Meditations on Home Organization: Ritual Pleasures or Routine Pressures
In my last article, I talked about Space and how we relate to it, asking questions to get you thinking. I also promised some on-the-ground tips for how to incorporate ritual into the mundane by working with the natural cycles we are a part of. So, here goes:
‘Spring Cleaning’ is an important tradition for me, even in the Bay Area where we see milder winters. After being holed up, getting through the winter months, we come out ready to greet the world again! With Covid shifting, we have all had a mighty spring of reconstituting and integrating all that has happened over the last 18 months.
Spring Cleaning is both practical and symbolic. This is my favorite combination because it uses the cycles already in place to help you in real time, on the ground. I imagine time as a series of cycles, interlocking and spiraling upwards.
We have the lovely repetition of day and night, the weeks, the months, and the years. Personally, I set different goals for myself, using both our calendar and the lunar calendar, as well as incorporating the seasonal changes, solstices and equinoxes to ritualize my habits of cleaning and cleansing.
Starting with the day, I make my bed. I wrote about this in a previous article but I reiterate it here. You want to set yourself up for success and, as I like to say, “Help future Sarah.” That means making my bed so I am setting the stage for a clean and focused day, and when it’s time to get into bed that night, I have my cozy covers all reset and ready for another night of dreamy sleep.
I have also made it a practice to clean the kitchen every night before I go to sleep. No matter how tired I am, I do the dishes to set the tone for the next day; a clean restart where I am happy to make coffee and breakfast and greet the day. The two practices are practical ways I maintain a respect for myself and my space and my stuff.
Sunday is “chore day” for me. It’s a holy day in many cultures, and I honor my space by cleaning it thoroughly once a week. Again, it’s a practice of setting the tone for the week to come, taking stock in the weekend’s activities, and focusing on the week to come while enjoying the day in a calm way. I water my house plants, do laundry, and clean and put everything back in its place. The more resetting you do, especially with kids or people who have a hard time putting things back, the more of a weekly habit you make this, the easier it becomes. When everything has a place, it isn’t as overwhelming to put it back.
If you have kids, Sunday is a great chore day. The whole family can work together to make the house a nice living space for everyone. The kids can clean their rooms, take out trash, water plants, fold laundry. Sharing in the activity is a help, and it teaches them responsibility and respect for themselves and their stuff.
These may be lofty ideals, but it’s how I grew up. I think it is important to teach children these skills. No one wants to do chores, but if it’s reframed as a family activity and becomes ritualized, I think there is more room for it to be fun. “Many hands make light work” is a great motivational proverb. Also, incentivizing the work with a fun activity after it’s all done can work wonders.
Do a deep clean once a month around the full or new moon, whichever feels better. The New Moon is traditionally a time to start things, and the Full moon is a time to finish, the culmination of your efforts. I find it hard to live by both the Lunar and Gregorian calendar, but I try in small ways to honor the natural cycle of the moon.
I choose one of the two to do a deeper clean and cleansing of the refrigerator, my car, and my art studio. In terms of self care, these days also feel good for a more extensive hygiene ritual, i.e. bathing, scrub, haircuts, body care, etc. I love finding positive ways to take care of myself and my space using the energy of the moon as inspiration. If I start a project on the New Moon, then I watch as both the moon grows in the sky each day, and how much effort I give to my project with each passing day. It’s a friendly reminder that keeps me on track to finish by the next full moon.
Expanding further out, we are looking at the year, with two equinoxes and two solstices. If you are interested, I recommend doing some research about these four days of the year and what they represent and the power they hold.
Spring Equinox is a great day to get started on Spring cleaning, but you can also use the other three days to do a bigger purge. The idea here is, again, while you maintain yourself and your space and your things in small ways throughout the days, weeks, and months, by the time you get to these yearly dates, there isn’t that much work to be done and the task is much less overwhelming.
For families, purging on these four days can mean donating outdated toys, if they have begun to build up again, and donating any clothing kids may have outgrown. Anything that has built up should be purged again and put back in its home. You are setting the tone for the next phase of the year, a spiritual ritual to ground your intentions in your actions.
With each practice of resetting and calibration — whether it’s in the small actions in the day, or the bigger resets of the year — intention is important. It all helps me come back to basics and remember what my goals are. These rituals help me place myself in time, and show appreciation for all I have, what I have to give, and how far I have come.
It fosters a sense of self respect and dignity to take care this way, and it makes me feel more of a reciprocal relationship with my surroundings — taking care of them so they can take care of me. Future Sarah is always grateful to Past Sarah for these efforts!
If you have any questions or want to talk more about these ideas, please don't hesitate to reach out.