Spring Cleaning for the Soul

Spring is here and with it, the annual calls to sort through our clothes, deep clean the bathrooms, and reorganize the garage. So much emphasis is put on tidying our external world, but very rarely are we encouraged to take the time to sort through our internal baggage.

Just like with our belongings, it’s important to take stock of what we’re holding onto– our values, habits, feelings, etc., and see which ones we want to keep and which ones are no longer serving us.

Unlike actual items, it can feel a little trickier to sort through our emotional baggage because it’s intangible. What I recommend is start by writing them down – doing so makes it easier to see them, sort them, and ultimately choose what to do with them.

Some categories you can create are: emotions, values, habits, grudges, and relationships. 

Step 1: Write them down.

Step 2: Sort them into categories of helpful, unhelpful, or neutral.

Step 3: Choose if you wish to continue carrying them or let them go. Here is an example:

What are you holding?
Is it helpful or unhelpful?
What to do with it?
EmotionsSelf-doubtUnhelpful- makes me feel badLet it go
ValuesTime with familyHelpful- feels good to connectContinue spending time together
ValuesWorking overtime every dayUnhelpful- I’m exhaustedCut back amount of work hours
HabitsGoing for a morning walkHelpful- I feel refreshedContinue morning walks
HabitsCollecting tea cupsUnhelpful- Running out of space, causes money concernsStop buying new tea cups, donate any extras
GrudgesA hurtful comment someone made five years agoUnhelpful- Causes random moments of conflict with the personPractice forgiveness
RelationshipsNew friendshipHelpful- I enjoy their companySpend more time together
RelationshipsToxic family memberUnhelpful- Time with them causes stressGive yourself some time/space away

Gretchen Rubin is an author who writes about how to foster happiness in our day to day lives. In one of her books, Outer Order, Inner Calm¹, she discusses the relationship between people’s emotions and the space around them and gives recommendations for how to tackle messes in ways that feel doable and ultimately lead to more happiness.

Some of her tips, while on the surface apply to tidying our external world, are also very applicable to our internal baggage as well. Here are a few of my favorite tips from her:

Things often get messier before they get tidier².

It can feel overwhelming to unpack Pandora's box of emotions or make changes in our lives. That’s normal. Remember that you don’t have to do it by yourself and that just because things temporarily feel a bit messier, doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress.

Little by little, you can get a lot accomplished².

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Making small, gradual changes can feel less overwhelming and with each step forward, we feel more accomplished and more motivated.

Clutter attracts clutter².

Unhealthy habits attract other unhealthy habits. For instance, if we spend the whole day on the couch watching tv, maybe we feel guilty so we stress eat, and then we feel more guilty so we turn down a friend’s invitation to hang out, and then we feel alone, so we binge more tv, and so on and so forth. The inverse is also true. Healthy habits attract more healthy habits. We accept a friend’s invitation to go for a walk, so we feel good about the exercise and connection, then we

have an added dose of confidence and feel proud of ourselves, which helps us negotiate for a promotion, which then gives us more money and time to spend doing things we love…

So this Spring, I encourage you to not only focus on the outside world, but also take time looking through, sorting, and tidying up your internal world as well.

If you’re interested in doing this but unsure of how to start, please feel free to reach out. I am happy to help with the sorting.