Every season creates its own garbage. Fall has its leaves. Spring has scores of blossom petals. As we move from childhood to middle age to retirement, each of these “seasons” of life also produces trash: thoughts, beliefs, and opinions about everything from how we look to how we fit into this crazy world.

We’ve all heard the term spring cleaning: sprucing up a certain area of the house that’s a little messy and needs some attention. It’s a great time of year to lighten the load because spring is all about renewal. Trees sprout a new round of leaves. Animals emerge from their hibernation. Days get more sunlight. It’s the perfect opportunity to look at what you’ve been squirreling away, get rid of it, and start over with a clean slate.

Why not do the same thing with your mind? All of us have trash in there; thoughts, beliefs, and opinions that we’ve been dragging around from one period of our life to another. Why not use this spring to let them go and lighten the load—a little cerebral spring cleaning?

If your first thought is to compare this idea to New Year’s resolutions, we don’t blame you for being skeptical. “New year/new you” can feel forced, and a glass of champagne and few proclamations don’t make the kind of glue that helps resolutions stick. This is better because spring is more visceral. We can see the world change around us. We can feel it in our bones. There’s a natural sense of rejuvenation that makes this season the perfect catalyst to a more permanent shift in thinking.

So how do you do a little targeted waste management for your mind? Try these three simple steps that will help you clean out the clutter and enable you toss that trash!

Choose one area of your life that’s giving you trouble. Where is messiest place in your life? Job? Money? A troubled friendship? To help you find the area that needs a little spring cleaning, try this exercise. Find a time when you can grab a few minutes of peace and quiet. In your mind, start flipping through the various aspects of your life: work, money, your spouse or partner. When you feel a quick stab in your stomach or your muscles tense up, stop flipping and start digging. What exactly is troubling you? Get specific until you whittle it down to a single workable issue, using the way your body feels as a compass to guide you. The more you feel it, the closer you’re getting to it.

What’s the garbage that’s laying around? Once you find the issue, the next step is to uncover the trash that’s keeping it alive. Is there a conversation that you need to have or an issue that remains unresolved? To help you figure that out, all you need is pen, paper, and five minutes. On an empty sheet, write down words, phrases, or sentences that describe what’s bugging you. (This an unfiltered brain dump, so don’t worry about finding the right words or composing great sentences. Scribble down whatever comes to mind, no matter what it is.) Writing is important for several reasons. First, it moves the garbage from your subconscious to your conscious mind, which makes it tangible and real. Second, writing it down helps diffuse some of the negative energy that usually comes with mental trash. When you’re done writing, have a look at what’s on the paper. That’s the garbage you need to toss.

Toss that trash. Once you’ve uncovered the trash, it’s time to get rid of it. Here’s a great way to do that: Spring clean one area of your house or apartment. That’s right. Grab a bucket, a cleaning cloth, and a garbage bag and start cleaning. As you’re working, push away any thoughts except what you wrote down on the piece of paper. Ask yourself, “What steps would I take to get rid of that junk?” and listen to the answers that bubble up. Maybe it’s time to have that talk with your friend or make an appointment with a financial planner. The idea is to get out of your head and get into action—and a little physical spring cleaning is a great way to kickstart that process.

Spring gives us a chance to reconnect with the little things in life that matter so much: a warm day, a budding flower, seeing friends again. Let it inspire you to refocus on what’s important by getting rid of what isn’t. That way, spring cleaning will take on a whole new meaning.


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