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Monday, April 12, 2010

Time for Spring-Cleaning My Life

It's spring (or so the calendar says), a time of renewal, new life ... and spring cleaning. But new life doesn't mean just the outward manifestation of renewal seen in the blooming flowers and budding trees. Spring can be a time of new life inside, too. This year, I am spring cleaning my life as well as my home.

I usually don't do anything special for spring cleaning, and for the past few months, I've been involved in an on-going effort to declutter both my house and my life. It isn't spring cleaning in the traditional sense, but an upcoming move provides the perfect opportunity to get rid of things. A move is also a great time to get rid of people and situations that hold us back or bring us down. In better economic times, I would include jobs that don't work for us in that category, too, but most people these days feel fortunate just to have a job, whether they enjoy it or not.

In addition to bags of clothes, CDs, books and household items, this move will allow me to 'get rid of' a life that doesn't suit who I am. I appreciate quiet and the sounds of nature. All I hear in my current life is sirens, airplanes, traffic and neighborhood noise. I also want to be able to spend more time with my teenage daughter and be more involved in her life, something I can't do while working 40 hours a week, so my full-time job has to go.

My 'spring cleaning' includes retirement and a move to New Mexico, efforts to get rid of a lifestyle that doesn't suit me. I love, in fact, I need, lots of natural light in order to feel my best. My house in Rio Rancho is full of windows that let in the beautiful New Mexico light. The windows in the great room, master bedroom, dining room and office look out on the Sandia Mountains. In California, my living room window looks across the street at my cranky neighbors' house. My house is dark even on sunny days. In New Mexico, I can enjoy my 1/2-acre lot, which at the moment backs against another, as-yet-undeveloped, 1/2-acre lot. There are no neighbors on either side. In California, my city lot is filled with fruit trees, which are wonderful, but on every side of the yard are neighbors, barking dogs and screeching parrots. On one side, my neighbor's driveway sits just feet from my bedroom window.

A few years ago, I also 'got rid of' a friendship that had endured since high school. My friend was always so negative, so convinced that the world and everybody she dealt with were out to 'get' her. I used to dread getting e-mails from her, because I knew that they would be long rants about some perceived 'plot' by someone to 'get' her, or about how her boyfriend emotionally abused or betrayed her, or how her house was full of mold caused by a neighbor's leaking pipes and no one would do anything about it. She did seem to have more than her share of misfortune, and I did my best to be supportive. I was saddened when our friendship ended, but I was relieved at the same time.

We all need to rant at times, but too much negativity, whether generated by us or by others, brings us down. Who wants to live like that? 'Getting rid of' a relationship may sound harsh and uncaring, but sometimes doing just that is the best thing. Although I haven't had to do any 'spring cleaning' with other relationships, I do try to limit my exposure to people who are chronically negative. I was behind a man at the hardware store recently, who complained to the cashier about everything: why weren't there 'pull tags' for some large items he wanted, why didn't the store have enough of the plants he wanted to buy, why wasn't he charged the advertised sale price? Everything that came out of that man's mouth was negative. I was so relieved when another cashier opened a new line; I couldn't wait to get away from that man! If anyone needed a spring cleaning, he did.

I get a certain pleasure from decluttering my house. Seeing once-crowded cabinets, sheds or closets become organized is a great feeling. Removing excess furniture opens up not only the room, but my spirit as well. My unwanted items go to charity or to others who can use them, which also makes me feel good. In the same way, a freshly painted wall or a sparkling clean kitchen give rise to a feeling of not just accomplishment when the job is done, but of freshness and newness.

Spring cleaning, whether of a residence or a life, can renew us and help us set off on a new path. Look around. Do you need to do spring cleaning of your place of residence? More importantly, do you need to 'spring clean' your mind? Spring is the perfect time to open the windows of our minds, let the light and fresh air in, and discard whatever things, commitments, relationships or habits are holding us back.