That Ammonia Aroma

Clean up your life by using these Spring steps

Words: Betty Stepford | Art Direction & Styling: Charl Edwards | Photography: Bevan Davis

Every year, on the last weekend of August, I like to stock up on heavy-duty cleaning supplies – sponges, rubber gloves, cloths, buckets, scrubbing brushes, old toothbrushes, paper towels, rags, vacuum cleaner, mop, broom, dustpan and a smorgasbord of various industrial-strength all-purpose cleaners - and then scrub the entire house until it smells like a hospital. 

 It sounds tragic, but I really have a lot of fun with the annual Spring clean, playing upbeat music, incorporating dodgy dance steps into the clean up and getting the whole family to particpate (the littlies are especially helpful at negotiating crawl spaces or boosting up to reach the tops of shelves). There’s polishing all the brass and silverware, rubbing teak oil into wood furniture, stripping winter bedding, taking down heavy curtains, packing away throws and winter fabrics, beating dust clouds out of rugs and then we each attend to our bedrooms where after making several piles of clothing we put our jackets and coats and heavier knits into storage and donate the stuff we haven’t worn to charity.

After the house has been sufficiently cleaned we open all doors and windows to let the fresh Spring air in, then take a walk around the neighbourhood, picking fresh flowers to place around the home. I then invite my mother-in-law around for tea, who never fails to tell me where I've failed to clean properly, and because I aim for perfection I make a note to pay more attention to these spots (although it's getting more and more difficult for her to find fault in our annual clean ups these days). 

Inspired by the season of change, I’ve come up with some tips on how to Spring Clean your life. After all, Spring signifies renewal, a sense of hope, and a fresh opportunity to do things better. After conducting an audit on my life I inspected the elements that were negatively affecting me, and then decided on what positive changes I’d need to make going forward. Because what’s the point of a fastidiously made bed if you have a messy head, right?

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Prune Your Relationships

One of the most difficult things I've ever had to do in my life is learn how to let certain people go. Toxic relationships are a major drain on your personality, and when someone who is supposed to make you feel good about yourself keeps bringing you down, you need to prune them from your life, count your losses, and move swiftly on. The frenemy can take the form of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even lovers, and it’s up to you to clean them out for good instead of simply brushing under the rug. After letting go of those frenemies who make you feel unhappy about yourself, you’ll find that you're able to make room for the people who matter. Starting with you.

Bin Your Phone

If you find unfriending toxic friends too confrontational, why not warm up by cleaning out your social media contacts first? This is great as it’s usually Sarah boasting and posting about her fantastic life that makes my eye twitch, or how my cousin Debbie is always sarcastically commenting on my pitfalls, which brings me down. I recently learned that by getting rid of these triggers it eventually led to me putting my phone down for longer periods, allowing me to focus on the positives that are right there in front of me. Instead of focusing on what’s missing from my life, I'm now able to celebrate all the good that's right there in front of me. And once I stopped stressing about having to wish all my Facebook friends a happy birthday, or accept all their Candy Crush invitations, it allowed me to put in extra effort when celebrating my real friends, in real life, where instead of crushing virtual candy we sip on cheeky white wine spritzers!

Store Up On Rest

Being busy all the time has become a form of bragging, a way of saying how much more important we are than everyone else because we're so swamped. Somewhere along the way this became the new normal. And it's not just the work deadlines and having to balance our various social obligations that’s getting us down, but thinking that we need to be the best in every aspect of our lives. Ultimately we're setting ourselves up to fail, and spreading our souls a little bit thin. Sure, like most modern women I too get off on a looming deadline, and find juggling several tasks at the same time a rush, but before this leads to my demise I've made a concerted effort to put in place some positive non-negotiables, starting with my eight hours. This time is crucial to my health, being more energised and according to my doctor promises to boost my life expectancy. And I haven't stopped there, now that I wake up earlier feeling great I've been adding to my downtime with a regular 20-minute morning meditation session. 

Makeover Your Mind

Life has become a bit of a blur, and the nature of the always-on work that we do nowadays means that we don’t often get to step away from it all. Trust me, when I took a breather it allowed me to see the bigger picture and the result is that I’m now working smarter, not harder. Because like an overflowing inbox, your psyche is always under immense pressure, and it’s up to you to take a break from it all. Spring is the perfect time to clear your mind and start approaching things from a fresh new angle, and you can reboot your brain by going on a hike, starting a new hobby, doing some sort of fitness activity, numbing yourself with wine or having the type of bone-rattling orgasm that makes your toes curl. Happy Spring!