Challenge 6 – to make your home a place for self-expression and not first impression (spring cleaning with purpose)

Your challenge this week: to spring clean a little space in your life and make room for something meaningful – a lesson in letting go and taking pride in what you consider important to you. Spend 2 hours (or 30 minutes or a day) clearing out a cupboard or wardrobe which you’ve been meaning to tackle for months, or even years, and free up some space in your home and your mind!

This challenge encourages the following values: 
Optimism, Generosity, Patience, Commitment, Serenity.

What you need to complete your challenge this week:IMAG2714_1

  • Find somewhere in your home or garden that needs a good clear out, this could be a wardrobe, a fridge, a shed, a dresser, the cupboard under the sink, a chest of drawers, the infamous under-stairs cupboard, the top of the kitchen units (maybe not the top of the kitchen units – mine are a positively frightening oily sticky thing of nightmares due to a faulty extraction fan!), a toy box or garage.
  • Bin bags, recycling bags or boxes.
  • Tea or coffee for you and biscuits for the children – we are all motivated by a treat when tackling a big job.

If all else fails… 
…recycle that pile of magazines or put away that pile of laundry, do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and ticks something off your to-do list.

Food for thought for the grown-ups:

On one hand, Albert Einstein once said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”  On the other hand, I am forever guilty of apologising for ‘the mess’ when friends come over, like it is something to be ashamed of… But why? My home is not a tip, it’s just untidy by Friday because I have prioritised sitting together to do homework, providing proper meals at the table, downtime cuddles on the sofa with the children over dusting and scrubbing during the weekday evenings – is that bad? So, before we go on a cleaning crusade let’s not condemn ‘messy’ people as being any kind of a failure in the world of housekeeping. I firmly believe that a home is for SELF EXPRESSION and not a FIRST IMPRESSION. Even the messiest friends I have, who by the way have the most invitingly relaxing and interesting homes, say that their clutter makes their home their own and to them is their own style of organised, so, if they can function happily in their space, then why should they change? Don’t change if you are that person, be your wonderful self. BUT if your clutter does clutter your mind and the century-old tradition of spring cleaning does appeal (provided it is done in manageable and achievable little sessions) then here are 6 little reasons why a small tidy up can be good for you…

1. A spring clean can increase your productivity. Keeping your work space organised can give rise to creativity and space for your brain to expand. A valuable life lesson here is to ‘let go’, if you haven’t used it for a year, do you need it? Could someone else use it? Could you sell it?  What can you then do with the new space? The time saved looking for things? Can you be creative with the stuff you have cleared out? Reuse or recycle?

2. The act of cleaning, tidying, and clearing spaces can be a satisfying happiness-inducing task. Choose a space which needs a sort out, add to this a little music, fresh air through open windows and a few energy boosting biscuits and your mood can do nothing but lift a little from the sheer act of losing some clutter.  If your tidying does start to feel overwhelming take a break, take a walk, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and if need be leave it and come back to it next week, make it manageable, listen to yourself.

3. Organising your day to day belongings can reduce stress.  Having a place for everything makes it possible to find your things simply and quickly.  Organising for some is also a very therapeutic exercise. Take a good look at your stuff.  Get rid of things which weigh you down, things that carry bad memories or just unnecessary things which just don’t bring you any joy. 

4. It is thought that by taking the time to clear your working space regularly, you free up space in your brain for clearer thinking and decision-making, which in turn can reduce anxiety. You feel freer to focus and concentrate on the big important things (writing that book), because the little things (the pencils and pencil sharpener) have been taken care of.  A clean environment leads to a sharper concentrated mind.

5. Regularly taking care of your belongings and keeping your environment uncluttered promotes relaxation, less stuff, less stress. It is also important to keep the things you care about close, allow yourself comforts and cut out the superficial unimportant clutter. Try to really reduce the amount of stuff you have around you, be picky, so much of what we own has accumulated over years and years and we hold on to it under the illusion that we might need it again one day – we have the internet now people – we really don’t need to keep that drawer full of takeaway menus! Recycle them – get rid!

6. Finally as mentioned before, if you don’t need the stuff that you are throwing out it doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t benefit from it. Your unwanted stuff can go on to help others. Recycling, gifting, donating, selling, charity shops… no matter how you choose to lose your stuff, do it with purpose.

IMAG2713 (2)

And for the children:

I know at this point so many of you will be thinking “you have to be kidding” and “this is never going to happen” but you’ll be surprised how much children can accomplish provided you do this challenge with them. I guess I should have had more faith as my children will do literally anything for some 1:1 time with me (which I feel oh so guilty about but like most working mums, it’s very hard to give my children as much attention as they deserve) but they really shocked me by how quickly they filled a charity shop box! That was their interpretation of this challenge by the way, purely to clear out toy boxes of toys that they no longer played with. That was all we did for this task, I asked my children to choose what they’d like to give away to other children… they were very generous and I was very happy to get rid of the sheer volume of old toys!! You’ll find that your children will be much more responsive to what you do, physically picking things up yourself, asking them to choose which box, ‘keep’ or ‘charity’, and putting it inside, than being given instructions. Once they have the idea they run with it! So having set a good example, allow them to make their room their own, let them organise where they want their things in their room. If they feel they have ownership over their room they are much more likely to take pride in it… well we live in hope anyway! The last tip for children is to make sure they have lots of boxes and containers to keep their stuff in, even if their toys are slung into a container at the end of playtime they will start to understand that everything has a place and tidying can be quick and easy and less of a chore – plus mummy won’t swear when she comes in in the middle of the night and steps on a piece of lego or trips over a toy digger!

So go for it, this week is a practical challenge and its the perfect time of year for a  little declutter. Teach your children the benefits of keeping their belongings tidy but do try to allow them to manage their own room, they are much more likely to take some pride in it and start to learn to care for what they have that way. As for your own decluttering efforts, see how it feels, does having a clear and organised space make you feel less weighed down in your mind? If it does then great, if not then that’s also great, it’s good to know what makes us tick, it’s good to look after ourselves and little things like this can make a real difference day to day.

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