Just a few weeks back, we were basking in three glorious days of sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures. The kind of days that prompt New Englanders to get out their yard tools and start clearing brush and doing cartwheels for the tips of daffodils poking through the ground. Mocking Punxsutawney Phil for getting it wrong this time.
Hope springs eternal, especially where winters are long.
But soon temperatures dropped, huge rains and snow came in along with 50-60mph winds. Trees and telephone poles were downed. A total of four Nor’easters within a few weeks. Luckily, we were not hurt and our house wasn’t damaged. I know I'd helped to make some of that good luck: in November I hired arborists for a major trimming of the trees in my yard. It was a hefty expense, but in hindsight it seems like a prescient investment not only for the trees' longevity but also for my roof!
And now spring is poking its head back out.
Transitions are like that – rarely linear.
It really does help to remember this. I’ve given up wanting to control things like the weather. Instead, when winter roared back in, I adjusted my plans and my mindset. I had faith the storms would pass and that spring would still arrive. My son and I made sure to build one last snow fort while we could. We enjoyed our favorite hunkering-down activities like reading-movie-board game marathons. Working from home is a challenge with a child nearby and eager to play, and the solutions are imperfect, but we are learning together. Two steps forward, one step back... non-linear progress.
We can see non-linear transitions equally in the seasons of the year as in the seasons of our lives.
Earlier this month my son turned seven. SEVEN!!! I won’t go on about how fast that went, but I will say that for as long as I can remember I’ve thought that seven is a really fun and interesting age for kids. An age of engagement, discovery, connection. At the front end of it, it already appears to be (and did I mention the new humor and sass?)
We got to go out to breakfast, just the two of us, to celebrate. He chose this over inviting any friends along, he said, “Because it’s a special day for you, too, the day you became a mom!”
Aww. My sweet little boy has become a not-so-little boy.
It’s not just the proud mom in me who notices the seven-year-old’s leaps in self-awareness, social-emotional intelligence and intellect. It’s one of those milestone ages in child development.
He finally has decent control of his body and has lost the first round of baby teeth. While he towers over many of his peers (and may reach my modest height by the time he’s in 3rd grade, yow!), he has begun to consider how he “measures up” to others in more ways than size.
He is aware of a wide range of social dynamics, leading our conversations to take on a richness previously untapped. It became clear to me, in the weeks leading up to his birthday, that my boy has outgrown all sorts of early childhood games and toys that had continued to dabble in for quite a while. The transition was not purely linear, but he is now on the other side. He is now squarely in middle childhood.
So, what does all this have to do with spring cleaning?
You know that moment when the sun shines brightly on things around the house that have gone unnoticed all winter long and all of a sudden it is simply URGENT that you must dust, scrub or purge? Is it just me, or does this happen to you too? Well, those early glimpses of spring coincided with my new awareness of my son's rapid growth and...
Warm Sunny Days + Child's Developmental Leap = Spring Cleaning Fever!
So I found myself sitting on the floor, surrounded by toys that haven’t had any love in over a year, alternately excited or wistful about the stuff. I know they will find happiness again elsewhere, with younger kids. I had to go through some nostalgia before adding to the pile of things to donate or sell second hand.
This very practical matter helped: I wanted to make room for new toys that will stimulate and challenge him at this stage of development. What is the opportunity to learn from this ourselves, even as adults?
Maybe we aren’t hitting a developmental leap due to age (or are we?) but throughout our lives we are learning and evolving. We upgrade our stuff, but what about our thoughts, habits and support systems? We need fresh ideas and opportunities in order to keep growing. Sometimes, as with the toys, if we don’t clear out the old then there will be no room for the new.
Here's how I see it...
Clutter is mentally toxic. And it has a habit of expanding. For some of us, what starts off as a harmless pile of papers or stuff can grow so that our physical environments become draining. I’m not a compulsive cleaner, but I do like some sense of order in my house, so I know where things are. I take pride in creating a nice space for myself, my family and for welcoming in guests. When my house (where I also work) is a disaster, my productivity plummets and I avoid social interaction inviting friends inside. That’s not how I want to live!
Physical clutter can become part of a vicious cycle not only impacting the beauty and comfort of our environment, but also impacting how we feel - sucking precious energy as we feel stuck, guilty, disorganized, embarrassed or incompetent.
And while clutter is often thought of as physical (things you can see and touch), clutter can also be mental or emotional: unresolved conflict, decisions not made, actions not taken, a lack of clarity and ruminating around goals. We can all take steps to change this. Even small steps. Even two steps forward, one step back.
Progress Over Perfection. I've been saying this to myself and my clients a lot this month.
What if we did a Spring Cleaning of our lives? An annual review of what we are holding on to, where the dust and grime have accumulated, what tenuous or unhealthy branches need a trim, what we might let go of to be lighter, freer, ready for what lies ahead – whether that is moving from early to middle childhood or any new season of our lives!
What would a Spring Clean of your life look like? What weary branches are in need of a good trim? In what areas of your life to you need a breath of fresh air?
Spring is the perfect time to review your situation and surroundings, refocus and get a fresh outlook. As longer days of sunshine return, this is a great time to get re-energized, get rid of your clutter, and start with a fresh slate. Think of how great you feel when you part with those unused items or “someday” projects, be they of the physical or mental clutter variety.
I know I am ready to reassess where I am investing my time and energy. I am ready to simplify and streamline – not just the physical but the mental clutter as well. Will you help hold me accountable? Would you like to be held accountable too?
When I take the time for this, I always reap the benefits in energy, focus, productivity... and joy! Space to keep growing. My wish for you is exactly the same.
Are you ready to Spring Clean your life & start reaping the benefits of an uncluttered mind? If you’re not sure where to start, you are in exactly the right place!
Over the coming weeks I’ll use the Uncharted You Facebook community as a forum for this new take on spring cleaning, sharing ways to take on everything from daily habits to procrastination to toxic relationships. You will find inspirations, guidance, coaching tools, research, songs and more to support you with bite-sized steps.
I invite you to follow along and try something new. I have a lot to learn right alongside you. Share your ideas, questions and celebrations as we make great things happen together!
“Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one's own situation so as not to be overcome by them.”