Spring Cleaning in the Time of COVID
It’s been over a year since COVID-19 started a deadly world tour. We are still doing our best to keep our sanity through the pandemic. We’ve adapted to the changes, or at least we try. Our attempts at normalcy are met with lockdowns, mask mandates, natural disasters, not to mention the outcry against systemic racism. People are dying out there.
To some, spring cleaning is the last thing on the mind, but perhaps we should consider this year’s spring cleaning as a way to regroup, refocus, and clean the clutter that we have control over.
In the Netherlands lives Sadia. A down-to-earth Canadian dietician who resonates joy. She lives with her boyfriend in a cozy studio making vegan meals, living a minimalistic lifestyle, and sharing her knowledge on her YouTube channel, Pick Up Limes. In each video, she will greet you with a smile and a feeling that perhaps today is not going to be a bad day after all. And if it is going to be a bad day, well, when life gives you limes.
In her video, Benefits Of Minimalism + common minimalism mistakes, she goes on to list the benefits of minimalism from saving money, no clutter, cleanliness, being stress-free, and so on. All these ideas have themes of starting fresh, removing the unnecessary clutter in our lives, and starting on a whole new page.
Spring cleaning has different origins depending on the culture. In the Jewish faith, spring cleaning is a way to prepare for Passover. In the 1800s, it was to remove soot and dust created by the fireplace during winter. Before Chinese New Year, cleaning the home is conducted as the symbolic ridding of negativity. Spring cleaning is a time to start fresh from the harshness.
It makes you think, does the start of a minimalist lifestyle and spring cleaning go hand in hand? I have compiled some observations from various Minimalist guides that may serve you in how it has done for me while researching the subject.
“Happiness is a state of being and not having. It’s experiences that we remember”- Sadia Badiei
You don’t have to get rid of everything.
That’s correct; you don’t have to get rid of everything unless you want to. The point is to rid yourself of things that no longer serve you, have meaning, or distract you from a productive life. Getting rid of everything you own is a common misconception with living a minimalist lifestyle.
It may be challenging to know where to start. Luckily, you can find some calendars that can help you slowly ease into the minimalist waters. Day one would be to clear out your clothes (time to throw out that Taking Back Sunday shirt). The rest of the days include purging your medicine cabinet, deleting blurry photos on your phone, unsubscribing to emails, and so on. There is one thing on the list that takes courage.
Ridding what doesn’t serve you or bring you happiness includes people too.
Yup, time to cut out the toxic people in your life. In guides about minimalism, cleaning out the clutter in your life that no longer serve you or benefit you includes people in your life. This step can be done by no longer communicating with that person and avoiding them. But what do you do when it’s a close friend or family member?
“Family does not mean a consistent sacrifice in your emotional wellbeing” -Dr. Nicole LePera, aka “The Holistic Psychologist”
Well, you can take steps before having to resort to cutting someone off completely, especially a family member. It depends on how important this relationship is. For one, you can limit your exposure to them. Hiding their posts, talking about it with someone, or refraining from talking about certain subjects with them are some examples. Sometimes, confrontation is your last hope in saving a relationship.
A few years ago, a close friend of mine (who I will call Jane) had a negative friend as all hell. If you spent a considerable amount of time with this person, you’d feel all your energy start to drain. She would complain about everything and everyone. In her mind, the people she worked with were stupid; lovey duby couples were stupid; everyone was stupid. Anything you say will have a rebuttal. Jane had told her once, “I don’t like pancakes much.” Later, she ate pancakes to avoid a lengthy discussion on why hating pancakes was dumb. This person seemed mad at the world. Eventually, Jane would start to feel disgruntled at everything and had such a negative perspective about situations and people.
One day she had enough. She explained her feelings and how this person’s attitude was affecting her. It took some guts, but it was necessary because their friendship was still significant. This person was appreciative of the honesty and was apologetic. Jane had set her boundaries.
Their friendship drifted apart. I asked my friend if she was ever sad about it. She said, “No, we are different people now from when we first met. It needed to happen so I can grow.”
For extreme abusive relationships, however, the work is complex, and it could be dangerous. For situations like that, I feel I would not be doing a service telling you what to do, but multiple resources can help.
Online, there is the National Domestic Violence Hotline who is open 24/7 and is ready to help. You may also want to look into any local outreach programs. Finally, there is an app that can help if the abuser looks at your phone called Aspire News (apple version)(android version) that disguises the information in a typical news article. Just know you are not alone, and there is hope.
Don’t force your lifestyle on others.
So, you decided you want to be a minimalist? You watched all the YouTube videos and read all the articles and how to get started and be free. You are just so darn excited to delete all those unnecessary things from your life. So ready to tell everyone how great you feel after converting to minimalism. Except, you live with someone that loves to hold on to every little thing that keeps them from living their best life. What is a minimalist to do?
People can hold on to items for many reasons that include thinking they may need the item one day, it has sentimental value, and not wanting to be wasteful. Whatever the reasons, they must be ready to make the change.
In the meantime, control what your space is. Set aside a space for you and the person(s) you are living with. Maybe, your domestic partner, roommate, family member, pooch, or feline will be inspired by what you are doing with your space and will follow your lead.
In extreme cases where the other person may have a hoarding disorder, you should be understanding and patient. There are resources that can help you become more educated and provide steps on what to do.
Stop buying crap you don’t need.
In minimalism, they explain that before you buy something, ask yourself, “Will this bring any value to my life?” It may seem like a simple task, but when you buy with intent, it will help keep you from collecting more stuff you don’t need or doesn’t fulfill you in any way.
I have a borderline obsession with collecting books and journals. Have I used them all? Of course not, but I might. It can be a struggle to refrain from buying yet another useless kitchen gadget, or another diet book, another witty t-shirt. At the time, you think what you are going to buy will make you happy. Maybe it does for just a little bit before you are at the register. Then the guilt taps you on your shoulder, saying, “Just couldn’t help yourself, huh?”
“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” -Charles Spurgeon
In Texas, Ralph lives an average life. He’s married, works for a well-known financial institution, attends online college, and has three cats. He may tell you that things are going pretty okay for him. Things could be better, but he’s okay. If you asked him five years ago, he’d lie to you.
Five years ago, Ralph was struggling to make ends meet. He was severely in debt and behind on his bills. Yet was spending beyond his means. When stress would kick in, he would spend. This downward spiral of anxiety from finances, spending, stress from life, and spending would ultimately result in almost losing his family and home. “I think I was trying to keep up appearances that we were okay. Not just to other people, but to my wife and family. That was a dark time in my life. I don’t want to be in that position again,” he later said.
In one study, researchers found that when people stress about a situation, they do one of two things. They would either save obsessively or increase spending on things that they thought were necessary. This behavior was due to the person trying to get a sense of control over the stressful situation.
In a survey conducted by the credit monitoring service, Credit Karma. 1 in 5 people surveyed stated that they had spent more during the pandemic. The people also spent more money on items they had perceived as essential such as groceries, food delivery, pet food, games, activities, etc.
For Ralph, he spent money on going out to eat, top-shelf cat food, excessive groceries. He would say, “I guess I felt that if we didn’t go out to eat or have all this entertainment and groceries, I might not be able to have it again once all the money was gone. It’s a ridiculous way to think, but I was not in a healthy state of mind then.”
Minimalism is about mindfulness. Recognizing your triggers and (the dreaded word) budgeting can help you from falling into that same downward spiral that almost consumed Ralph. You must be honest with yourself, lay out all your expenses, and cut out the things causing financial stress. Just as important, you must have at least a short-term goal: saving three months’ worth of your paycheck, for example.
Ultimately, I made a deal with myself that I would only buy a journal once I used up the ones I have. The books? I downloaded the Libby app, and I get audiobooks and E-books for free from my local library. Since I now have a library card, I can check out a physical book if I need it — # SupportYourLocalLibrary.
What’s the point of all this?
Everyone has different experiences when living a minimalist lifestyle. For some, they start to feel this immediate liberation and clarity. You become more focused on the things they love to do. You may find that you are less stressed out, less distracted, more time on your hands, and more money in your account.
“Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” -Linda Breen Pierce
Living a minimalist lifestyle can have many benefits for your mental health and finances. For some, you may find these benefits don’t manifest right away, and that’s okay too, which leads me to the final thing.
The last rule of Minimalism, there are no rules.
From all the research I’ve done. I’ve noticed there are no actual rules. Although there are plenty of guides out there, there is no secret minimalist society out to get you if you don’t follow the guidelines to a tee. Suppose there is, well, my bad.
If things are not working out during your journey, well, find ways to make it work for you. The goal is to live with intent, feel better, and have more freedom. If it’s not doing anything for you, maybe tweak it so that it does or just don’t do it. Minimalist is unique to each person. Like how every diet varies with each person, but the goals are ultimately to feel better.
Minimalism isn’t this ultimate thing that will guarantee happiness. Take time to look within yourself and be honest. I can say I may not follow all the guides suggested, but I did take the things that meant something to me. Things I know need work. Perhaps Jane would take cutting negative people out to heart. Ralph would focus on mindful spending. I took the things that seemed helpful to me, and I don’t feel a bit bad about it. Neither should you.
For this spring cleaning season, perhaps we should not only clean out the junk in our homes but remember what spring cleaning means. It is a time to start fresh and remove all the unnecessary junk we carry that is slowing us down and keeping us from being content with our lives.