How To Spring Clean Your Life + Mind

What if you could spring clean your life? What if you could take that new-sheets, open-windows, fresh towels in the bathroom feeling and apply it to other areas of your life?You can! Sort of! As a Type A Virgo who literally creates recurring Google calendar events for things like ‘vacuum refrigerator coils’ I’ve tried to apply my physical spring cleaning approach to mental and emotional spring cleaning. Here’s what I do!


9 Ways You Can Spring Clean Your Life

1. Give your closet orphans a “Victory Lap” and then re-home them

What’s a closet orphan? A closet orphan is an item that doesn’t play well with anything else you own and never gets worn. Maybe it doesn’t fit any more, maybe it’s no longer stylish, maybe it’s not a good match for your current lifestyle.

Whatever the reason, after you’ve pulled out all those closet orphans, give them each one last wear and then rehome them. You can donate them to a thrift store or list them on the free section of Nextdoor. Winnowing your closet down to only what delights you will make you feel like a new person!

2. Give yourself the gift of closure

You might never know why he stopped returning your calls or why she dumped you. You might never solve the mystery of that failed friendship or The Great Layoff of 2015. We imagine it would feel so much better to know why these things didn’t work out, but that’s not always an option. You can, however, choose to let it go.

Write them a letter, put it in a blank, un-stamped envelope, and drop it in the impenetrable blue mailbox on the corner. Burn the letter. Meditate on them with the mantra of “they were doing the best they could with what they had” or “I trust that everything works out for the highest good.”

RELATED: How To Let It Go

3. Get help for any really big, ongoing issues

Do you keep dating horrible people who hurt you? Or hate yourself for eating a slice of birthday cake? Or nurse huge, heart-consuming grudges towards a family member?
a) You’re totally not alone. Almost everyone struggles with these things from time to time.
b) You don’t need to feel like this.

If you’ve wrestled with an issue for years and years and it doesn’t seem to be getting better, maybe it’s time to get help. Talk to your doctor, call your health insurance provider to see which services are covered or look for support groups in your area. Really and truly, you can feel better.

4. Monitor your media consumption

A sweet friend once gifted me a subscription to Travel + Leisure magazine. “What fun!” I thought. “I can’t wait to learn about new destinations!” I thought. But each time I opened those pages I immediately felt boring and less-than. The same thing happens for me with Lucky, Glamour, and certain Instagram feeds. So I unsubscribed.

You can do the same! Cancel your subscriptions to magazines that make you feel unattractive or broke. Do sit ups or the dishes during TV commercial breaks. Listen to public radio if radio ads wind you up. It’s impossible to completely remove media from our lives, but we can notice what’s affecting us and turn our eyes elsewhere.

5. Start a gratitude practice

Yes, you read this advice everywhere – because it’s good! I’ve written in my gratitude journal every week for nearly three years and it’s been transformative. I don’t do anything fancy – just five bullet points and short sentences about what I’m thankful for, but it’s a great way to end the day.

If you don’t want to write in an actual journal, try an app The Gratitude App or go around the dinner table and ask each family member what they’re thankful for that day.

6. Delete, hide, unfriend, unfollow

If that friend from high school is always winding you up on Facebook, just hide her or unfriend her. If that Twitter buddy just complains about airlines and customer service, you’re totally allowed to unfollow him. If you never read those email newsletter, just unsubscribe – or use Unroll Me to wrap all of your subscriptions into one tidy bunch!

7. Consider the stories you’re telling yourself

Are you really, actually a terrible athlete? Or did you just hate flag football in junior high? Do you really hate salad? Are you actually horrible with money? Is your taste in romantic partners all that bad?

When we tell ourselves these stories – even subconsciously – we define and strengthen those pathways in our brains. We literally make them more true by repeating them. It’s not always easy to stop that negative self-talk, but it is possible.

8. Allow yourself to stop judging others (even though it’s so, so hard)

I like myself least when I’m judging other people. It is, hands down, my biggest flaw as a human. I’ve found a lot of sanity with the mantra “I’m willing to see this person is doing their best” – even if ‘best’ looks like driving 40 in the fast lane, showing up late and unprepared to meetings, or missing deadlines. We’ve all been there. It feels good to be gracious.

9. Push yourself to have a ‘second thought’ 

For most of us, our first thought in reaction to something – someone’s high hourly rate, a woman in a short skirt, a sale – is the thought we’ve been socialized or raised to have. We think “Who do they think they are?” or “She shouldn’t wear that” or “If I don’t buy that now, I’ll miss out.”

We don’t need to shame ourselves for these “first thoughts” and we also don’t need to accept them. Nudge your brain to try again. Maybe your second thought will be “Someday I can charge that much, too” or “That’s a cute outfit!” or “I don’t need that, no matter the discount.”

What do you think – will those tips help you spring clean your life? Feel a little freer in your mind and daily dealings? If you know you’ll want to come back to this later, pin it to your Pinterest board! 

P.S. If you want to spring cleaning your finances, this free workbook will help!


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  1. Manisha

    That point about the stories really hit home. When I'm down I focus on the romance of my marriage and then it seems real and has continued for 21 years. I see so many people splitting up or getting divorced lately which makes me sad. Yet sometime I think I'm just making it up but then I think it is true and fall in love all over again. SO, that makes me less judgmental about other people's relationships. Loved this post!!

  2. Shireen

    These are all so lovely! I have definitely made #4 and #5 a part of my life in the last year, and it's made a HUGE difference in my daily happiness. I really liked your advice and suggestions in #1, 6, and 7, and I will strive to make those happen for myself this spring. Great words, as always. Thank you Sarah 🙂

  3. Jeneric Generation

    Number 5 is something I started doing more of recently, and it was such a "duh" moment. It's funny how our first reaction in life is often to feel a victim to our surroundings. Even something as small as unfollowing facebook "friends" with whom I have nothing in common was such a weight off my mind. And number 6…oh, those stories.

  4. Pieliekamais

    Great list, and needed this today. I'm trying mindfullness, it works, but it's hard to make yourself practice.

  5. Jane

    This is a list worth tacking up on the bulletin board and working through every day! It will change your life.

  6. Boiling

    It is best not to use third party apps to access your FB/Email accounts – Unroll.Me has been selling user data to several companies including Uber.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, interesting! Thanks for the head’s up!

  7. Celina Nader

    Love these ideas. One thing i do when im clearing out my head/heart/life is going theough my planner and writing down tasks that I keep putting off (fun ones like painting something or visiting a friend or redecorating) on specific days/times throughout the month. Just a little written reminder of fulfilling acivities I want to do but put off for no good reason.

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