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Spring Cleaning

March 16, 2023

For a good part of my adult life, I have been pretty grouchy about the arrival of spring, vibing more with T.S. Eliot’s declaration that “April is the cruellest month” than Robin Williams’ idea that “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” All promise, but only slush and cold wind. Not to mention the dreaded ritual of spring cleaning, when like good Marie Kondo devotees, we clear away the clutter of our winter lives. Nope, give me a season that doesn’t go back on its promises or ask me to shampoo the rug or the dog.

But this year, as spring inches into the northern hemisphere, something in me has changed. After a couple of months of near hibernation where I slept early and kept tasks and activities to a minimum, I’m feeling a bit like a spring bulb tentatively poking a few tender stalks up through the snow and hoping it’s safe to pop out. While I haven’t shampooed any rugs, I’ve rifled through a few dozen jars of aging herbs and spices, tossed the contents, cleaned the jars till they sparkled and filled them fresh, pungent powders and leaves. I cleared out a kitchen drawer full of strange implements that I thought might come in handy, and released them.

It’s been weird.

And so a recent article in the New York Times caught my attention: “This Year Try Spring Cleaning Your Brain,” by Christina Caron, and might explain what’s going on with me. Caron points out it’s been a tough few years:

“Many have endured illness, economic upheaval, the climate crisis, grief and racial inequities. Add to that inflation, supply chain issues and the ripple effects of Russia’s war with Ukraine — three of the biggest sources of stress among people in the United States right now, according to a recent poll for the American Psychological Association.”

And then, she says,

“Perhaps, experts say, the arrival of spring can serve as a natural point to take stock of our mental well-being and reconnect with the things that bring us purpose and joy, offering our brains a respite when possible.”

Yes! That’s what I’m wanting! To reconnect with purpose and joy.

Helpfully, Caron goes on to offer 5 tips for de-cluttering the mind on the way to purpose and joy:

  • Practice Mindfulness. No big surprise here. Even a minute of mindful meditation can help us step out of mental clutter and feel refreshed.
  • Try the Bullet Journal Method. There’s lots of info on the web about bullet journals, I’ll let you google that for yourself. Short take: it’s a way to organize how you spend your time and reflect on it. Might help us tidy up our time a bit?
  • Reduce Information Overload. Oh my goodness yes.
  • Declutter your physical space. Okay, okay. So maybe I will shampoo the rug. But the dog is safe for now.
  • Reconnect with people that you love. Enough said.

Of course these tips would be useful at any time, but maybe there is something special about this time right now. Caron offers the following quote from psychology consultant Paul Napper:

“It really is – for a number of reasons – a perfect time for folks to turn their attention to taking an inventory. Where do I find myself? What have I been through?”

And wouldn’t you know it? That is exactly what Leslie and I were thinking when we designed Where are we now? It’s a weekly 2-hour retreat beginning Tuesday, March 28 7:00 – 9:00. There’s five sessions in all, ending on April 25.

We won’t be offering any prescriptions about how to move forward and we won’t tell you to tidy up your desk.

What we will do is offer dedicated time and space for folks to take that inventory Napper suggests. It’s a chance to come together with others trying to figure things out and explore:

  • Where are we now?
  • How do we find our bearings?
  • Who do we choose to be?
  • How do we stay true to our values, aspirations and purpose?

Every session includes some mindful meditation, reflection and engaging with inspiring texts and images. We’ll practice listening deeply to each other and sit with the wisdom that emerges. More information and registration here.

If five week series is more than you want to take on, but you’re hankering after a little mental spring cleaning, you could join us for Wonder – a 75 minute, online, micro-retreat. Information and registration for that here.

By the way, if, like me, you love your clutter and are a little averse to tidying up, you might be comforted to know that even Marie Kondo now embraces messiness. You can read about that here.


Contact Us

We are settlers on Treaty 13 Land, the traditional territories of many Indigenous Nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples from across Turtle Island. We are committed to honouring the history this land bears witness to, responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and walking lightly on the Earth. A portion of proceeds from all our offerings are sent to:  The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and The Nii’kinaaganaa Foundation.

The Inside Outside Retreat Centre, Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 720 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON, M5S2R4