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Spring Cleaning: Feeling Write at Home
by Eldonna Edwards Bouton

Every spring my mother would haul the cobweb-draped ladder from the barn and set up camp alongside the south side of our old, two-story house. Armed with a bucket of hot vinegar water, an apron full of rags, and a fierce determination certain to rival even the most steadfast grime, she ascended the ladder to engage in her annual battle against dirty windows. I have a vivid memory of my mother wearing a kerchief on her head and a flowered sundress that billowed in the May breeze as she worked her way from one side of the house to the next. Looking back I imagine she spent as much effort trying to keep her dress from blowing up over her waist as she did on the windows, but it was the sixties, after all, and we lived in the Midwest, where the men wore pants and the women wore out.

My mother won her war with the dirt-demons every year, but in the spring of her sixty-fourth year, she lost her battle with cancer. Thinking back, I wonder how she would have spent those windy days if she’d known the number of them? Would she rather have sat in the back yard with a pen and stationery writing poetry like she used to before she dreamed seven children to life? Would she have chosen--if she had the choice--to go for a walk on the beach of Lake Michigan all by herself? Or was the ritual window washing something that brought her quiet joy? I’ll never know her answer, but I hope you take a moment to ask yourself how you want to spend your precious days.

As April approaches I’ve gotten to thinking about my own Spring Cleaning. Unlike my mother, I am more apt to clean from the inside out—albeit with the same fierce determination. I’m usually pretty good about keeping my finger on the pulse of my Inner House, but I know that occasionally I need a thorough cleansing. The windows of my soul become clouded with the residue of winter storms and I know that it’s time to haul out the ladder and take a closer look. If you’re feeling in need of a Spring Cleaning of your own, grab a bucket of paper and come along. We’ve got work to do.

  1. Take out the trash. One of the most thorough (and cathartic) ways I know to clean one’s Inner House is to take out the Cosmic Trash. The best way to do this is to find a quiet place where you can write freely and without interruption. Bring along your journal or a notebook and start dumping out onto the page all the things you’re tired of having take up space (and collecting dust!) in your mind and heart. When you are through, (are you ever through?) tear it up. Or burn it. Or bury it. The point is to get rid of it. For good.
  2. A top-to-bottom cleaning. Once you’ve gotten rid of those pesky dust bunnies (read: old anger, resentment, hidden agendas) it’s time for a thorough cleansing. The best way to cleanse your Inner House of the residue that piles up after months of neglect is to forgive yourself and others for whatever it is that has kept you clinging to an unsteady old foundation. By forgiveness, I mean letting go. Write: I am ready to let go of what no longer serves me. I forgive myself for my part in ____________ and I release ___________ for his/her/its power over my life. I will no longer waste any more precious energy on _______________________, and I bless _____________________ with all the good I want returned to me. Repeat as many times as necessary to address each unique situation or person that keeps you stuck in the past.
  3. Rearrange the furniture. Once you’ve hauled off the garbage and cleaned up your agendas, why not try out a new look? Here is an exercise I often use early on in my journaling workshops. Open to a fresh sheet of paper and write, "If no one was watching…" Fill the page with all the things you’d do if you were living your life for yourself instead of to please others. Would you have a different career? Go back to school? Leave an unhealthy relationship? Well, now’s the time. It is spring, after all.

Of course, once you’re finished cleaning there should always be a reward. Take a long luxurious bath, go for a walk on the beach or in the woods, have some chocolate, or buy yourself a new journal. Make an Inner House cleaning part of your ritual of self-care. Your neighborhood of friends and family is sure to notice your sparkling new look and feel. And you will most certainly feel renewed.

Copyright © 2001 Eldonna Edwards Bouton

Eldonna Edwards Bouton’s newest book is Journaling From the Heart: A Writing Workshop in Three Parts. Her previous books include Write Away: A Journal Writing Toolkit and Loose Ends: A Journaling Tool for Tying up the Incomplete Details of your Life and Heart. She also facilitates monthly journal writing workshops at www.writerscollege.com and pens a monthly newsletter, Writefully Yours, available by e-mail subscription or online at www.whole-heart.com.

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