SPRING CLEAN YOUR LIFE

spring clean your life

Spring Clean Your Life

Clear the Clutter, Purge What Holds You Back— and Think Fresh.
By Meg Rothstein | Illustrated by Stacey Anderson

While we’re prepping our flower beds, opening our windows wide and chasing dust bunnies out the door, we can put the classic spring cleaning momentum to work in other areas of our lives. If we take the time to clear all the clutter—including the various things that fill our minds, take our time, deplete our energy and weigh us down—a good spring clean helps us live a little lighter in many ways.

“We are a consumerist culture that really values achieving, getting, accomplishing, accumulating,” observes UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain. “Often, a reflection of success is how much ‘stuff’ we have, how many awards we’ve won, how many achievements we’ve racked up. Early in life, especially, many people spend a lot of energy really focused on that.”

It stands to reason, then, that we not only have a potential plethora of things but also deep emotional ties to things, whether actual physical possessions or more line items on our vita or resume. Additionally, we house the “stuff” of shame, such as disappointments or social connections that deprive us more than they nourish us.

“We can sometimes equate more with better. As well, things can tie us to our life’s history—those highlights, those things we’re proud of—but this can also be a trap we fall into,” says Mirgain. “All these ‘things’ take up space. Over time, they can no longer serve their purpose.”

The result? “We can become so cluttered—whether it’s having all these Facebook friends that we must keep up with, or business networking we must do, or even just physical items we have to dust in our homes or activities for our families that have us running ragged. We can, over time, become overwhelmed and disconnected from our deeper truths about who we are, what we stand for, what we value and wish to do with our lives,” Mirgain cautions.

But there is much hope—and ’tis the season to bloom. We can start by taking back control of all that stuff to make room for possibility—for those things, concepts, people and ways of being that can bring us nourishment, creativity, energy, serenity and wholeness.

How? We asked our BRAVA THRIVE Conference, THRIVE Career Workshop and THRIVE Luncheon speakers for their expert spring cleaning tips and tricks, for freshening up the way we work and live.

Career Cleanse

Going through the motions at work? Use spring as a reason to stop and think about how things could be better—and make a plan of action. This might take you all the way to a new career, or you could find that just a few tweaks will help you rekindle your passion at your current job.  –Darcy Luoma, life, leadership and systems coach, Darcy Luoma Coaching and Consulting

Schedule a fresh professional headshot each year to keep up to date. Clean off your bulletin board to start a fresh mood inspiration visual each year and place your mood board prominently. Out with the old! –Megan Boswell, co-founder, The Jills of All Trades

Design some notecards and commit to mailing handwritten notes of thanks or encouragement every single week. –Corinne Neil, co-founder, The Jills of All Trades

Clean up electronic devices. Part of my nesting habit is to clear my desktop, organize folders, put up new professional pictures and change the background on email templates. It helps me feel renewed. –Amy Gannon, co-founder, Doyenne Group

Start to think of yourself like a business and carve out dedicated time to identify what you do, how you do it, who you’re helping, who helps you and how people know about you. It’s a great exercise in recognizing where you’re on track and where you might be off the rails. –Corinne Neil, co-founder, The Jills of All Trades

Take stock of where you are in your career and ask yourself if you’re satisfied. If you are—awesome! If you’re not, visualize where you want to be, a deadline and what personal development investments you need to make to get there. Make a plan, take action and seek out a mentor or coach who can help you get there. –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Clean up your resume. What have you accomplished since your last update? What mission-critical projects have you completed ahead of schedule or under budget? Have you taken on any new leadership roles or improved your expertise through recent education? Get your resume job search ready. –Deborah Biddle, leadership and development coach, High-Performance Development Solutions

Pull out your calendar and starting making some dates. Schedule time for coffee at least once a month to build more personal connections with colleagues. –Corinne Neil, co-founder, The Jills of All Trades

A focused professional surrounds herself with people who energize, support and inspire her to be her best self. But sometimes we’re affiliated with toxic co-workers or colleagues that don’t support our brand—our values, attitude and work ethic. Set your boundaries, role model the desired behavior and fuel your mind with thoughts that nurture, support and set you up for success. –Ellen Bartkowiak, career management expert, EllenCoaching

Beautify Boundaries

Every one of us has a distinct type of sparkle that sets us apart from the rest. Just like maintenance sealing is essential to preventing stains on your granite counter tops, you need healthy boundaries to save yourself from the inner tarnishing caused by unhealthy relationships. Boundaries are not selfish and do not cut us off from others. They create a special seal around our hearts and lives, making sure we have time for those who desire and deserve us. Remember, you chose the black diamond granite for its gorgeous twinkle. Give yourself the same attention: Boundaries needed to say “no” to those whose energies dull your shine. Take care, and self-care, to sparkle. –Jessica Schultz, therapist, lifestyle coach and founder, BeYOUtiful Minds & Fitness

Relationship Renewal

We are a reflection of those we spend the most time with, so be sure to make time for and surround yourself with those people who make you the happiest, best version of yourself. –Darcy Luoma

Do as one of my friends does: Maintain internal bliss and simplicity with an occasional “friendship garage sale.”
With compassion, grace and wisdom, she considers the people in her life and asks, “Are they bringing me value or do they always take more than they give?” As needed she minimizes interactions, gently communicates her boundaries or discreetly withdraws from the relationships. –Susan Young, change expert and author of the forthcoming book “Shift, Shed & Shine”

Let go of the “shoulds.”
Who do you spend time with because you “should,” even though that time drains you and makes you feel badly about yourself? This is your one and only life, so take the time to make sure that the majority of your relationships feed your spirit—it will increase your energy and joy. –Theresa Kim, life coach and founder of Suite 101 Experiences

Unplug to reconnect.
As enterprising women, we often get caught up in our smart phones, laptops and other devices while pursuing our dreams and changing the world. But some of the biggest and most important impacts we will ever make are with family and friends. Be fully present in the moment with the ones you love most. Your life will be richer for it. –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Nothing heals and energizes like love and someone to share your life and dreams with.
Once you find “The One”, hold on tight and nurture your love like you would any cherished possession. –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Feather Dust Those Finances

In order to reduce the amount of paper documents I have and storage I need, I recently created just three zippered binders to hold important papers, taken from the contents of my file drawers. With so many online records these days, you really only need to keep a baseline of information on your finances. Binders are a great way to organize documents you need to keep but don’t access regularly.

I created document binders for:

Financial

  • credit card, retirement, insurance premium, savings and checking account information

Job and Health

  • paystubs, health care records, will and power of attorney paperwork

Home

  • for home information and product warranties

I was able to dedicate my desk file drawers to only those files I add to or access often, including flex spending, medical, my daughter’s school and activity paperwork, pet records and receipts. I now have drawer space for files filled with travel dreams and inspirations. –Amy Crowe, certified financial educator, personal finance guru and motivational speaker, Summit Credit Union

Set up a spreadsheet to track and log expenses, donations and mileage and find a simple app to capture all your receipts. –Megan Boswell, co-founder, The Jills Of All Trades

Second to health, financial freedom is the most powerful asset a woman can have. With it, we have choices and options to shape our lives according to our own desires, and to move freely even when the unexpected arrives on our doorstep (and it will!). Assess your financial position this spring, be honest about where you need to make improvements, and take action. Don’t hesitate to seek out advice from a trusted financial coach or adviser. –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Spring Break Stay-Cation

Schedule a “stay-cation.” It doesn’t cost as much as taking a vacation and the benefits and peace of mind are priceless, says Sheba McCants, an arts, wellness and community enthusiast, and community engagement and events coordinator at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. Her tips for uninterrupted and effective breaks:

Install a text auto-responder on your phones— at home and at work—and designate a “proxy” to handle your work responsibilities while you are away.

Set boundaries with yourself and others for your break to protect space and time to accomplish your goals.

Create systems that will help you stick to your boundaries and goals.

Have some fun and be a tourist in your own town. Think outside the box. Are there places within walking distance of where you live that you have never been?

Take sleep seriously. Restore your natural circadian rhythm.

Pay attention to who you are while you are on your stay-cation. Who are you when you are just you— free to be whoever you are?

Glowing Growth

Are you constantly filling your calendar with musts? You’re allowed to fill it with wants, too! If you put exercise, fun and relaxation on your calendar, then you are sure to have time for it. –Darcy Luoma, life, leadership and systems coach, Darcy Luoma Coaching and Consulting

Learn to play more. World-changing women often forget to play and replenish. Make play a practice. Schedule time for it like you would any other important meeting or task. You’ll live longer! –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Release and surrender are words that come up over and over when people are in times of growth. Take time to think of something that you try to control but can let go. What is one tiny thing you can toss out of your anxiety closet? Do something creative: It will help you get out of your head and figure out a true and aligned way to release and surrender more in your life. –Theresa Kim, life coach and founder of Suite 101 Experiences

Track your time daily for a month. Once you have the whole month recorded, take a hard look at it and determine whether your current time distribution matches your priorities. It is amazing how easy is to say no when you have that picture—it helps you see that you simply can’t afford to take on one more thing without letting something else go. –Tania Ibarra, CPA and visionary problem solver and strategist

We’re all spiritual beings who long for peace, joy and connection in life. Shape all your pursuits to align with what feeds your soul and brings you joy, fulfillment and peace of mind. Everything after that will fall into place. –Lisa Peyton-Caire

Well-Kept Wellness

After a winter inside on the couch, I love being able to spend more time outside in spring. The fresh air and vitamin D make me feel like a whole new person. –Darcy Luoma, life, leadership and systems coach, Darcy Luoma Coaching and Consulting

Nothing is more important than our mental and physical health. With it, we can do anything. Without it, our dreams and desires are compromised. Take a strong look in the mirror and assess your health—be honest— and get to work on improving in those areas where you need the most reinforcement. Strive to be physically and mentally strong and stable just as you would want your professional or business enterprises to be. –Lisa Peyton-Caire, assistant vice president of Life, Learning & Events at Summit Credit Union

Did you know that when we “stockpile” bulk food we are likely to eat a lot of it in a short time? In fact, we eat almost half of it in just a few days. Clean house! Get rid of your bulk, family-size containers so when summer comes and we take off our sweaters we will be comfortable with what is underneath. – Ann Garvin, health educator, professor and award-winning writer

Shine Up & Show Up

We can spring clean for an improved sense of community, too. Here are some invaluable tips from Deborah Biddle, leader and development coach and founder of High-Performance Development Solutions.

Renew your mind and behavior. Most of us believe that we are ethical and unbiased, objective and fair. But are we really? This spring, reset your thought processes to create more inclusivity and respect.

Check your initial thoughts. Your first impressions may be clues to any biases you have. Ask yourself, “Would I feel the same way, if this person were part of a different group?”

Be logical.  Process how many people you actually know that conform to your particular bias. You will likely find the number to be quite few. Avoid allowing urgency or professional pressures to cause you to override logic and default to bias. Stop and really see people for who they are.

Treat people how you want to be treated. It sounds basic and like something your grandmother might say but it’s true: When the urge to act on your bias creeps up, practice new language or new behaviors contrary to your bias. Add one new behavior each week for a month. They will soon become inclusive habits.

Call out micro-aggression. With body language, words and distinctly pernicious behaviors, we send subtle and not so subtle signals that adversely impact our current and future interactions with individuals we encounter at work and throughout our circles of influence. Don’t stand by and watch these indignities occur. Say something.

Promote connectedness. Value difference and concentrate on commonalities. Lead to connect ideas and people —as one who builds bridges between cultures, between gender, between generations, trying to find common ground. Reach out to people who are different and talk about music, food, movies, books or sports. As you realize how little difference exists, bias begins to fade.

Freshen up!

And get ready to THRIVE! Learn more from the experts in this story at BRAVA’s THRIVE Conference April 28. Shilagh Mirgain talks about flow—the new work/life balance—and the other experts in this story lead inspiring women’s workshops that empower, enrich and educate and even nurture entrepreneurial spirits. To register: THRIVEWITHBRAVA.com

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