These past few weeks I’ve been doing Rebecca West’s Happy Starts at Home Spring Cleaning Challenge. I shared my week 1 recap HERE and my weeks 2 and 3 recap HERE. The Happy Starts at Home Spring Cleaning Challenge is part of the course content in The Goldilocks Movement, my yearlong program for women who want to create the life that’s just right for them. The Spring Cleaning Challenge is part of their process of physically decluttering their homes in preparation for emotional decluttering.
Rebecca West, the author of Happy Starts at Home, believes that your home can be a tool for creating a happier life. And after taking her Spring Cleaning Challenge, I have to agree.
Here are 5 life lessons I learned while spring cleaning:
1. Perfection doesn’t exist.
Rebecca wrote a post over on her blog this week called Stop the Pinsanity: How Design-Porn Destroys Your Happiness. Just like seeing too many photoshopped models can make you feel bad about your body and photo stalking other people on Facebook can suddenly make you feel rather blah about your own life, looking at the perfect homes on Pinterest can make your own home feel insufficient. But as in everything else in life, there is no perfect, and there’s no need to drive yourself crazy trying to prove otherwise. You just have to figure out what works for you, and go with that.
Knowing that I was going to be showing before and after shots of my kitchen, I was determined to make the after shots look perfect. But then my toddler’s playdate cancelled, and then his babysitter got sick, and then instead of cleaning up before taking pictures, I was busy with my son. And as anyone with a kid knows, cleaning up after an 18 month old is basically pointless.
Plus, my word of the year is TRUTH so I might as well show you what my kitchen actually looks like on a day to day basis. No pinsanity here! Just pinreality.
BUT, do you see my beautiful blue walls, matching towels, and lovely curtain? This all makes me VERY HAPPY when I walk into my kitchen.
2. There is no “there.” There is only where you are right now.
I painted a fun blue accent wall because I wanted some bold color to brighten up the white walls of our rental apartment. That color feels oh-so-right to me this year, but there was a time when I would never have gone with blue. And next year, I might be over bright blue and ready for something else. Creating the perfect space in my home means being willing to change as things shift for me and my family.
The same holds true for your life. My business is all about helping women find their own “just right.” But the tricky thing about that is that “just right” is a moving target. As soon as you create something that feels right to you, something else will shift in your life, and you’ll have to move with it. Sometimes that can make you feel as if you’re never going to get “there,” but there is no there. There is only where you are right now.
(Please ignore my crying son in the photo below. He got jelly on his hand from his sandwich right as I was snapping the picture. #pinreality)
3. When you clear out the old, it’s important to be conscious about what kind of new you want to let in.
I’ve never been very good at spring cleaning. What happens is that I clear out the clutter, and then the next day, it’s back! I don’t know how it happens, but like magic, the clutter just piles right back up.
My thinking is that sometimes when we work on getting rid of old things, we forget to actively choose what new things we want to come in. And so inevitably the same things keep coming back to us. But if we make a conscious plan for what we want to place there instead, we’ll leave that space open.
An example here is the space above the fridge. It was constantly cluttered, which became an issue when things started falling on my head (true story: an unopened wine bottle fell off the fridge and shattered glass all over just a few weeks ago). During the Happy Starts at Home Spring Cleaning Challenge, I cleared off that space. But within a few days, there was more stuff there. Magic, right? The key is that I needed to decide what I wanted to make space for. I know if I leave it empty, the magic elves will put things up there. So I’ve decided to buy an indoor plant to give our kitchen a little more life while keeping that space clutter free.
In life, when we clear out the old, energetically or otherwise, there is a space. And while it can feel nice to have empty space, it’s even more important to consciously decide what you want to place there. Maybe you want to make room for a new hobby or for new friends. Maybe you want to make space to meditate or do yoga. Or even space to have space. The “what” doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that you’re actively choosing what you want rather than just allowing the old clutter to come back.
4. When you focus on improving one area of your life, another one inevitably falls by the wayside.
While I was busy decluttering and beautifying my kitchen, the rest of the apartment kind of fell apart.
Life is the same way.
We only have so much energy, and with our busy lives – because that’s the world we live in now – sometimes we have to pick and choose where we want to spend that energy. My “just right” life for me at this time means that my son and my business are getting the most attention. My self care is in there, my boyfriend is in there, and friendships are in there. But the reality for me is that right now, Jamie and my business are where I’m placing my focus. It’s not a perfect balance. I’m not sure that exists. But it’s a balance and I’ll keep shifting it as I need to.
5. Change begets change.
When I started this challenge, here’s where things stood. I liked my apartment, although it felt overwhelming and cluttered most of the time. My boyfriend didn’t like it and wanted to move. I was willing to look for new places, but really didn’t relish the idea. I mean, moving is a pain!
But here’s what happened. Within a few days of beginning to declutter the kitchen, my boyfriend suddenly suggested one night, “Why don’t we stay here another year?” Wait. What!? Apparently when he saw the changes I was making, the apartment suddenly didn’t seem so bad to him. Yes!
And here’s what else happened. I turned our kitchen from my least favorite room into a space that makes me feel happy. And it felt so good that I want to do the same for the rest of the apartment. One change inevitably leads to more changes.
In life, when you change one little thing, no matter how small, it becomes a ripple that affects everything else. I know that idea can be scary, especially when you’re afraid of what other changes might come. But ultimately, if you move in the direction your intuition is telling you to, everything will be okay.