Is it really already time to think about spring? I don’t know about you, but the as much as I adore the sunshine and wildflowers that come with the season, I always have a difficult time pulling myself out of the winter doldrums and into the elation of spring. My body is still heavy with soups and cocoa, my eyes still droop from short days and long nights, and my mind is weary from months of hibernation and self-reflection. This transition has been, and probably always will be, a difficult one for me. Which is why I have created a sort of spring cleaning tradition to enact when the poppies start blooming and the tree leaves return. If embracing the high-energy season of spring seems daunting, this routine will help.
Step 1: Clean out your physical space
Before I can apply the spirit of spring cleaning to my lifestyle or mental space, I have to apply it to my home. I have a Spotify playlist entitled “Dance it Out.” I turn the speakers on high, open all the windows (sorry neighbors), and I dance it out. I dance out the dust bunnies, toothpaste splattered mirrors, and unvacuumed carpets. Then I dig into the desk drawers and back closet space, making “Trash” and “Giveaway” piles larger than expected.
When spring cleaning day (or week, if I am being entirely honest) comes around, I stick with three strict rules. Rule 1: If I haven’t used it over the past season or forgot I had it, I’m getting rid of it. Rule 2: Everything has a place; if it doesn’t and I’m just trying to make room for it (on bookshelves, countertops, or in my dresser), then I’m getting rid of it. Rule 3: If it doesn’t have an obvious and necessary use, and doesn’t bring me some personal or sentimental joy, I’m getting rid of it. Take the edamame growing kit my neighbor gave me; I haven’t used it, I don’t know where to put it, and honestly, I have no interest in growing edamame when it’s like $2 at Trader Joes. So that one goes in the giveaway pile. Soon enough, my apartment starts to look less like a hoarder’s den and more like a home.
Step 2: Give your routine new life
Once my living quarters have been scrubbed and re-organized, I turn the mop on my lifestyle. I grab a pen and paper (or maybe I have an entire notebook dedicated to this purpose, but that’s beside the point…) and I start sketching out my schedule. I look back on the past three months and jot down what my average routine was. When did I work? When did I exercise? When did I see friends, do art, or go outside?
On the next page, I think about what I think worked for me and what I think I would like to change. This year, for example, I started a workout routine over the winter that brought me to the climbing gym three days a week. I really enjoyed that and would like to keep in up in the spring. I did not, however, write nearly as much as I had intended to. That is something I want to carve more time out for.
So, with all these notes in mind and on paper, I start designing an ideal spring schedule. I know I won’t stick to it every day, so I try not to be too specific, but I set general goals like “write for an hour before work every morning” or “go for a 4+ mile hike at least once a week”. Sometimes the goals are specific, like “meditate for five minutes every day as soon as you wake up.” Other times they are really vague, like “say yes to new things.” Either way, I dedicate some time to giving my schedule and routine the spring cleaning treatment, then do my best to stick with it as the season progresses.
Step 3: Power wash your mental space
Finally, it’s time to brush the cobwebs away and dig into the well-packed boxes shoved into the recesses of my mind. During the winter, I go into full hibernation mode. I pretty much live off of books, baths, and tea from December through February and do my best to stay as covered by blankets as possible throughout the season. When Spring comes, I’m still content with my lethargy and my brain moves with the slow, gentle pace of a sleepy tortoise.
But spring is a time for action. It’s a time for a change and trying new things. Growth, renewal, birth; these are the themes of the season and they don’t pair well with lethargy and melancholy.
Which is why the final step of my spring cleaning routine is to clean out my mind. Not unlike my methods for cleaning my physical space and routine, my mental cleaning process involves a careful consideration of what to keep and what to let go. I usually start static; I sit in meditation or else get a journal out and start contemplating where my mind is at. How do I feel about myself lately? What about how I engage with others, with my goals, with my work, and with my environment? Do I feel happy lately? Sad? Tired? Energetic? I evaluate my mental space with a kind eye, lacking judgment and simply gaining awareness as to what is going on in there.
Then I move onto something active. I go for a hike, get out on the paddleboard, or flow through a vigorous yoga practice. I move until my body drips with sweat and my brain finds that sweet, endorphin-filled space of emptiness.
Lastly, I go back to stillness and turn my thoughts to questions like, “what brings me joy?” and “what I love most about myself?” As is my style, I make a list. I plant seeds of dreams, goals, and ambitions. I water them with love and hope. Then I get outside and let that bright spring sunshine help them grow into something beautiful.