I’m what you might call a “neat freak.” I admit, I prefer my house when it’s sparkling clean and everything is exactly where it should be. I like my wooden floors to shine; I like my kitchen counters free of clutter; I keep the spices on my spice rack alphabetized, and when I walk into my bathroom, all I want to smell is the air freshener. Clutter annoys me, and I have basically declared unending war on household dirt and grime. I have a dog in my house, which means that I use my vacuum cleaner about as often as I use my hair dryer. So it is only natural that I spend a good deal of time each March doing my annual spring cleaning.
Spring cleaning means that windows must be washed, wooden furniture must be polished, and dust bunnies must be hunted down and destroyed. My winter clothes are packed up in plastic bins, and my spring clothes are unpacked and stored neatly (sorted according to style, color and sleeve length) in my dresser or closet. Daffodils are cut from my garden and arranged carefully in a vase on the mantel. I fill several bags with donations for Good Will, and hit the local malls in hope of finding a couple of new spring outfits that both fit and flatter. I’m rarely successful, but I still try.
For me, spring cleaning isn’t just about cleaning my house (I pretty much do that all year round), it’s also about getting rid of the stuff I don’t need anymore, and trying to replace it with things that I actually do need but don’t have. It’s about streamlining my life, and trying to surround myself only with things that matter, meaning only things that are either necessary or that I love. And it’s not just limited to my house.
There’s something about spring that makes me want to examine my life, and identify the areas that are going well and the areas that could stand a little (or a lot) of improvement. Am I treating the people I love as well as they deserve to be treated? Or am I nursing grudges, or using the busyness of my life as an excuse not to spend time with them? Am I seeing them clearly, for who they now are, or am I clinging to the image of the person I once knew, because that’s so much easier for me?
Am I taking risks and trying new things, or just staying in my familiar ruts and doing things “the way I’ve always done them?” Do I have the will power to get rid of life-long habits that no longer serve any useful purpose, and too often get in the way of my health and happiness? Do I have the courage to reach out to people who annoy me, anger me, or even frighten me and try to find some common ground? Or am I content to just keep dividing the world into “them” and “us?”
Personal spring cleaning is so much harder than simply cleaning my house, but it’s also so much more necessary. If I want to start living more fully, and if I want to realize my full potential (modest though it may be), I have to be willing to let go of the resentments, complacency, prejudice, and all those other bad habits that are cluttering up my life. I have to make room for new relationships, healthy habits and all the beautiful things that can enrich my life if finally make them a priority.
I know that personal spring cleaning, just like conventional spring cleaning, is a process that takes both time and commitment. But it seems to me that if I can manage to keep a clean house, I ought to at least be willing to try to live a clean life as well.