I've got springtime on the mind. It looks like we may make it out of Daylight Savings alive. I am yearning for the first forsythia buds to peek through. I can’t resist the freshness of melting snow. With springtime comes newness; it also provides an annual reminder to clean and declutter my life.
Just typing this is making me long to tackle the basement storage area. Again.
The state of a clean home is liberating, but rarely permanent. We can keep the stuff in order, but we also need to live in our homes. Mail is easily piled up, but rarely sorted. Kids never throw anything away, yet they produce mounds of artwork at a breakneck pace. Stuff collects.
We will clean again.
In this season of renewal, in all of our external refreshing, can we spare an extra moment to 'KonMari' our souls?
Much like our homes, we are no doubt clinging to things inside of us that no longer spark joy. There is clutter weighing us down. Hard to forget, but easy to push aside as we make space to keep living. There is baggage from a long winter of internal neglect. I'm not sure what you are holding, but I’m sure something is there.
Below, I offer 4 tips for examining and cleaning out your soul. Much like a neglected closet in a spare room bedroom that hasn't been opened in a year, you likely only know some of what is lingering. You may have an idea of what is on the surface, but once you start digging, there is likely much more discover that was pushed to the back. Collateral that needed to be washed away a long time ago.
1. Start with writing
For me, the junk that festers and clutters my soul is the hardest to say out-loud. These are the ugly things, the shameful choices, the stuff moms aren’t “supposed” to think. These are the heartaches, the lies I allowed myself to internalize, the truths I haven’t accepted.
If I begin writing, I uncover thoughts that have been long simmering on low; undetected, but impactful none-the-less. When I write to unload my excess, I don't edit as I go. I just let things fall out onto the page or screen. This isn’t a time to worry about making sense, dotting my I’s, who vs. whom.
This is a time to heal.
If you're interested in writing through the hard parts of life, I have included my own guide at the end of this post as a free download. I hope you’ll take it! Writing through grief and heartache has given me so much freedom; I am eager to share what I have learned in this guide.
2. Breath with intention
An instant way for me to be renewed is to focus on breathing. There are many variations of breathing exercises, there is bound to be one for everyone. My favorite way to cleanse through breathing is simple: I take a deep inhale, and when I feel like my lungs are completely full, I squeak in a little more air. It's that little extra air that relaxes me as I let all the air out slowly.
Sometimes I get stuck in mental clutter when it is also time to sleep. I learned a secret to fixing this. I was at a presentation on body posture, and the leader said 'If you’re having trouble falling asleep, focus on the sound of your breathing. You won't be awake for very long.' I tried it, it’s like magic. I focus on the pattern of my breaths, drawing in and falling out. Before I realize it, my alarm is going off.
3. Give yourself silence
Kids who always need a snack, constant Disney movies, musical toys that never actually turn off, appliances running: at times, my day can be a noisy medley of chaos. To balance this reality, I gift myself silence in the times there is space for it. If I have a lot on my mind, the last thing I want to do is suppress it with more noise.
I love to drive in silence, maybe with the windows down, if weather permits. I can run an hour completely engrossed in my thoughts, stopping only sometimes to jot down an idea. I turn the TV off at nap time, even though it is tempting for me to binge on something not aimed at a preschool crowd.
I don't like when every moment of the day is filled to the brim with noise. Noise triggers me to feel cluttered and messy. Silence is where I recenter and recharge. God longs to be in relationship with us. Do we give Him space, the silence, to speak?
4. Know this: you can't be perfect
Apologizing for our shortcomings is an easy way to burden our souls. Apologizing for falling short means we have internalized an unrealistic expectation. Unable to ever live up to this standard of perfection, these expectations sit festering in our souls, reminding us of what we are not, where we have fallen short.
As if we ever had a shot.
As humans, we are inherently flawed. How on earth could I expect to be the only person that can reach perfection? We need to grant ourselves the grace that we so readily give to others. We are always changing, works in progress; better than yesterday, but bound to be even better tomorrow. We must remember who we are, who loves us, who has our back. It sounds simple because it is: we must release our worries to the One who made us if we ever want a free soul.
“26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6: 26-27)
Recently, a friend told me that she opens the windows in her house daily, even in winter. She said it takes 15 minutes of an open window to completely change the air in your home. It's such a simple change, and yet, it is noticeable when you enter a room that recently had an open window. Space feels fresh, purified, lighter.
If we squeezed our heaviest thoughts into words, let more air into our lungs, granted ourselves silence, released the self-expectations for perfection: if we purified our souls daily, can you imagine what that would do for our hearts?
Interested in the free writing guide from the post above? Download it here!