When I moved into my current office, it was done in a hurry. Five years in my previous office meant I had a lot of stuff. And I confess, there were some materials I dumped into boxes and threw into new cupboards in a hurry – and in a mess – before leaving on a vacation. While the shelves and surfaces in my office were quickly made presentable, there were some messy piles hiding behind those cupboard doors. Months later, those cupboards mocked me every time I opened them. “No time,” I would respond to their reproach, and slam the door shut. Until last week. I happened to open the messy cupboard and felt the urge of an irresistible impulse to Sort. It. Out. It was time. The switch had flipped. Although I had a myriad of emails to answer and projects to pursue, I spent about an hour cleaning out that cupboard until it was all cleaned out. It just had to be done.
Perhaps spring cleaning is like that. We accumulate the flotsam and jetsam of daily life, dust on the baseboards and maybe a Christmas decoration or two that didn’t make it into the bins. We turn a blind eye to it all as we forge onward in day to day life. And then suddenly, the switch flips and the demand to deal with it all surfaces. Let the marathon of deep cleaning and clutter clearing begin. Gretchen Rubin (blogger, podcaster and author of The Happiness Project and other bestselling books) supports the idea of catalyst” dates for efforts like “spring cleaning” and notes that “date prompts” are an effective strategy for managing new endeavors and projects.
“I’m a big fan of any reminder to stop to consider what changes could make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative — whether that prompt comes from the New Year, a birthday, Valentine’s Day, a significant anniversary or official “days” like “Earth Day.”…. I do think that external dates can be valuable reminders to reflect….” Gretchen Rubin.
But cleaning guru FLY LADY (flylady.net) says the trick is to establish ongoing routines of small steps on most days and never have to “spring clean” again. She proposes that with an intentional use of 15 minute increments, we can avoid the perfectionist marathon.
In the spiritual life, similar dynamics apply. Sometimes we neglect the messiness hat inhabits us. Rather than deal with our failings and wounds, losses and resentments, we stay busy with many things until one day something compels us to take another look and Sort.It.Out. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, these often “flip a switch” and provoke us to examine our interior life. A big “spring cleaning” may be necessary, a day (or more) of retreat, a consultation with a trusted spiritual advisor, a return to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
And of course, the “seasonal” cleaning is also easier in the spiritual life, when we take smaller, more frequent steps in the day to day. An app like HALLOW or LAUDATE can help us to build 5-15 minute increments of spiritual focus into our day. This sets the stage for more intentional and regular attention to our life with God – and make the periodic “spring cleaning” more fruitful and less arduous.