Every now and again, a time will come when you realize you need to start pitchin’ and ditchin’ so you can make room for better things. And by better things I mean, better, healthier thoughts and habits, nicer, more useful things, and cleaner more life-affirming beliefs.
But this work isn’t always easy because sometimes we are often really comfy with what we know isn’t working. Yes, we say we don’t like it, but deep down we’re more invested in avoiding the change than we are in making the change to do what we know is right.
If you find yourself in housecleaning mode and need a little motivation but don’t know where to get started, let these four steps motivate you to get going and make a clean sweep.
Step 1: Pick an Area to Clean
Choose one area of your life – it can be a room in your house, a habit, a nagging pattern you want to change, etc. and write down specifically what you want to change. Then write down what you want this area to look when you’re through cleaning, keeping in mind that your goal should be something sustainable.
Perfection is the enemy here! Aim for a result that will leave you feeling like you’ve done a good job but one you can maintain in your new state of tidiness over time.
Step 2: Call Out the Mess in the Road
One of the hardest parts about cleaning house is getting real about what the “mess in the road” really is. Most of the time keeping your house (or your mind) straightened up and running smoothly isn’t about the actual cleaning work itself, it’s about the underlying habits, beliefs, and thoughts operating behind the scenes.
If you find yourself back in a nagging pattern you want to change, ask yourself why that pattern rewards you. Sound strange? Maybe. But humans are creatures of habit, and we do things repeatedly because they give us some reward.
It’s much easier for our brains to take the well-beaten path than to take the time and effort to machete hack our way through the forest using new thoughts and lots of energy. That destination better be worth it, or we’re not going to make the effort!
To make your house cleaning effective and sustainable, think about how you’ll be rewarded by your end goal. All too often we keep doing the same thing because the reward is avoidance, denial, or in essence, hiding.
Your big mess in the road may be that you’d rather just avoid or work around something that needs to be taken care of and once that obstacle is handled, not only will you be relieved (your reward), but you’ll also have a much easier time cleaning up other small messes that may have mushroomed out of the bigger mess that has now been obliterated.
Step 3: Stay Curious and Make a List
Now that you’ve chosen an area and figured out the underlying big mess that needs to be cleaned up get really curious about what you can do to start taking action NOW and write those things down. To make real progress, you always have to take action. Here are some examples of items that start with action verbs:
- Have conversation with Bob about leaving socks in the living room
- Schedule time in calendar to meditate for 20 minutes
- Meditate for 20 minutes
- Call and schedule time for charities to pick up donations
- Purchase two bins to hold recycled paper and important incoming mail
Don’t worry about how long your list is and don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything this week or this month. Making a list not only acts as a catalyst for getting something done, but it also serves as a funnel; once you have your list, you can then start choosing things to do and start moving forward.
Step 4: Gather Energy and Make It Happen
You may have the best of intentions and think you’re motivated to clean up what’s going on in your life, but when the time comes to do it, you find yourself simply unable to do what’s required. And sometimes this will, in fact, be justified. You have a list, you want to mark things off, but there are simply too many other to-dos you need to accomplish in too little time. This may leave you discouraged, and so you either give up or blame yourself, both of which still result in no change.
When this happens (and it will), there is a fix, and it’s called Cut a Drain to Create a Gain. This step asks you cut energy drains so you can create energy gains. Look at your calendar, get ruthless about where and how you’re spending your time, and ask yourself honestly where you can change.
This may require you to make decisions, have conversations, and do things that are outside your comfort zone (and may also bring up other underlying messes in the road) but in order to truly clean house, you will have to prioritize time to do it, and that will mean making tradeoffs of both time and energy.
Remember bullet # 2 in Step 3? “Schedule time in calendar to meditate for 20 minutes.” The simple act of scheduling time in your calendar is a crucial step in cleaning house because it asks you to commit. When you block time on your calendar (and please don’t cheat and schedule that time as tentative), you’ve now made a commitment: to yourself, to others, and to your cleaning. Just like a business meeting, your cleaning is important; without it, you won’t be able to bring new energy into your life.
If something related to your cleaning is in your calendar, you must view it as essential, just like a meeting, family time, or any other commitment you’ve deemed to be non-negotiable.
The bottom line is, if you’re not taking action, you won’t get results. You can spend (and waste) a lot of time “planning,” “researching,” and “strategizing” but at some point, you must break out and TAKE. THE. ACTION.
Cleaning house, whether it be to add beauty to a room, break a negative pattern, or improve your thoughts and perspective can push you out of your comfort zone. It will require you to make different choices and try new approaches. By choosing one area, calling out your own mess in the road, making a list, and choosing the best ways to spend your energy to make progress, you can confidently ditch the old and welcome in the new.