During this time, we remove all the clutter from our lives so that our souls have some breathing room. White space. A chance to pray and to journal and to listen. To do this, a lot of Catholics choose one or two things to fast from—things that might ordinarily be fogging up their headspace. Last year I gave up spending money because my obsession with finding the perfect capsule wardrobe became all consuming.
This year I gave up sugar (including cane sugar, honey, and maple syrup) and television (including Netflix, Hulu, and any possible way to watch TV or movies). I did this because these two things have become things I’ve relied upon for comfort. A sweet dollop of maple syrup on my oatmeal to satiate me. Or an episode of Scandal to help me relax after the work day. But I want to rely on God instead. And if I’m not watching TV, that opens up a nice little pocket of time that I can spend praying, journaling, arranging flowers, learning French, and practicing calligraphy (to name a few).
I also fasted on Ash Wednesday eating only bread and vegan cheese to get me through the day, and will do the same on Good Friday. But in-between, I wanted to truly take this fast to do a little “spring cleaning of the soul.” My life feels very good and steady and stable, and I don’t really have a lot of plans for it. I have a wonderful husband, we do not plan to have children, we want to one day purchase a home, to travel, and to advance in our careers, but for the most part we have all we could ever want and need and so it feels as if there is nothing coming up that I need to “work on.”
Because of this, I want to take these 40-days to deep clean my life so that I feel nice and open to whatever God has in store for me. It’s like when you get rid of all of your clothes (Marie Kondo style) and then suddenly your closet has a lot of space in it. A few months later when you find the perfect blush sweater from Vince you immediately know that it was the missing piece all along and that there’s the perfect space for it in your closet. That’s how I feel. I don’t know what is missing in my life, or what is coming up for it, but I would like to make room for it so that when it comes, I’m ready.
So I wrote a checklist of all that I did (and am doing) this past weekend and in the 40-days to come to deep clean my life for lent. Here it is.
How to deep clean your life (a checklist)
Deep clean your house
- Clean out your closet: take all of your clothing out your closets and drawers and go through everything one-by-one. Pair your collection down to your most essential and most beautiful basics. Get rid of the rest. Wipe down your closet, invest in matching hangers, then fold and hang everything to perfection and put it back into place. Take any shoes that need new soles to the cobbler. Take any clothes that need to be altered to alterations. Take any dry cleaning to the cleaners. Do all your laundry.
- Clean out your kitchen: take everything out of the cupboards, wipe everything down, and get rid of anything non-essential or that you haven’t used in awhile or that is expired (you wouldn’t believe how many expired spices I had in there!) Do the same for the inside of your fridge. Put only the essentials back into place.
- Deep clean your house: Empty every drawer, cupboard, or closet, wipe everything down, get rid of anything non-essential. Put only the essentials back into place. Wipe every surface down, dust everything that needs to be dusted, sweep every floor, mop every floor, and vacuum every rug. If you haven’t gotten your rugs professionally cleaned ever, take them to the dry cleaners (you’ll breathe a lot easier!)
- Deep clean your bathroom: Take everything out of the cupboards and drawers. Wipedown your cupboards and drawers. Get rid of your plunger and your toilet brush and purchase new ones on Amazon. Clean your toilet and your bathtub/shower. Get rid of anything non-essential or that you don’t use. Recycle empty bottles. If you wear retainers, take them out of their cases and soak them in white vinegar. Put their cases in the dishwasher. Scrub the retainers with a toothbrush then put them back into their case.
- Shred all papers: I am extremely adamant about not having any kind of “paper” in the house. Especially since it tends to accumulate over time. Go through all of your papers, determine what you can recycle, and what you actually need to keep. Then, of the things you need to keep, get the Evernote app, create a notebook (mine is called “Essentials”), and scan all of that paper into the notebook. Then shred the paper copy.
Deep clean your bags
- Clean out your purse, your luggage, and your toiletry bags: Take everything out, wipe down the inside and outside of your bags. Throw out anything old or that you don’t use anymore. Refill your travel toiletries. Take the bags to the cleaners if they are overdue to be professionally cleaned. Put only the essentials back in place.
- Clean out your makeup bag: Get rid of anything that is old, expired, or never worn. Wipe down or clean the bag. Wipe down all of your makeup containers. Clean your makeup brushes using water and a gentle cleaner (like Dr. Bronners), dry them. Put only the essentials back in place.
- Clean out your grocery bags: Throw away all the veggie bits that have somehow accumulated in the bottom of your shopping bags. Turn the bags inside out and throw them into the laundry. You only need 2-3 grocery bags so get rid of all the extra ones that have accumulated over the years. Dry and put in the back of your car.
Clean out your electronics
- Organize your computer: Delete any old files, and organize your file folders so that there is a place for everything and everything in its place. Clean out your “download” folder and your “trash” folder.
- Organize your phone: Delete apps you no longer use on your phone. Organize your apps so that everything is nice and tidy. Delete old Spotify playlists and pare them down to your favorite songs.
- Delete old social media profiles: Delete any social media accounts you don’t use anymore. That includes Periscope or that old Twitter account you got just so you could follow the musings of certain presidents.
- Unfollow people: Go through everyone you are following on Instagram and unfollow anyone you are not obsessed or who does not inspire you. And definitely unfollow anyone you are not really friends with or are just following because you are afraid to unfollow them (this is not Facebook people, they can keep following you, you can just stop following them!).
- Unfriend people: If you are on Facebook, unfriend anyone that is not actually one of your CURRENT friends. If you are hanging on to them just because you knew them at one point, you’ll just feel the weight of them every time you post. Plus they take up valuable social space that you can use to invest in the friends who are currently filling you up.
- Tidy up your online presence: Google yourself. You may be surprised to see all of the places you or your picture pop up. If anything out there is not relevant to who you are right now (or could hinder you in future job searches), email the person or company that mentions you and ask if they can please remove the post. And if you see any links to online profiles you used to have, log into those and delete them. You never know if you might run for president someday.
Fast from all excesses
- Fast from indulgent foods: This means eating less food overall (never feel completely full); eating less oils, fats, and salts; and abstaining from sugar.
- Fast from excessive spending: This means eating more at home and cooking simpler means, it means no shopping sprees or purchasing big vacations, it means using money for simple joys, not exorbitant delights.
- Fast from time fillers: Spend less time watching TV and less time on your phone.
Once this process was finished, I had several piles of things to take care of: things to throw away, things to recycle, things to send to Goodwill, electronics to be recycled, things to return to friends, book donations for the library, coins to deposit at the bank, clothing and upholstery to be dry cleaned, CO2 cartridges to replenish (for my sparkling water maker), and a random disposable camera to have developed. I piled all of this stuff into my car and will be making my rounds of errands throughout the next two weeks.
Now that our lives are empty of all excesses we have the time and space to focus on sleeping well at night and spending more time in prayer, reading scripture, and journaling. These things will nourish our souls so that by the end of these 40-days, we’ll know exactly what it’s time to bring into our lives. Whether that’s a new job, a move to a new home, or simply a new haircut, we’ll have the space in our lives to welcome it.