It is a word that we now use throughout the year when we embark on a thorough cleaning up of our homes or offices. Spring cleaning, we call it, even if we are cleaning up in autumn or even winter.
But there is a reason why the word has ‘spring’ attached to it. And there is a long and hallowed tradition behind it in more cultures than one.
The practice can be traced back to the ancient Jewish custom of thoroughly cleansing the house before Passover. The community prepares for the holiday by throwing out all items made with yeast (which they are not supposed to consume during this period) even conducting a ritual candlelit search the night before to ensure that no leavened food product is hiding away in some corner.
The practice of spring cleaning continued with the early Christians, who would conduct it between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Even today, it is customary in Greece and other Orthodox nations to embark on a great cleanse either before or during the first week of Lent.
Some trace the origins of spring cleaning to the Iranian New Year festival of Norouz – more familiar to us in India as the Parsi Navroze – which marks the first day of spring and is marked by ‘Khooneh Tekouni’. This translates, quite literally, to ‘shaking the house’ and involves a top-to-bottom cleaning of the home, taking in everything from the furniture to the furnishings.
In India, Hindus would embark on this kind of deep cleanse before Diwali. But somehow there is a symbolic logic in undertaking such an enterprise when the cold recedes and makes way for warmer days. The grass grows greener, the flowers bloom, and it is as if the entire earth is being renewed. So, what better time can there be to blow away the cobwebs – both literal and metaphorical – cluttering your world, and emerge as a cleaner, newer you?
Just on the off-chance that you are up for it, here are a few tips to get that spring cleaning going:
* Start with Yourself. If there are any old habits or ancient hang-ups holding you back, make an honest effort to banish them from your mind. If there are people around you infecting your life with negative energy, make a resolution to slowly phase them out (or, at the very least, pay no attention to them). If you are stuck in a rut – in either your personal or professional life – acknowledge that truth to yourself. Only once you accept that reality, can you begin to change it.
* Work on your immediate environment. A cluttered space often begets a cluttered mind. So, if you are striving for clarity of both thought and purpose, then start decluttering. Your bedside table should never have more than two books that you are currently reading (all those that you have given up half-way or finished should go back on the shelves) and maybe a small notebook and pen in case inspiration strikes late at night. Your night creams and lotions belong on the dressing table. And your phone and tablet should ideally not be in the bedroom at all, or else you’ll just keep obsessively checking them late into the night. And that will clutter up your head even further.
* Then, start on your home. Keep one principle in mind when you begin spring cleaning: Every single thing in your house should bring you joy. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t belong in your home. Those books you bought at some airport, which turned out to be complete duds: chuck them out. Don’t keep that ugly vase just because your mom-in-law gave it to you. (Don’t worry, you can always lie and tell her it broke; God will understand completely.) Those DVDs you are never going to watch again? Give them away. And be honest, does that couch really need those many cushions?
* The office is the logical next step. I am not a great believer in littering your work space with pictures of your family, paintings made by your kids/grandkids, mementos from your travels, or even novelty mugs to drink that awful canteen coffee from. Keep your desk clear. Keep the walls (if you are lucky enough to have them) bare of personal memorabilia. And give yourself the mind space to think, to reflect, and to come up with new ideas.
* And then, it is time to spring clean your life itself. Discard all the time-wasting techniques that you have honed over years. So, no aimless surfing of the web. Restrict your social media time to a couple of hours (and no cheating, please!). And no vegging in front of the television, watching cheesy soaps that will turn your brain into mush. Jettison all those people from your contact list with whom you haven’t had contact for over a year. And most important of all, reboot your life to create space for new experiences, new people and new adventures. You won’t regret it.
From HT Brunch, March 13, 2016
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