You won’t believe what I have been doing this weekend. Housework! Vacuuming. Dusting. Polishing. Boxing. Sorting. Giving Away. All that stuff. If you knew me well, you would know how unlike me such activities are, even though I was named Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year in high school. That was a fluke that involved getting out of class and taking a test—nothing remotely associated with being domestic. I keep my usual motto regarding housework framed and hanging in the kitchen: “I picked up the house today. It was heavy.”
But it is spring, making it time to dust things off, sweep away the cobwebs, start over. It does not really have anything to do with housework. The activities just sometimes overlap. The heart of spring cleaning is being conscious about assessing what has become routine and shaking things up. It is about looking at things with new eyes and being deliberate in our actions. It is about being brave and courageous enough to try something new or to let go of something old. It’s just that the spiritual spring cleaning is harder to do than cleaning out the cupboards and dusting the top of the refrigerator. I do have three suggestions to help kick start some personal spring cleaning.
Keep an eye out for Nature. Stop and listen to the birds as they welcome each new day, rain or shine. Watch for the glimmer of color breaking out on the hillsides. Work in the garden. Take a walk in the park. On your wanderings, pick up a stone, a feather, maybe some daisies. Bring home a bouquet or two. Notice a butterfly or ladybug. It’s the marvel and wonder over what you discover that brings reminders about what is important in life, about ways to connect with others.
The other day as I was driving to see my mom and dad, I noticed a great sign: Lilacs are in bloom—bouquets for sale! I stopped and bought one. The interruption in my day was fun and brought back great memories of stumbling onto lilac bushes in bloom on various travels. And the glorious fragrance filled my car! Mom was delighted too—lilacs were more abundant in Chicago when she was a girl than they are in Temple City. And the bouquet is lasting a good week or so—and bringing her good memories and love along with it.
Read a good little book. Not the murder mysteries, romances or best sellers you usually read. Not textbooks or news articles. Not even great literature such as War & Peace or Pride & Prejudice. All those pursuits are laudable, but they do not qualify as spring cleaning. It needs to be short enough to finish in an afternoon on the beach, on a park bench or even curled up in a comfy chair with a cup of tea. Volumes of poetry work well. I would suggest some e.e. cummings! Try to find one that will give reminders on being kind, generous, forgiving—lessons we all could stand to practice more.
There are two books I return to over the years. The Little Prince preaches the importance of seeing things anew with the eyes of a child. The Holy Man cautions that treating all with honor and respect is the foundation for spiritual awareness. The messages help me set aside the silly pesky annoyances that can too often upset a day. And the act of indulging in reading for the fun of it, for the luxury of taking time for myself ensures a fresher perspective on whatever comes next in the day.
Take time to play. It does not have to be a literal game such as Monopoly or Scrabble, but it could be. Even Solitaire or Angry Birds would work. So would flying a kite, kicking a can, blowing bubbles. The activity itself is not as crucial as taking the time to play. Indulge in an afternoon of playing hooky. Maybe your break from the tediousness of daily routines and responsibilities is working in the garden, inviting a gorilla to someone’s birthday party, or eating a hot fudge sundae for lunch. Staying up late to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The point is to take time, to break the routine and just have fun. To do the unexpected. To be conscious and deliberate about what you do with your time and energy. To live in the moment, and hopefully to laugh a bit.
If you follow these tips, your spring cleaning will rejuvenate you, and then maybe your spontaneity will infect others with hope and a sense of adventure. It can be that simple. Tomorrow I intend to play hooky: I might wander into the Lancaster hills in search of some poppies or just poke around outside looking for the hummingbird that has been visiting my patio.
What will you do? Just remember: It’s not about the housework!