpose, let it go!
- I’m keeping it because it’s too good to throw away. If it’s too good to throw away, then it’s too good to keep and not use. Let it go to someone else who would use it and appreciate it. Pass it on with joy.
Clutter in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Let’s face it, clutter is hardly conducive to relaxation. The age-old wisdom of TCM identifies a relationship between our health and our environment. According to TCM, when we get rid of ‘excess baggage’ we imbue ourselves with space and energy that play a role in enhancing our health and happiness. The excess baggage can take the form of physical weight or of negative emotions that are part of our individual autobiography and affect how we perceive our lives, our abilities, other people and the world we live in. Such emotions that can pop up unexpectedly, making us overreact, filling us with paralysing fear or causing us to say or do things that are out of character. Much too often, negative experiences impact us in so many ways that if left unresolved, can affect our physical or emotional health. Clutter affects us, it slows us down and affects the clarity of our thinking. It can be stressful and even draining. On the other hand, clean, wide open spaces help us relax and get our thoughts in order.
Make the most of spring cleaning season to purge. Get rid of all those unwanted possessions, Purge yourself from the lifelong emotional clutter that clogs up your ability to get on with life and allow the colour and beauty of the season of rebirth to signify your own rebirth.