Spring has sprung and with that comes the special cleaning many of us do this time of year. It is not a fun task, but when it is complete, we often feel so much better, like we have accomplished a great feat.
For some of us, getting rid of our possessions during spring cleaning is really hard. We have a drawer full of white napkins, far more than we need, but getting rid of a few of them so the drawer will close seems way too hard to do. We continue in denial and stop walking past the drawer that needs to be cleared. Out of sight, out of mind.
Why is that? Why is it so difficult to give away our possessions when we are spring cleaning? Well, there are many reasons. Some people genuinely think it is best to keep 10 brooms, because well, we never know when we might need an extra one or nine. We rationalize keeping all of them this way.
Fears are sometimes a part of why we don’t discard unneeded possessions. We might have a fear of the past. Giving away old things feels like letting go, and for some that is overwhelming. Our emotional “letting go,” is tied to letting go of tangible things.
For some giving stuff away symbolizes change and change is difficult. The stress that comes with change is not as bad for us as the stress that comes with something new and different. We know that when we pull into the garage, all of our grown kids’ childhood bicycles are going to spill over into the street, but this is what we are used to. Opening the garage and not seeing any bikes, or seeing just one, feels unfamiliar. As humans, we don’t really like the unfamiliar.
Getting rid of our clutter is a reminder of the emotional clutter we need to work through. It is easier not to open that overflowing cabinet than to clear it out. Just as it is nearly impossible to let go of that bad feeling we have every time we see our fifth-grade teacher who kept us in from recess weekly.
We spend the first part of our lives acquiring things and the second half dispersing the stuff we accumulated in the first half. It’s interesting how in midlife it suddenly feels right to begin giving things away. We just don’t need so much stuff. Simplifying every aspect of our lives becomes very important when we hit this period. We find letting go of the emotional baggage and finding peace is just as important as cleaning out the closets. Spring cleaning becomes mental and physical.
Rationalizing why we don’t have time to spring clean, or why we don’t feel we need to, can be problematic. The era we grew up in also influences our need to save everything. For some of us, scarcity is real, so saving the rubber bands around the newspaper every year for two decades is essential because who knows when we might need thousands of rubber bands.
The hardest things to give away are our sentimental items, those things that have been in the attic for a lifetime. I have kept every single one of my children’s art projects since Pre-K. I have gone through and framed the ones that haven’t been nibbled on by who knows what sort of critter in the attic. But really, do I need them all? Aren’t the memories attached to the sentimental things enough?
When we do begin parting with our old stuff, it seems to be a snowball effect. We realize that the tangible things are not really the only things we need to purge. Those grudges, that anxiety, and ill-will: they all need to go. Hanging on to them serves no purpose. In fact, it is unhealthy and downright bad for us. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when we let go of bad thoughts and habits.
There are many ways to do when spring cleaning successfully but most feel the easiest way is just to begin. Tell yourself, “every day I am going to get rid of five things.” Then keep a box in the garage and make a daily drop of the five things. When your box is full, make a trip to the consignment shop or the dump. Then start all over again the next week.
Change is much more comfortable in small steps. Many small changes add up to significant change. Before you know it, you no longer have to clear a path to get down the hall, and there is no clutter in your life.
It feels so good. Do it.