In With The New: Spring rejuvination for mind, body and spirit
While many people think of spring cleaning as simply clearing cobwebs and dust, the tradition can renew more than just a home.
Unused, worn-out items, unorganized stacks of “important” papers and dirty windows subtly create stress; the brain registers “work to be done,” which can lead to emotional wear and tear; it’s like a heavily weighing “to do list,” and the low-grade, chronic stress it causes can actually lead to illness or a sense of dis-ease.
Spring cleaning offers relief from this kind of pressure and can actually refresh your mind, body and spirit, as you literally see more clearly out clean windows and contribute to a sense of ease and organization by filing, or recycling, stacks of papers.
“By cleaning out the clutter and debris that has gathered over the fall and winter, it creates a space for the new to come in and re-energize your mind, body and soul,” says Karen Petersen, owner of Black Diamond Realty in Vail and Seeking Sanctuaries, a feng shui business.
She gives a simple example of a closet jammed with clothing.
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“You cannot even see what is in there when you go to select something to wear,” she says. “The mind functions in a capacity of ‘same old, same old’ and doesn’t search for something new and interesting, or fun, to wear. This, in turn, affects your spirit; no new juice to get inspired by.”
And that’s just one way your home environment reflects — and affects — your inner self.
“If you want to change your inner self, change your outer environment, and watch how your inner world starts changing, too,” Petersen says.
Spring cleaning has long been a ritual, dating back to various ancient cultures, including the Jewish, Iranian and Chinese. Jews viewed Passover as a time of house cleaning, in which they scoured their homes, partially to ensure no leavened bread (made with a rising agent such as yeast) lingered in their homes; they considered even crumbs of the bread an affront to God. On the first day of spring, Iranians practiced “khoonen tekouni,” which translates to “shaking the house.” The Chinese welcomed the new year by sweeping their homes of bad luck they believed might have accumulated throughout the previous year.
In North America, the custom took root before the invention of vacuum cleaners, because spring was the best time to open windows and doors and sweep out dust, before warm temperatures drew in too many insects.
Physiologically speaking, as daylight grows, increased sunlight signals the pineal gland to produce less melatonin, giving us a boost of energy to clean out accumulations of dust, dirt and unused stuff.
In addition, aspens bud and green begins to sprout, providing yet another nudge to renew and refresh our own environment, and along with it, our minds and spirit.
“Spring is a time of awakening and a time of growth,” Petersen says. “We have a sense of excitement as nature returns to life again.”
WHERE TO START
Spring cleaning can feel overwhelming, especially in large homes, or those that haven’t been organized for a while. So, where do you start?
“Spring cleaning should begin as soon as you feel the inspiration to do it, but if the inspiration never comes, then put a date on your calendar to create a free weekend and do it,” Petersen says, adding: “You’ll be glad you did. It feels so good when it is done.”
She suggests tackling the most cluttered areas — and not stopping until they’re clear. That way, you’ll see progress, which will motivate you even more. However, if the job feels like too much of a burden, you can always hire a professional organizer.
WAYS TO REJUVENATE
In addition to cleaning and decluttering, there are plenty of ways to refresh your home, and with it, your mind, body and spirit.
Give your home a decorative facelift by adding accents that stimulate your senses. Each element you add should bring some kind of joy, relaxation or other supportive feeling into your space. For example, a simple wreath or colorful decoration on the front door can welcome change. A babbling water fountain near the entry adds a feeling of fluidity and serenity. Hanging cut glass, crystals or wind chimes near windows refract rainbows of light and arouse the sense of hearing, just as birds chirping outside do. And, speaking of birds, a feeder outside a kitchen or living room window invites the awareness of flight-full life force into your day.
Stir your sense of smell by burning candles or incense, which encourages peaceful feelings.
Houseplants also generate vitality in homes. Prune any dead leaves, and keep plants well fed and watered. Vail and Denver interior designer Nancy Sanford, owner of Nancy Sanford Interior Design, recommends bamboo, palms, rubber plants, dracaena, ivy and ficus. In addition to purifying indoor air, these plants add texture and enhance feelings of softness and vitality.
Spring is also the perfect time to plant kitchen herbs like lavender, a scent that promotes peaceful feelings. It’s also a great time to arrange fresh-cut flowers, in anticipation of summer blooms.
A HOLISTIC CLEANING
Eastern traditions refer to the art of cleaning, decluttering, adding color and placing décor properly as feng shui. Although feng shui is a very complex system, in general, it refers to arranging surroundings “to attract positive life energy, or chi, so that it flows smoothly, unblocking any obstructions in your body and environment,” Sanford says. “Feng shui evolved from the theory that people are affected, for better or worse, by their surroundings.”
Cluttered homes prevent energy from properly flowing, according to feng shui, whereas clean, clear spaces promote harmony.
“Our homes are alive,” Petersen says, explaining, “each molecule of creation … is alive and filled with life force energy.”
The Taoist approach reminds us: “all is one.”
“At its essence, feng shui is about living consciously and enjoying the highest quality of life force possible,” Petersen says.
Fortunately, you don’t need to study the intricacies of the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, or even scout for crumbs of leavened bread.
Simply follow the impetus spring ushers in to clean and clear, and literally and figuratively bring more spaciousness into your home. As you declutter, remove anything you don’t love, and add items that spark joy, peace and harmony.
Chances are, you’ll feel lighter, brighter and more energized, as your refreshed outer environment helps ease mental stress related to bygone clutter and begins to reawaken your body, mind and spirit to new possibilities.