”The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” —Agatha Christie

The dishes are clean.

The laundry is folded.

The floor is mopped.

Now, I can get to work.

Laughing out loud, I completely understood the quote by Agatha Christie. It’s true. When I need to work on something, whether it is writing, editing photos or updating a site, I think it begins better if I can get the housework finished – at least in the general area where I’ll be working. That could be another column, “Procrastination for the Win,” but for today, I’ll focus on spring cleaning, since it is spring and time to clean.

The best time to plan anything is when you are doing something else, and so while I think about cleaning and organizing the house, I’ll write a column instead. It works both ways.

Many of my friends are practicing Jews, and I’ve been listening to them talk about preparing for Passover, which just ended. They are serious about cleaning for this, and I admit that each year I feel a little envious of the routine that is part of their lives. They don’t just look for a time to clean the house; they are given permission to make it their focus. I should give myself that permission, but more importantly, I want a kind of clean I believe comes with their ritual.

At the new year, we talk about the fresh slate, but I think it is a much stronger feeling when spring arrives – hence, spring cleaning. The weather changing seems to create an inner desire to clean, move furniture to freshen a room, and, if we are honest, to clean inside of ourselves. Many Christians have a similar approach to Lent, which just ended with Easter, so maybe we humans are just wired to want to really freshen up this time of year. But cleaning the house is much easier than cleaning up ourselves. Don’t you agree?

What will that look like, the cleaning of ourselves? Take an extra shower or use a conditioning treatment on my hair? No, it’s more than that, and I think that’s why it’s easier to focus on cleaning out some of the junk in our closets or repositioning furniture. Marie Kondo said, “The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.”

If we apply that to ourselves, to our lives, it stands to reason we want to do whatever we need to feel happiness living with ourselves.

When we bought our house almost 30 years ago, part of what we loved was how spacious it felt. It was empty. We’ve managed to collect a lot of things through the years for various reasons, and the space is pretty full.

It’s not much different with talking about our space within our minds and bodies. Just as we’ve taken in other people’s cast-off items because they were “meaningful” and filled our home space, so I’ve taken on other people’s feelings about me or expectations of me, and they can definitely leave me feeling cramped. I’m guessing that might be true for you, too.

Remember when you first started out at the job or in the relationship, and you had ideas for how you wanted things to be, how you wanted to see yourself, and then little by little other people’s visions began pushing your own aside. Who wants to lose the job or the relationship, after all? This is the time to look inside yourself and give some thought to who you’ve wanted to be and how you’ve allowed others to saddle you and me with attitudes and expectations that don’t look so good. It’s time to freshen up.

Remember when you said you wanted to be more active, enjoy nature more? What happened? Did you find a way to put it on the back burner? Speaking of that, those backburners probably need some attention. If you have the kind with the eye that can pull out, do that and get some hot soapy water on a cloth to scrub all the burned on food out of there. If you have a glass top stove, stick with a special product and definitely that soft cloth, so you don’t scratch the glass. I guess it’s just a fact that backburners need to be cleaned up so things in the kitchen and in our lives function a little better.

Remember how you decided you’d keep that sweater or jacket around just in case it ever came back in style? I guess it’s still taking up space, kind of like the books from the history class you took, which turn out to not have contained nearly enough actual history. Holding on to things that are probably never going to work for us is not helpful, and if we are hanging on to people, or at the very least their opinions, who don’t fit or are no longer matching our style of living, some spring cleaning might help brighten a corner or two.

Remember how you said you wanted to eat better? But then COVID-19 hit, and you found that sitting around eating and drinking worked for you. Well, spring is here, fresh air opportunities are here, and allowing a pandemic to take another day of your self care and soul care is not ok. It’s easy to sit back and remember all the things we said we wanted to do, to be, to have in life. It’s easy to blame other people or even the pandemic for our not being where we wanted.

If the best time for planning a book is while doing the dishes, maybe the best time for planning some other things will be while you are taking care of yourself and your soul. Seems to me, as you finish reading this and I finish writing is the best time for both of us to do something positive to take care of ourselves. Go ahead and clean out the closet, but maybe freshen up your decisions to take care of you, too.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University who lives in Murfreesboro. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Sometimes, she matches her words and pictures. Always, she writes from her heart with the hope of speaking to the hearts of others.

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