Spring cleaning is not considered an aerobic sport ... but it should be. Just the thought of it makes my heart pound and my endorphins flow. And just like working out, after I do it, I feel so much better. And that's the point — decluttering brings joy. It's a mystery, but it's one I discovered when I was very young.
"Clean your closet!" my mother would say on a Saturday when I had a million more fun things to do. "It's not that it's so much fun, but you'll feel better after." She was right. Out with the old, in with the almost-new. She never met a resale shop she didn't like.
And now we know that decluttering or spring cleaning is not only a way to help others and maybe earn some cash, it's a real boost to our own personal health — mental, physical and emotional.
"The more junk you continue to tolerate in your life, the more stressed out, irritable and burdened you will feel, " says Barry A. Dennis, whose new book, "The Chotchky Challenge: Clear the Clutter From Your Home, Heart and Mind ... and Discover the True Treasure of Your Soul" (Hay House), really made me sit up and take notice.
Why? Because I'm pretty sure Dennis has misspelled "chotchky." In my neighborhood, it was "tschochkie," and it was almost always plural — tschochkies — because who can stop at just one ceramic poodle?
"I call this junk we accumulate 'Chotchky,'" writes Dennis, who promises greater clarity and improved mental focus if you get rid of it. "It's anything that crowds, intrudes, clutters or in any way distracts from our soul's higher purpose."
It may be news to you that your soul and your dusty pile of old high school year books are connected, but the important thing is, everyone benefits from a serious, laugh-filled go at spring cleaning.
(That's my secret: Spring clean with a friend. She gives you three to 100 hours of her time, and you repay the favor. And if you've never done nighttime cleaning with a friend, or willing partner, perhaps accompanied by your favorite crooner and a bottle of red, you really should give it a try.)
Here are a few helpful hints from "The Chotchky Challenge" and from my own experience as a declutterer-in-progress:
— BE AWARE. As you look at your stuff — in your closet or garage or storage space that's costing you $75 a month or more — decide what has crossed what Dennis calls "the line of excess." "Anything in excess is a hindrance to your life," he says. "If you can't sell it, put in on your curb with a sign that reads FREE."
—ATTACK THE BATHROOM. What percentage of your hair gel, toothpaste, soap, makeup, lotions, shampoos, over-the-counter drugs, under-the-counter drugs and vitamins have crossed the line? Dennis calls it "bathroomotchky," something I would never do, and tells you to go through your drawers and cabinets and get rid of everything that you've outgrown, don't use or that's out of date. Recycle the glass and plastic containers, and ask your local environmental group about the best way to get rid of old drugs and meds that does not involve flushing them down the toilet.
— CONFRONT YOUR CUPBOARDS. Dennis asks: How much food to you feel is truly empowering you, and what percentage is "foodotchky?" (I see an unfortunate trend here.) He advises you to "throw away everything that doesn't contribute to making you feel happy, healthy and energized. If the junk isn't there, you won't miss it." This is extremely optimistic on his part but totally doable on your part. I struggle with it, but I suggest you recycle unwanted food instead of tossing it, because there are way too many hungry people in America.
— EDIT AND LIMIT YOUR MEDIA. We are bombarded by excess information, says the author. "If Mozart, DaVinci and Thomas Edison had been distracted by Facebook five hours a day, would they have found time to express their genius? Informotchky is insidious and clutters the most precious storage space we have — our mind!"
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! THE MEANING OF LIBEROTCHKY
"As you get rid of the Chotchky surrounding you ... your heart feels lighter, and your mood is brighter ... you suddenly find the time and energy that was always missing to channel into your heart's true desires. It is truly liberating." — Barry A. Dennis
Marilynn Preston - wellness coach, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, http://marilynnpreston.com and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.