Emotional Spring Cleaning
At this time of year, I always find myself cleaning out my house and getting rid of clutter.
But Spring cleaning isn’t just about getting rid of physical clutter. It’s also about clearing out space in our schedules, relationships, and thoughts to make room for those that meet our emotional needs.
When parents (including me) get caught up in taking care of the kids, work, and other responsibilities, we tend to put everyone else’s needs first and end up neglecting or completely ignoring our own.
Eventually, we feel so worn out that we become resentful of our kids, spouses, employers, friends…anyone who makes demands on our time.
Sooner or later, we reach our breaking point and what happens? We LOSE it!
Unfortunately, our kids usually feel the brunt of our anger. When we’re honest, we can admit that they're an easy target.
Any time I used to hear advice to go on date nights once a week or take time to meditate for 20 minutes a day, I’d think, “Between the chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, making sure homework gets done, working, and trying to do a dozen other things, who’s got time for that? Besides, putting myself first is selfish. My kids need me.”
Then, whenever I did have time for myself, I’d feel so GUILTY! Guilty for leaving my kids with a babysitter. Guilty for leaving my husband with them when he had had an equally taxing day. Guilty for leaving my “to-do” list unfinished or letting someone down.
I’d look at other moms and think, “They seem to have it all together. They make time to go to the gym and hang out with their friends. They seem so happy. How do they do it?” (Whether or not those other moms were truly happy is irrelevant. That was the story I chose to tell myself.)
Then I realized that if I didn’t start taking care of myself FIRST, I was not only depriving myself, I was cheating everyone else around me out of having a positive and happy mom, wife, daughter, friend, etc.
Why it's necessary to do emotional Spring cleaning:
1. Clutter leads to feeling overwhelmed. Every time I ask the parents how the clutter in their lives makes them feel, this is their #1 answer. Taking on too many responsibilities makes people overwhelmed. And when stress and anxiety steer your decisions, you head straight for Dramaville because you aren’t in a balanced state of mind — not to mention the negative impact stress has on the body and your overall health.
2. Clutter prevents you from being fully present. People who are constantly on the go, regularly making commitments they don’t really want to keep, and spending time with people who drain them — aren’t fully present because they’re always wishing they were somewhere else.
3. Clutter hides what's valuable. When thinking about physical clutter, it’s easy to see how this is true. If you saved every single drawing your child ever made, the ones that brought you joy every time you looked at them would just get lost in a pile. The same applies to other aspects of your life. When you spend time with people you don’t like or do things you don’t enjoy, you lose out on time you could be spending with the people you value, doing the things that give you pleasure. Time you can never get back.
Do you struggle with clearing out mental clutter?
If so, ask yourself:
- Do I enjoy doing this? What are you doing that you could eliminate from your to-do list by delegating or simply by crossing it off? (For example, you don’t need to go to every birthday party for your kids’ friends or every school committee meeting just because you are invited. You have a choice!)
- Does this person energize me? Do the people you spend time with on a regular basis drain your energy and leave you feeling worse than you did before your interaction with them? How can you spend less time with them and more time with people who lift you up and make you feel empowered?
- What kind of life do I want to live? Peter Walsh, the Organizational Expert often featured on Oprah, always asks his clients this question. Once you decide the kind of life you want to live, you can begin to clear away the clutter that’s preventing you from living it. You can make choices that support your vision and free up space in your life for your dreams to become realities.
When you free yourself from emotional clutter and take care of yourself first, you give yourself and those around you a gift. You give the gift of a happy, relaxed, energized person who can give love from a full tank.
In other words, LESS DRAMA = MORE MAMA.
Please leave a comment below identifying one specific thing you can do THIS WEEK to clear out some of your emotional clutter. Is there a task you can delegate to someone else? Is there a relationship that needs some stronger boundaries set? Is there a negative thought you can release?
If you're ready to take a deeper look at your emotional clutter and how it's impacting your parenting, take a look at my online course, Parenting with Patience.