I used to scoff at the very idea of spring cleaning, but lately the urge to start fresh makes more sense to me. In the dead of winter, all I want to do is hibernate, read big fat historical novels, and sip hot beverages. Then, one day, I see green grass poking through the melting snow. The crocuses lift their heads, the birds start their mating songs, and by the time the sap starts to rise, I’m ready to clear away the cobwebs.
It’s no coincidence that we observe Lent during this transition from winter to spring. We emerge from our dens into a new season. Our spiritual lives respond to the return of the light in rhythm with the changes around us. Cleaning house can be a kind of a moving meditation, a spiritual cleansing. Perpetually in motion as the mother of busy kids, I have a terrible time sitting still for prayer when I’m alone. Put a mop in my hand, though, and I find that the physical work releases my mind for contemplation. Each step in tidying up the house has its match in the process of coming clean before God.
Tidy up the clutter. Before I clean, I declutter my spaces, passing along the things we no longer need to people who can use them. The whole family goes through our dressers to collect used clothing for local charities. We also donate gently used housewares, appliances, and other household items that we no longer use—the more we can reuse, the less goes into our landfill. As I sort, I meditate on this: What other clutter in my mind or my schedule slows me down — activities, attitudes, relationships, habits? What do I need to release so I can take care of the things that matter? What do I need to keep that brings my life meaning and purpose?
Whisk out the dust. One of the things I love to do in early spring is let the breeze blow through the house, whisking out dusty indoor air and pollutants. After a long winter, indoor air can sometimes be as polluted as outdoor air. I repot, fertilize, and dust off my houseplants, my natural air fresheners. And I meditate. Are there creative corners of my life where dust has piled up? What have I done lately that really refreshes me or my family? When I take time to rest and rejuvenate, I get my work done more efficiently.
Clean out the corners. Armed with homemade cleansers, a pile of rags, and plenty of elbow grease, I get to work. Sometimes I tackle a whole room by itself. Sometimes I concentrate on one task, such as vacuuming down the cobwebs or washing all the drapes or bedclothes. The kids get involved—polishing glass and mirrors, vacuuming carpets, and scrubbing tubs and showers. Cleaning house can be exhausting, boring, and annoying, though I’m glad when it’s done. I meditate on this: Who do I know who has ongoing struggles in their life, who could use encouragement? My cleaning will be done eventually. But who do I know whose struggles never seem to end? How can I be their friend?
Rearrange the furnishings. Rather than buying new stuff for spring, I like to rearrange the things I already have. It’s amazing how different a room can look when I change the floor plan a little. I also like taking the time to dust off and appreciate the books, keepsakes, and pictures on the shelves. As I do so, I pray: What do I need to do differently this season? What change—even a small one — would lift my spirits and enable me to live more mindfully or deliberately?
Is your sap rising yet? Go with it! Clean house and refocus for a new season.
Make Your Own Cleaner
Here’s a great recipe for an allpurpose cleaner. In a 16-oz. spray bottle, mix together 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 teaspoons of borax. Fill the bottle with very hot water, then add 2 teaspoons of regular dish detergent and 10-12 drops of lemon essential oil (optional). Great for surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom! Want more recipes for natural cleansers? Check out the Eartheasy website for recipes and tips.