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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Have You Tried Spring Cleaning Your Mind? by Fran Joyce


Last year, we really went into detail about spring cleaning – what products to use – how to clean each room in your house – how to stay organized.

I hope you’ll check out our spring cleaning articles using our search engine or by clicking on the suggested articles listed after this one because I don’t want to waste space covering the same information.

This year, I want to talk about what I like to call Mental Spring Cleaning. Simply put, Mental Spring Cleaning is about jettisoning bad habits and nurturing positive ones. I’m going to share some of my old habits and how I plan to turn them around.

Physical and mental clutter

When the mail comes, I look through it and open anything important. If I’m busy and I usually find a way to be busy, I put the rest of the mail in a stack (fancier word for a pile) on my kitchen counter with the plan of recycling as much as I can and tossing or shredding the rest. My “stack” will eventually take over the counter if I stay busy enough (procrastinate).

This year, I’m making a greater effort to sort my mail at the kitchen sink because I keep my trash can and recycling bins under the sink. Plus it’s on the opposite side of the kitchen from my “stacking” counter. My bills go in my desk drawer and important documents get scanned into my computer. So far it’s going pretty well. I’m also trying to earmark anything I will need for tax time. In an effort to keep clutter away and save some trees, I utilize online services as much as possible – online statements for bills and other accounts and online banking.

I’m a long way from a packrat, but I have to admit to certain fears I harbor about getting rid of paperwork, emails, photos or computer files I might need.  So, not only am I giving physical space to these things, I’m letting them take up space in my head as well. I try to think of these items as “pillow tags” – the tags on pillows admonishing you not to remove them under penalty of law. If you want to break free of this irrational fear of throwing something important away, find one of those tags and cut it off right before you tackle that pile of stuff you’re afraid to toss. Once you realize the Pillow Police aren’t coming, you’ll be able to start sorting items into keep, toss and scan piles.

Letting go of items from your past

Not to over share, but after my divorce, I had to sort through 30 years’ worth of stuff. A large part of my life had suddenly been characterized as a mistake. Letting go of these physical reminders of the journey somehow seemed to affirm this characterization. My sons and I needed some physical links to the past until we could establish a new future.


The best advice I ever received about these feelings came from Jill Yesko, a professional organizer in the Pittsburgh area and the owner of Discover Organizing Inc.  Jill helped me understand the difference between a memory and a possession. If a possession is destroyed or given away, your memories associated with it are still there. Also, your memories of important life events survive even if the other people involved no longer value them.

When she’s working with seniors who are downsizing, Jill often makes a video of her client going from room to room sharing stories about special dinners at the dining room table or scratches on a coffee table that are actually teeth marks from a beloved pet. She has also made virtual and/or physical scrapbooks they can look through and share with friends and family. It’s brilliant and compassionate.

Letting go of anger and disappointment can be much harder, but having fewer physical reminders can help. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever forgive some of the people in my life who have let me down, but I can stop giving them headspace and that may be the greatest spring cleaning accomplishment of all time.


Celebrating National Library Week by Fran Joyce

Contradictions Learned at School by Orlando Bartro