“Dust those wintry bowers, wash them out with April showers, cover them with fragrant flowers, shine up the silvery moon. ’Cause soon you and I have a rendezvous under the sky, like we used to do. Spring cleaning, getting ready for love.”
— Fats Waller, in Spring Cleaning (Getting Ready for Love)
A few days ago, I got a reminder about why it is helpful to keep objects that are in use and that suggest what the future may be and to get rid of objects that relate to upsetting, sad and infuriating events in the past. I wore a jacket that I hadn’t taken out of the closet for two years and that was appropriate for the milder weather, and in its pockets I found an almost disintegrated bill. Although I was walking by the river, taking in the landscape and the early signs of spring, the memories of a distressing event — connected with that bill — flooded my mind. They lingered in my mind for almost five minutes. I felt all the emotions I had felt then. However, I was in a charming setting, and that chapter was long gone and behind me.
It was interesting to notice that even a person with years of meditation practice like me does not snap out of negative and painful memories just like that. As I was observing my effort to bring my mind back to the present, to the thawing river, the trees with the fuzzy crowns and the birds in courtship, I acknowledged that objects and sensations can catapult us into moments that we have already processed and moved away from.
So what do you think happens when you keep objects, perfumes, music in your home that belong to a time in your life when you had a different, and less sensitive, consciousness?
Mind you, if those things stimulate bliss and confidence boosting memories, do surround yourself with them! Because what happened to me on that walk can easily go in the opposite direction: you can feel braver, warmer, more centred and more loved because your environment is messaging you reminders of such highlights.
Athletes don’t hide their trophies, as a rule. They display them in a prominent place in order to motivate themselves to more stellar performances and steady their self-image in “I am a champ.” Whether that is a subconscious or conscious choice does not matter. The subconscious, more so than the conscious mind, needs to be on board with that self-image. That is a good habit to reproduce: surround yourself with the markers of your feats, good luck and utmost joy — and you will be moved to make more of them.
Chances are that not all your possessions are stirring up positive feelings, though. Ask yourself whether you want to hold onto stuff that calcifies confusion, random and not so great choices of way back when, deprivations, complications, snags, regrets and emotional triggers that do not align with the vision of your desired life?
During the pandemic, I reflected on all my previous homes and how I used to have a penchant for absurd and humorous depictions (which is probably how life appeared to me back then) and the liberation that I experienced after I had let go of a whole household due to a big move. For several years, I was not drawn to shop for anything that showed the absurd and humorous. After a while, I noticed that not only did I not need such illustrations anymore, I did not resonate with them whatsoever — particularly not in an open display in my living space. What my mind had found entertaining, or was stuck in, was not speaking to my heart.
I would have preferred flowers and growing plants over cartoons and jokes, but somehow I concluded that my budget had a category for cartoons and jokes, but not for enthusiasm and inspiration. I did not think about keeping a bit of space empty while I saved up for what I wanted, or of creative ways to come into possession of flowers and plants; so, of course, I had been sending out vibes too that had nothing to do with what I loved.
It was poignant to recognize that mental preferences may have nothing to do with a person’s heart. We all have a few friends who like things that sabotage them and that show nothing about their nature, decency and caring; in that case, I was a version of that friend. It may not have been wrong, or too harmful, to collect content that was absurd and humorous. But I don’t recall being at peace and content with it.
Instead, flowers and plants would have been a boon to me. (I live with a lot of plants today. That is my element, for sure. I could have honoured it earlier!)
The transition to spring is a season for spring cleaning in almost all regions of the earth. As we discard the old, fresh air can come in and, with it, fresh energy, new impressions, new interests, new priorities, new guests… We let go of the past, and we welcome evolution, reorientation, and things around us that lift us up.
These guidelines are not meant to put you on the spot or feed resistance and self-criticism; these guidelines have been drawn from nature and nature’s dynamic re-greening after the long pause of winter—the pause that is about root development, growth of resources underground, largely invisible to us, and introspection. Once we let ourselves be in more harmony with nature’s patterns, we feel part of something bigger and more benign than the human brain; we feel more flow, purpose and health, and we see more potential in our situation, where we are now, where we spend a lot of our time in, and how we can enable what we dream about right here, right now.
My mother has an endearing term for a clean house that translates to “little box”. “Little box” is pretty far away from chore, overwhelming and humdrum, and pretty close to treasure box and shadow box. Contemplate that. May it provide the incentive to remove things that you no longer use and all reminders of struggle. Give the possessions that you still use some appreciation and polish. Put them together in intuitive combinations that please your senses. Perhaps peace in the world starts with peace in the home, as the sages of old have claimed. And peace in the home starts with rooms that breathe.
Happy spring cleaning.
16 March 2022