Updated: Feb 17, 2020
April is here! It’s Easter and in some parts of the world, the beginning of Spring. This is the season of new beginnings and even though we do not have spring here, many of us use this time to spring clean our homes. But did you know that this is also a good time to spring clean your life? The idea of tidying up our lives by removing material, mental and emotional clutter, is a concept as old as time. The belief is that without the abundance of clutter, we are free to pursue what matters: family, hobbies and our passions. The best way to spring clean your home, your work space, and your life is to take things one small step at a time. Combined, small steps will lead to big improvements that will be easier to maintain over the long-run.
De-clutter your environment. Very often our homes, work-spaces and even cars are filled with things we don’t need. Removing stuff we no longer need or use can be very therapeutic. There are many ways to de-clutter, from donating things to charity to selling online. If you plan this alongside your big spring clean, getting organised at home and your work-space will be a walk in the park. You also want to make sure that your car is road ready, inside and out. With the busy lives most of us lead, it is easy to simply throw junk into our car and forget about it. The result is a messy car that is a distraction when you’re on the road.
Review your core values. It is critically important to know your core values. These act as the GPS of your life on which all decisions and actions are based. When you are clear on your values, then it is easy to know when, where and how your life doesn't support or reflect those values. My suggestion is you should have no more than five which are non-negotiable in your life. Some examples of core values are: Authenticity, Honesty, Respect, Trustworthiness, Responsibility. Be aware, that our values can change over time, which is why this is a good time to re-evaluate them and to clear out the old values and reinforce those that are important for your life right now.
Evaluate where your integrity is out of alignment. Is there anywhere in your life where you are living out-of-alignment with your personal integrity? It could be a relationship that is inappropriate or a job that doesn't serve you. Maybe it is an area of your life where you show up and you are not being your authentic self. Where do you feel your life and your sense of integrity are out of alignment? What are you going to do to correct it?
Refine your close relationships. There are people in your life that you love or care for deeply, but perhaps the relationship has room for improvement. It is only natural that as we grow and change, our relationships change too. Choose to focus only on the relationships that really make you happy. Life is too short to spend it with people who treat you badly. Anyone that make you feel bad about yourself is not someone you need in your life. The length of time you have known them and all the things that you have been through together doesn’t negate the fact that they always bring you down. Sometimes we allow our relationships to slip into periods of inattention or malaise. Ask yourself: How can you bring more harmony, communication, attention, and love to your close relationships? What do you need to release in order to be a better partner, spouse, parent, or friend? Do you really want to put more time into that relationship? Or would it be better spent elsewhere? Removing negativity wherever you can, is a great way to de-clutter your life. As for bringing the right relationships into your life, whether family, intimate, friendship or professional, identify exactly what you want and need to be happy and then communicate it to others.
Nix the negativity and critical self talk. Over time, if we are not careful, it becomes a habit to allow negativity to dominate our thoughts and words. We become so accustomed to complaining, worrying, and focusing on what we don’t have that we become blind to all that we do. When you focus on the negative, then you make decisions and take actions that invite negativity in your life. Let’s lighten your load! Take the time to shift your attention from the negatives to the positives. When we focus on what we do have and practice gratitude, we make room for more to be grateful for in our lives.
Let go of people, obligations and beliefs that drain you of energy. We all have to do things on our to do list that doesn’t necessarily bring us joy, but when you find yourself constantly stressed and not looking forward to another day, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities. Remove any extraneous distractions, projects, and tasks that drain your brain energy. Prioritize just a few main goals for each day and allow yourself the time to focus on them deeply and thoroughly without being mentally or physically pulled in different directions. Accept that you can’t please everyone and you should not have to spend time with people who suck the joy out of you with their constant negativity. To have the time and energy to say yes to the most important things you have to say no to some things too. Ask yourself: Who and what’s draining me? How is this contributing to my life? What do I truly want to focus my time and energy on? Now, you can’t avoid every negative situation or some of life’s realities; bills have to be payed, loved ones need us to show up for them and a healthy lifestyle requires effort. That being said, while you can’t control what is happening around you, you can control how you respond.
Do a digital detox. Having an overload of unread messages, online accounts and electronic distractions can lead to stress and anxiety. Maybe it is time to spring clean your virtual life? Unplugging helps you get back in touch with your inner self by giving you space to do the things that make you happy. It can be something as simple as turning off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime and making the dinner table a “no phone zone”. You could also consider taking a social media sabbatical. If you have an overflowing inbox there are many tools, tips and tricks online to help you tame it. Get rid of files and programs on your computer that you don’t need. Regularly purge old, unused files. Get rid of most or all the icons on your desktop. They not only slow down your computer, but they also create visual clutter.
Pay attention to your mental diet. Information overload is a way of life; from traditional media to social media, blogs and podcasts, we’re bombarded with messages all day long. The question is: how much of what you’re watching, reading and hearing is helping you to achieve that life you dream of? Look at your social media feed, your favourite radio station and TV shows, the blogs, papers and books you read, the people you talk to: Does it inspire and motivate you? How much time do you unintentionally waste on surfing the Internet and TV channels? Email newsletters, blogs, social networks, online reading and watching, forums, etc. — are they essential? Can you de-clutter them? Reduce those magazine subscriptions. If your brain is constantly processing information, when will it be able switch off and recharge. The recharge process is critical to your brain operating a it’s optimal level. Try to make time every day for daydreaming, reflection or stillness. Be purposeful about your media consumption and make conscious choices about what you feed your mind and thoughts.
Shake up your routines. It is easy to fall into predictable patterns and while that can be a great thing: having a daily routine has proven to be key to creating healthy habits and achieving success. Every now and again you need to stop and ask yourself whether those automatic behaviours are still serving you well. This is a refreshing time to shake things up a bit. Find new ways of doing things. Take a different route home or to work. Change the order of your routine. Small changes can lead to big results but larger changes work too, like making new friends, taking up a new hobby, or going on an adventure. Change challenges and expands us and allows us to become self-aware.
Reclaim inner peace. Life is full of ups and downs and there are so many situations that we allow to steal our inner peace. We become so attached to outcomes that we become stressed and unhappy if don't achieve or acquire what we think we must have. That steals your joy and makes you feel insecure. Nothing that steals your joy is worth space in your life. Ask yourself: What is disrupting my inner peace? How can I remove it from my life so I can enjoy more peace and calm?
Move your body. Whether you’re fully committed to your exercise regime or don’t know where to start, a change in your fitness habits can have a huge impact on your life. Although having a healthy weight can be a positive goal, too often exercising revolves around physical appearances instead of how we want to feel. Instead of obsessing over the scale, focus on getting fit enough so you can do activities that you enjoy. If you are starting to exercise after many months without movement, start slowly. Choose a form of exercise you love, whether it is dancing, swimming or surfing. Even at the gym, choose cardio you prefer; the bike, treadmill or stepper. If you enjoy it, the time flies and then exercise becomes sustainable. Remember consistency is key. Set yourself a challenge to give yourself a goal to focus on, or experiment with new classes like trampolining or yoga. Make it easy by having your workout clothes by the bed or keep your running shoes in the car, park your car on the farthest side of the carpark and walk. As well as keeping you in shape and giving you a real sense of achievement, the endorphins boost will help you manage your stress levels better. If you’re already in shape, it will do your body and mind good to switch things up; ride instead of running, swim instead of playing football.
Change up your diet. It is important to make sure you are getting a balance of nutrients and a variety of fruits and vegetables. We can all get a little uninspired when it comes to eating a clean diet. Try switching up the meals you eat regularly and experiment with new healthy recipes.
Look at your finances. What does your financial life look like? Do you organize your receipts, or just throw everything into a pile or drawer, to be dealt with another day? Download or print out all your recent bank statements and go through every single line item. Is there anything that you could get rid of? Any standing orders that you no longer absolutely need? Do you really need that expensive magazine subscription? How much credit card debt do you have? Can you put a plan in place to pay it off? What does your savings look life? Saving for a rainy day is a must and it is easier than you think. Forgo that expensive daily coffee and brew your coffee at home. Packed lunches will help you keep your lunch healthy, tasty and save you a lot of money. Saving up for a holiday or to treat yourself gives you something to look forward to and gives you a real sense of accomplishment. Other considerations are: Have you drawn up your will, addressed your insurance needs, started a retirement plan? Neglecting your finances can lead to an unnecessary source of stress in your life. If you can’t organize it yourself, find someone who can help you. Trust me it will be worth it.
Make the time to play! As an adult we forget sometimes that life needs to be lived and enjoyed. With mortgages to pay, sick family members to care for or a demanding job, doing something just for fun is not high on our things to do list, if it makes it on the list at all. A constant focus on work without play dulls creativity. Make the time to play with abandon. Abandoning yourself to play though, is the way to open the doors to creativity. Playing has been our natural way to learn new skills and build better social connections as well as helps shape our brains throughout our lifetime. Having fun keeps our neural pathways running smoothly and triggers the release of those happy chemicals: dopamine and endorphins. Playing also helps us to combat stress and keeps our bodies and minds young. Watch your kids and your dogs at play. See how they allow themselves to fall deeply into the rhythm of play with no concern about time, rules, or the suitability of the occasion. Better yet! Join in the play and let yourself go with the flow. Have days or afternoons where you have no plans. Just wander out into the world and soak it up, enjoy all that's thrown your way. Look at everything with wonder again and let life's possibilities come to you. Laugh readily, laugh often, and laugh deeply. Invite laughter into your life and make it a part of every day.
Revamp your appearance. Schedule time for a mani/pedi, haircut, wax, massage, whatever it is that will make you feel polished and your best. Guys that includes you too. It’s time to neaten up that beard and trim any unsightly hair. Are your clothes two sizes too big or are they stuck in the 80’s? Do you walk out in misshapen clothes and/or with holes? Ask yourself: How am I showing up in the world? Am I showing up as my best self? If I saw me, what would my appearance say about me? While we are at it ladies, now is a good time to go through that make up case and throw out old makeup. The reality is, how we present ourselves says a lot about us. You do not have to wear designer clothes, but you do have to look like you made an effort to practice personal hygiene.
Just as Easter/Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, we have the opportunity to become the best version of ourselves. As you clear out the old and unnecessary parts of your life, you will awaken to limitless possibilities and happiness as you move along the path to your best life.