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Spring is here! The windows are open, and the air is fresh. We start to clear out the cobwebs and toss out the clutter.
With the daffodils in bloom, our souls spring to new possibilities, and our thoughts naturally turn to spring cleaning. But can you spring clean your life as well as your home?
Decluttering falls woefully short if we only focus on our house rather than cleaning out the other areas of our lives that could use some sprucing up. When we get rid of the less important stuff, we have more room for the things that really matter.
So this year, spring clean your life, not just your home! Clean up your life of those bad habits, time wasters, self-defeating thoughts, and draining relationships. Take back your time and reclaim your sense of purpose. What’s the best way to do that? Learn the math of MORE, where adding subtracts.
We all wonder if too much social media clutters up our lives and robs us of our time. What if we add more face-to-face time with friends and loved ones instead? Chances are, with a fuller social schedule, we’ll naturally lessen social media time.
How many of us indulge in a few too many sweet treats at night? What if we try adding more real sweetness in our lives–hugs, comfort, sweet times with friends, time for self-care, or even time with our pets? We may find that gallon of ice cream isn’t quite so attractive.
This is a simple way to spring clean our lives. Discover what we really yearn for underneath those bad habits and life clutter. Then we can fill our lives with the right stuff and squeeze out the things that no longer serve us.
With the math of more, we subtract by adding. We add in visions and plans rather than just avoiding what we don’t want. We add in great interactions and relationships rather than lamenting what we don’t like. We build and add a healthy habit of loving ourselves and our body rather than focusing on getting rid of unwanted weight.
Let’s go ahead and roll up our sleeves, spiff up our houses, and clear out those dust bunnies, but let’s not stop there. Let’s spring clean our lives with the math of MORE.
Some of us may feel our lives are more cluttered than our closets. We can figure out how to clean up our life, by looking at the areas of overcrowding—the things that take up our valuable time and drain us of energy.
To do this, we must examine our lives: what people, activities, and thoughts are taking up too much space in our lives? What activities do we take on that drain us of time, money, or energy? Are we spending too much time with people who drag us down and leave us feeling exhausted? What about negative self-talk? Could we find room for mental touch-ups too?
There are several clutter areas we can look at as we start to clean out our lives. Just like rooms in a home, here are the areas of life to address:
Bad Habits: These don’t just include smoking or drinking too much. We should look at other areas where we’re forming less healthy habits like over-eating, too much social media, screen time, shopping, gossip, and procrastination. We call these areas “soft addictions.” These habits can steal our time and leave us feeling down.
Digital Clutter: We can also check out our calendar/inbox/social media/RSS feed for clutter. Is our smartphone cluttered with apps we don’t use? Do we pay for subscriptions we don’t read? Are evenings filled with too much social media, unending streaming, or binge-watching?
Time Clutter: Next, we should take a look at our agendas. Is our calendar overfilled and our valuable hours lost to meaningless activity? We may dread obligations, especially those we don’t care about (“why did I say yes?”). When we look at our calendar, we should ask if we’re penciling in too much time for people and activities that don’t nourish us.
Thought Clutter: Many of us fill our minds with negative thoughts and stinking thinking. We might beat ourselves up, obsess over situations and interactions, or fill our minds with imagined scenarios. What if, instead, we focused on moving toward empowering, inspiring, and compassionate thoughts?
Space Clutter: Yes, it’s essential to get some traditional spring cleaning in too! We can assess our cupboards filled with junk food. Check out those unfinished projects taking up space and haunting our minds. Is it time to let go of those books, magazines, and projects we never get to? How could we make our spaces more nourishing and motivating?
People clutter: Another critical area to examine is our relationships. Are we guilty of spending time and energy with people that drain us and don’t nourish our well-being? We may find ourselves engaged in conversations that bring us down rather than lift us up. Or we may find that we’re settling rather than working for satisfaction and intimacy in our relationships. Others may find we’re taking care of people but neglecting ourselves.
Emotional Clutter and Drama: What about our cluttered emotions? Many of us have unexpressed feelings that we bottle up. We may be holding onto old grudges, boiling resentments, hurt feelings, and drama, drama, drama. Spring cleaning our lives means it’s time to get it OUT!
At first glance, this list may seem a little overwhelming, but we can tackle these items one at a time.
Spring gives us an excellent time to start (similar to making a New Year’s resolution). The small steps to make room for more of what really matters to us might be designating a screen-free night (or even an hour) each week. We may want to set up a spending limit, toss out our “secret stash” of goodies, or decline an invitation. These little subtractions add up to potent change!
Spring cleaning our lives isn’t only about subtracting those items that don’t serve us—it’s about adding in more essential activities, thoughts, and interactions that enhance our lives too.
Too often in life, we look at everything we need to stop doing. Stop overeating. Stop procrastinating. Stop _____ (fill in the blank). We think we have to go cold turkey, use our willpower, grit our teeth, and bear it. And the thought of bearing it is well…often unbearable. We’re already feeling deprived, which is why we are doing all these other things in a mistaken attempt to take care of ourselves.
The real way to declutter and create the lifestyle we want is by putting more attention on what we do want–and adding things that directly meet our needs rather than just trying to willpower our way out of things that don’t work. Instead, we can look at our calendar and proactively add in the activities, habits, and people that enhance our lives. What makes us really feel good? Add more of that, and soon we’ll realize we’re too busy to waste time on what doesn’t work.
When we add things we care about, like activities that nourish us and meet our deeper needs, we naturally start to subtract the unnecessary clutter in our lives. Those bad habits begin to lose their grip naturally. They can’t compete with the joy and satisfaction of really fulfilling habits.
How do we find those nourishing activities? When we look at what we want to let go of, we can ask ourselves what’s underneath? If we’ve been overindulging in late-night snacks, we might think, “I’ve got to lose weight!” But what if we instead looked at what the ice cream and Doritos are filling up in our lives? Do we find ourselves lonely and tired in the evening? How could we get that comfort in a healthier manner?
There are clues underneath every soft addiction and bad habit. What we think we want, maybe hiding what we’re yearning for. We’re settling for counterfeit nourishment when we could have more of the real thing.
So if we’re ready to spring clean our lives, how do we make the math of MORE stick? How do we turn those not-so-great habits into better, more fulfilling activities?
We all have yearnings—powerful longings for our deepest desires. The cravings are more potent than ordinary “wants,” like a nice car. Yearnings speak to our heart—to be loved, to be respected, to be seen and heard for who we really are. When we focus on ways to get these yearnings met, our desire for less-nourishing wants subside.
If we want to build better habits, we should map out our precious time on our calendars. We can look at our upcoming days and consider how we will fill them with activities or ways of being that directly meet our identified needs.
We may find ourselves binging our favorite show on Netflix because we feel connected to the characters and find comfort and familiarity in them. While it’s fine to enjoy a show, if we find we’re tired at work the next day, then that show isn’t really giving us what we need. It’s a substitute. Instead, we can plan our evening to include an episode of our show and build in more conversations with real people, so we don’t have to watch “just one more” episode to get that sense of connectedness.
We should pick a few easy items to declutter first. For example, what about a digital detox for an hour (or better yet, for a whole night)? We can get rid of apps we no longer use, unsubscribe from subscriptions like emails and magazines, and clean up our notifications (and turn them off) to reduce stress and distraction.
Similarly, we can focus on non-digital areas too. We can clear cupboards of junk food, so it’s easier to resist the temptation. We can throw out our “secret stash.” We can opt-out of that get-together with someone draining. Or we can toss out an unfinished project we haven’t touched in years. It feels cleansing to get rid of the items we’re holding out of a sense of guilt or obligation.
Once we know the need or yearning at the core of our bad habits, we can start to make a plan. What are other ways to meet that need directly? We can fill up our calendars with time and activities that meet our needs. It’s much easier to release what we don’t want when we add in what we need.
And there are plenty of things to add! Add in nourishment, self-care, professional or personal development, and more. We can add in a chance to be with our feelings, assert our will, develop and share gifts, expression, humor, deeper truth, intimacy, connection, beauty, and inspiration—the list of possible adds are endless.
As we engage in the math of more, it’s comforting to remember that each little step adds up. If we walk around the block consistently, it’s going to be better for us than an expensive gym membership that we never use. Small steps add up over time, build habits, and turn into lifestyle changes.
When we look around our house and think of spring cleaning, let’s also find ways to spring clean our lives and make room for what matters. What can we add with the math of more to create nourishment, satisfaction, and greater fulfillment?
If you’re looking for ways to spring clean your life through personal growth, visit WrightNow, and explore the wide range of courses we offer. There are resources to help you in your career, relationship, and personal connections for a life of MORE.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.