The big sweep! An ode to the power of spring cleaning

Posted on March 5, 2018

by Jutta Goldammer
Translated by Danny Klein

As soon as the first signs of spring appear, so does a seemingly deep-rooted need for purification - to sweep out the old and make room for the new. The tradition of “spring cleaning” goes back a long way. The month of February is named after a Roman god of purification, Februus and the corresponding festival of purification, Februalia. Originally, the last month of the Roman calendar, the festival rites were designed to purify the city and welcome the New Year, which began on March 1 until 153 BC. Long after the Roman gods had disappeared, the tradition of spring cleaning – the need to open the doors and windows to get rid of the soot and grime of winter stoves and let in the spring sunshine – survived. Even today, cleaning companies and detergent suppliers make the highest turnover in the period from January to April. Although I sometimes wonder if an autumn clean up wouldn’t be more suitable, as winter is the period in which I spend most time at home, when spring comes I invariably get the urge to make everything clean and clear, both internally and externally. Press reset and start anew. Refreshed! Do you know that feeling?

If you do, here are a few tips for spring cleaning without even touching the duster.


Bild: Karen Maes

Cast out old ghosts and winter spirits

Do you know those inner critics and saboteurs, the destructive prompters who delight in finding fault in everything we do, think or plan to do? Instead of avoiding them, get to know them better and identify a thought pattern that haunts you like an old ghost and which you know doesn’t really apply to you (anymore). Typical thoughts in this category are: "I'm not good enough," "If something comes to me easily, it's not worth having," "That won’t work anyway," or "I can either be rich or happy – but not both." Perhaps you have quite different thought ghosts that keep pestering you.

Many regions still cultivate carnival traditions, whose original purpose was to drive out the spirits of darkness and winter. Create your own ritual to get rid of these spirits. Some ideas are:

  1. Identify a thought that keeps reappearing and blocking you like an old ghost.
  2. Write down all the arguments you use to support what this old ghost is saying. Be honest with yourself, check the evidence and the counter evidence. Is what you are saying about yourself really true? What would be different if you didn’t have that thought about yourself?
  3. If you come to the conclusion that it’s really worth getting rid of that old ghost, plan your very own scare manoeuvre and give the term “good riddance” a whole new meaning. It could be great party game with friends – perhaps it’s loud and wild, with fire, weird sounds and spooky effects. Take your inspiration from different carnival traditions and choose something that suits you and that thought of yours you want to get rid of.
  4. Perform this ritual and expel the old ghost from your mind by clearly telling it: : “I don’t need you anymore. You can go now.”
  5. Plant a powerful spring thought that can take the old ghost’s place in your mind. What is the greatest thought that you can think about yourself? Write it down. In the following weeks of spring (and after that too!), you can nourish and strengthen the new thought by invoking it again and again. It will give you loving support if that old ghost should try to make a comeback.

The incredible lightness of being

Remember your last camping holiday or your last hand-luggage-only flight with Ryanair? Isn’t it amazing how long you can get by with just a few things? The overwhelming inner lightness you get when you don’t have to worry so much about objects anymore! Joachim Klöckner, who owns only about 50 objects that all fit into a single travel bag, claims to miss nothing and is one of my great role models in the discipline of minimalism. In his book "Der Kleine Minimalist" you can read how he manages to live like that and in our next Truth and Dare Salon on the topic of "letting go" on 25 May, you can meet the man himself.

But what should you do with all your things? Take this spring as an opportunity to make people around you happy by giving away an item every day that you no longer or rarely need.

The art of reframing

Spring cleaning your mind is also an excellent opportunity to check whether the picture frames still match the pictures you have of your life and the world around you. A picture frame singles out a particular section or angle of a wider picture. Reframing – or un-framing – is the art of casting events, assumptions or assumptions in a new light, prompting new experiences, thoughts and possibilities.

Which of the picture frames that are hanging around in your mind did you put up yourself? Which frames were put up for you by your parents and teachers or by politicians and the media? Do they still correspond to your values? For example: It makes a big difference if you talk about low-paid workers or low-pay companies. The linguist Elisabeth Wehling’s book Political Framing provides a wealth of illuminating insights into the power of framing as a political instrument.

Play with your "frameworks" and see what changes when you look at them from a different perspective.

If you’re not really sure how to do that try weaving the word "yet" into your sentences more often. This little word can change a lot. It turns "This doesn’t work" into "This doesn’t work yet" and opens up the situation for new possibilities of getting it done after all. Or in a situation where you don’t like the part of the image you see, it might help to ask: What kind of opportunity is there here? Or: In what way could what is happening here be just right?

And the icing on the cake for your personal spring clean?  Polish off something lovely to eat and wash it down with pleasure!

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