As the year ends, I remember holidays past. On New Year's Eve 1989 I spent the night with a departed friend reading the bible and listening to Christian radio. We lived in the housing project then, and after midnight, I trooped back to my apartment-2L-and was inspired to write "Time to Start Spring Cleaning." On January 15, 1990 I had my first byline. I wrote about doing spring-cleaning in January to beat the winter blues and blahs.
I suggested: "The junk piles of our minds get awfully cluttered over the years, as well as our closets." My antidote: "The perfect time to throw out the mental and physical junk cluttering our lives is in January-the beginning of a new year-when we often have so much time on our hands that it leads us to negative thoughts." I urged readers: "Admit it: your appointment book may not be full, so why not fit yourself in?"
It's coming up on eight years since I published that article, and I'd like to talk about some ideas for clearing out the cobwebs. First, I'll tackle the physical space. Some solutions I have:
- For every new thing you buy, such as an item of clothing, donate one old thing to charity or toss it in the garbage.
- To refresh your apartment on a budget, change the décor with the seasons. I have two sets of placemats that I rotate in the fall and spring. Also, my mother made me four wreathes with different color flowers that I hang on the front door and change each season.
- On New Year's Day, if you have nothing to do, go through your file cabinet or files and see what you can recycle or shred. I generally keep utility bills for one year, and credit card statements, too. When you go back over the credit card statements, you'll see where you've been spending too much.
- The Container Store, http://www.containerstore.com/, has great storage options, and you can see if there's a bricks-n-mortar store near you.
- If spending three hours in a row cleaning isn't feasible, beak it up into "zones" and do one or two rooms each night, for three or four nights in a row.
- Invest in a good vacuum cleaner.
When you have a neat, organized apartment, you'll be free of the mental clutter, too. Letting go of things that are old and unused, and jettisoning them like dead weight, allows you the room to bring new people and experiences into your life. I once had a friend whose house was so overstuffed it was like she was buried under her things. She had a pile of papers on her coffee table-no exaggeration-two feet high, and when she reached the bottom, she found missing credit card statements she had yet to pay.
Keeping your apartment clean and clutter-free is a sign of respect for yourself. It also allows you to host dinner parties or have people over at a moment's notice. It is an act of healing when you have nothing to hide: from yourself, and in your apartment.
The cobwebs in our mind also could use a good cleaning. I have some solutions here, too:
- Write your story and get it down on paper and out of your head. Nobody has to see it, and you don't have to publish it, but that's okay-release it from your mind and body. Alternatively, record your story into a tape recorder and play it back. Finding your voice is the ultimate way to heal from the schizophrenia.
- Instead of making a New Year's resolution, commit to only one specific, achievable goal, and aim for that. It will pave the way for you to set other goals in the future.
- When you see your psychiatrist, be honest about what's working and not working. Now may be the time for an adjustment in medication, or a trip to your primary care doctor to coordinate blood work and find out if you're at risk for any medical conditions, because of the drugs you're on.
- Spend New Year's Day in quiet enjoyment. Listen to your favorite music. Make a list of the things you like about yourself. Even if it's hard to come up with something, pick one thing, such as "I like my blue eyes."
In January, a relationship clean-up could be in order, too. Seven years ago in January I had a falling out with a friend, and I lost her. Every holiday season after that I felt the loss. It wasn't until this year that I understood perfectly that one must think in terms of eras or moments in our life, not in terms of a whole lifetime. Our lives are not all of one piece. My litmus test is this: Did I enjoy myself? Was that time in my life one I look back on with cherished memories? Did I do what I needed to do at that point in my recovery?
All good things come to an end. Now is the time a lot of us feel like going back and trying to resuscitate old friendships. I suggest before you pick up the phone, ask yourself if that would be healthy. Sometimes you have to move on, even if great feelings of loss come on at the holidays. This year, I've decided to do a slow fade from one friendship and keep another friend at arm's length.
Letting go is the hardest part of recovery. Yet to move forward we must let go of the past. You may feel dizzy and lightheaded thinking of clearing out and cleaning up. Enlist a good friend to help you with your apartment. Seek out a therapist if you feel the need to compose yourself and get your thoughts in order.
I wish for you peace of mind now and best wishes always.
May your holidays be blessed with cherished moments that become sweet memories.
Published On: December 10, 2007