Shaking the house, the Iranians call it. Before the Persian new year they spring-clean, which is symbolic of a new beginning. The Chinese start sweeping before the new year to get rid of negativity from the old one. Jewish culture has house-cleaning just before Passover, traditionally to make sure there’s not a crumb of leavened bread in the house. In parts of the world with fierce winters, spring used to mean throwing open the shutters, washing soot off the walls and airing linen in the sun.
Spring-cleaning is about refreshing, revamping, decluttering and embracing the sun-drenched months all South Africans love. But we forget to clean between our ears as well. And the brain is a virtual dust trap that can smother us with dark memories, trap us in bad habits, weigh us down with ideas so old and useless, they should be thrown out. Spring-cleaning your mind isn’t as easy as repacking cupboards or throwing out faded trinkets. But it’s worth doing. Here are some pointers to get you started.
In our home, spring-cleaning week was a time of terror. My mum used to be a nurse and cleaned like the house was a hospital ward infected with the plague. We had to help, but she was behind us all the way, pouncing on the spots we had missed.
So starting with spring-cleaning your house, ask yourself these questions: How much of my time does this deserve? Is there a better way of doing it? Am I doing things that aren’t essential?
Now try this on a typical day: Jot down how much time you spend on every major activity. It could be work projects or home chores. At the end of the day, look at the list and ask yourself the same questions. Then make some changes.
Why are you always the one driving the kids around? What about the other parents? Why do you think to get things done well, you have to do them yourself? Do you have to double-check every piece of work done by your team?
Learn to delegate, prioritise, simplify, cancel. Defend your personal time. Your brain needs it.
Ask for my earliest memory and it’s inevitable I’ll dredge up a bad one. Worst birthday party ever? I can recall it in detail. Best one? Let me think.
Maybe it’s some people, maybe it’s just me. Most likely, we all tend to dwell on the bad stuff. Can’t get over it. Dream about it. Even worse, bring it up in arguments or conversations. Forgive but not forget isn’t forgiving at all. It’s holding on to hurt. Hot or cold, revenge isn’t a dish worth serving.
When a lousy memory drifts into your like a bad odour, open mental windows and smell the spring air. Focus on something or someone else. Think ahead, make plans, do something you love to do.
Love doesn’t always last. But somehow we think friendship should. Fact is, you’re no longer the girl who always sat next to that other girl on the school bus. She’s changed as well. So why force it? You don’t have to unfriend her, but you don’t have to Like all her posts for eternity.
That’s a Facebook metaphor for ending a friendship. Just let it go, quietly. She might be as relieved as you are.
While you’re at it, don’t give a connection more weight than it’s worth. The parents of the kids in your kid’s class are just that. You can be friendly, but you don’t have to spend half your life in their lounge. The people in your office are colleagues, not friends. It’s a different kind of relationship. So what are they doing at your wedding?
Emotional commitment is hard work. Save it for people who play an important role in your life, who give, listen and care – as you do.
It’s what you argue about with your partner. It’s what you need to maintain your lifestyle. It’s what gives you sleepless nights.
If you want more money, you could work harder. A much better option: Have more by spending less. This means shopping lists, so you only buy what you need and don’t forget what you do. Every dash to the Engen Woolies for one missing supper ingredient is petrol wasted. And you’ll pay more.
Read instructions. It does not take half a bottle of bleach to clean a toilet. Don’t splash olive oil like you’re Jamie Oliver – you probably don’t have his kind of money. See how much longer washing powder lasts if you measure it.
Clear out the food cupboard, the freezer, the spice rack. You might find you have far too much of one thing, not enough of another.
Scan the fine print on your policies and medical plans. See what the real benefits are. Compare your service provider and your gym membership with other deals. See if you could be getting the same, or more, for less. The facts will set you free.