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Kathryn Robyn

Spring Cleaning for the Soul
by Kathryn L. Robyn

It’s time to clean. It’s an ancient, cross cultural custom as relevant today as ever. The Jewish ritual of chametz spells out exactly when: before the week of Passover. A Kosher family will toss every crumb of last year’s grains, in a ritualistic reenactment of the actions of their ancestors, as they prepared for Moses’ order to rise up en masse and escape their enslavement in Egypt. Though the mandate is merely to clean out the leavening, in practice, every crumb and kernel must be swept up. In the vernacular, "everything must go." No time to wait for bread to rise; nothing but faith to eat, chametz is a crucial part of the preparations for the sacred feast of Passover, when dishes are changed and only unleavened bread (Matzah) is eaten. Afterwards, the new season begins with a fresh pantry and a clean start.

The Emotional House by Kathryn L. Robyn and Dawn Ritchie

Ironically, spring cleaning is not such a sacred act for Christians, even those who have given up another kind of leavening for a full 40 days before Easter, reenacting Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast in the Garden of Gethsemane by depriving themselves of some favorite pleasure (or merely meat) for Lent. But cleaning, driven as it is by secular culture, is not so much about fear of God as it is fear of scorn, happening in a mad rush before Peter Cottontail arrives—imagine my mother's horror at seeing someone else’s child reach behind the drapes only to bring up a handful of dust bunnies with a colored egg.

For a multitude of justifications, every subculture mandates a spring cleaning; but there is only one reason we all do it: to clear out our space (inside and out) and make room for a new or renewed spirit. Call it what you will—liberation, birth, rebirth, resurrection, mating season or spring recess—it lends itself to hope, a fresh start and new growth. We clean the spaces we live in, we till the soil we’ll soon plant in and, by so doing, we refresh our own wintered-out souls with the spirit of beginning again.

This year—whether you steam-clean the upholstery and carpets, launder the drapes and curtains, wash the walls and windows and repaint all the garden furniture, or just sweep the floor as you do every week—go a step beyond and pay attention to what your home has to tell you. Take an inventory of everything you possess: What do your things mean to you, what do they say about your life; what was it you wanted from your life, does your home express that, does it help you have it? The following exercise will help you clean and clear your material clutter and collectibles, as well as your metaphysical qualities of character, giving you the opportunity to divide the wheat from the chaff and refresh your creative spirit.

Making a Spirit List for Clutter and Collectibles

Look for items in your home (including furnishings) that impede how your space functions or that elevate the function, those that are hard to work with or comfy and cozy. Dust or clean them while assessing their value to your spirit: Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center, dividing it into two columns. This is your Spirit List. Identify which things make you feel wonderful and which make you feel uncomfortable. Put things that Buoy Your Spirit down the left side. Those that Sink Your Spirit go down the right side. Take your time; and make a note in your journal about any feelings or questions that come up while reviewing each of your possessions. Commit yourself to return to any issues that arise, for further exploration.

Some things will clearly be headed for the trash. Anything is a burden if it doesn’t make you feel good, a millstone if it actually ticks you off—if that’s not clutter, I don’t know what is. Surely there are 50 ways to toss your trash. If you can’t quite face sending something to the dumpster, make a note of your hesitation and take a first step by packing it up for storage. Label your box with the exact contents and set it aside to let it "season." Living without it for a time can help you get clear on whether it ’s ultimately headed for keepsake status in the attic, rotation to be brought out another year, or history in a garage sale or donation bin. Remembering the old adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, your "spirit-dampening" items can become a gift to you when transferred to someone else’s ownership—either in the form of cash money or a charitable tax deduction, if not simply in the relief of seeing them go. Turning your trash into treasure clears out old energies that dragged you down like nothing else. However you choose to release them—store, sell, donate or dump—let go of all the unnecessary burdens you can.

Changes may also be in order for those things you clearly treasure—or anything that lifts your spirit. Consider whether you should find new and enlivening areas for them to stand out. Ask yourself (or even "ask" each thing itself): Are they in the right room, are they raising the level of the room’s practical or emotional function? Is there a better place for them to synchronize with the best use of the room and the best expression of its meaning to you?

Everything you have should be in a spot that enhances the room’s natural function and never diminishes it. For example, a fragile porcelain piece doesn’t belong in a family room where kids, dogs or exuberant adults might be compelled to jump around, dance a jig or toss a pillow now and again. The room is meant for fellowship; if the inhabitants are full of energy, then the room needs to accommodate them rather than shutting them down or risking destruction of some favorite thing. Put the lovely but delicate porcelain where it will be safer—in an area where subdued behavior is more expected, like a bedroom, dining room, home office or privacy corner.

On the other hand, every room should have something that enhances its function. Perhaps you have a space that yearns for a treasure? You might need to go on a hunt for one. Indeed, such things as games, musical instruments, or a beloved piece of art should never be secreted away in closets or rarely-used guestrooms, where no one can enjoy them, because they "might get broken." The purpose of these items—to be enjoyed—comes along with an occupational risk; and respect for the way a well-handled treasure is constructed is part of learning how to use it properly. Any item, which previously interfered with functionality or went unused, can become a welcome focal point for the right room, enlivening its energy.

Let’s not forget: Your home is your temple, with each room expressing a different part of your soul’s needs. The kind of spring cleaning that affects you down to that soul level involves freshening your entire experience at home, which could very well mean freshening up your overall décor—beyond cleaning it, more of a spring overhaul. You are not the person today that you were last spring. Time changes us...albeit often in small incremental ways...but that’s why we need to look forward and embrace our spiritual futures, instead of hibernating in our pasts. After cleaning out the old musty clutter you’ve accumulated in the winter months—or years—devote some time to putting some new organization solutions into play. Installing new organizing systems can bring a workable regime to a faulty function and ease your daily experience considerably. Or perk up dreary walls with a new coat of paint that uplifts your spirit and fills your soul with joy for the place you are in your life now.

In our new book, The Emotional House: How Redesigning Your Home Can Change Your Life, my co-author Dawn Ritchie and I have expanded the idea of simple cleaning and clearing to ways of creating a completely supportive home through functionality and décor. We have great tips for taming the clutter, but we also offer process exercises such as color therapy that helps you find the most beneficial colors for your spirit, allowing for soul cleansing every time you experience the room.

The aim is not just to select a great color palette that matches your favorite vase and throw rugs; it's about how you feel in every particular color vibration. There are warm colors and cool colors (determined by their scientific wavelengths); and your emotional and spiritual well-being is affected by the colors you live with (just think of all those teenagers who've painted their bedrooms black—are they intentionally entering the Abyss as their rite of passage?). What energies are the colors in your home showering upon you?

An "emotional house," as I am using the term, is one that expresses and encourages the spirits of all its inhabitants. Think of what elements need to come together to make such a home for you and your family. In our book, we call these elements "the Four Cornerstones" and define them as harmony, balance, support and a stress-free environment. Finding the "hotspots," in your house—those areas that continuously cause stress, are cluttered, disorganized, or filthy—will lead you to those personal issues that express your emotional imbalance, the chaos in your relationships, the dreams that you abandoned along the way, and so on. We call these your "emotional rollercoasters." Fixing these places helps you to take control of your home and your life. Giving your house a spring overhaul blows fresh air into your spirit and the spirit of your family as a bonded unit. Look around your home now, and you’ll see them—the areas in your life that need attention. Look further and see where your "coming attractions" will need a place in which to grow.

So. Make your Spirit List, deal with your trash and your treasure, and begin making changes of quality to the problem areas in your home that bring you down and hold you back, as well as the empty areas that could accommodate something you want to develop. You can do it! Set a goal, with a specific time limit, to attend to at least one of these areas for this year’s "spring cleaning for your soul."

Going Through the Fire

The process of making sweeping changes means pushing past the urge to give up, whether it’s clearing the back patio of winter debris, organizing your files and receipts for last year’s taxes and this year’s financial responsibilities, or purging your mind’s closets of every label that no longer fits you and building a place for new ones to develop. Go "through the fire" when the going gets tough—and it will—by asking yourself three important questions:

What will my life be like if I just stop and forget about my goal?

How will I feel when I enter this space next time, knowing I abandoned my goal?

How will my life improve if I dig down deep, finish this and achieve my goal?

Successfully reaching goals is not only satisfying; it is also a self-perpetuating process. If you let it, the rush of achievement will spur you on to do even more. When you choose to create an emotional house, your ultimate objective is to create a home that not only reflects, but supports the "authentic you" in reaching for your dreams and bringing them into your real life. Experiencing that is the measure of true success.

To find out more about changing your life by creating an emotional house, visit www.emotionalhouse.com.

Copyright © 2005 Kathryn L. Robyn.  All Rights Reserved.

Spiritual Housecleaning by Kathryn Robyn

Kathryn L. Robyn
Kathryn L. Robyn is an author, healing coach, and Reiki Master in private practice in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Robyn has led transformational workshops and support groups for over fifteen years, working with organizations such as Child Help USA, The Alcoholism Center for Women, The Healing Light Center and Alive and Well.

She is the co-author of the new book, "The Emotional House: How Redesigning Your Home Can Change Your Life," with Dawn Ritchie (New Harbinger Publications, 2005,) and the author of "Spiritual Housecleaning: Healing the Space Within by Beautifying the Space Around You" (New Harbinger, 2001).



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