Now that the sun is shining, the nights are getting lighter, and April is drawing closer, you might get that annual urge to have a good old spring clean. I certainly do. Everything gets spruced up and refreshed. Once it's done, I feel amazing and ready to tackle anything.
It's no surprise that National Spring Cleaning Week takes place every March. It's a campaign to encourage everyone to clean their homes for the new season. And they push the benefits: how it leaves you feeling motivated, liberated and energised.
But aside from dusting and polishing your home, what about your life? Your money, your work – even your health? Could you take a little time this month to get organised and enjoy the benefits of a spring clean? The following tips will help you take stock and reassess.
Spring clean your technology
When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard? Because according to Which?, your keyboard can harbour more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat! Clean it immediately (see these tips on free keyboard cleaning tools, and then everything else that's on your desk. Headphones included, as well as a laptop screen, tablet and smartphone.
Aside from cleaning your technology and devices, you'll need to spring clean what's on them. Work files, documents, letters – are they logically stored? Can you easily find them in the right folders? Do you even need to keep them? Take some time to go through your Dropbox, or whatever cloud storage solution you use, and organise where files are placed. For me, I tend to label things by date so that I can keep things in a logical order, for example: '17-03-21 Name of File'.
What about photographs? I still use Flickr to store my images in the cloud (pretty old school, but I'm loyal), and I back them up on Dropbox as well as on an external hard drive. It might take some time whenever I have something new to upload and store, but it keeps everything organised and easy to find.
Spring clean your finances
We're often advised to sit down and go through our finances regularly. But at this time of year, why not give everything a thorough sort and clean?
To kick things off, download or print out all of your recent bank statements and go through every single item. Is there anything that you could get rid of? Any standing orders that no longer make sense? Do you need that expensive Sky subscription? Could you shift a credit card debt to an interest-free one? Are you paying too much interest on an overdraft – could you change this?
Nothing makes me feel happier than being in control of my money. It's amazing the peace of mind I get when I know exactly what's in my bank account and how much is coming in.
If you tend to be someone who sticks their head in the sand and always seems to be hitting the overdraft, check out Martin Lewis's helpful Money Makeover guide for some tips on overhauling your finances.
Spring clean your health
Those New Year resolutions are long gone, and summer isn't far away. If you've been frowning at your lack of motivation to get fit and healthy, now's a great chance to take stock and change your approach.
Start with assessing what's in your fridge, freezer and food cupboards. Remove anything that isn't doing you any favours (sugar anyone?) and go food shopping to stock your kitchen with healthy options: vegetables, fruit, non-processed and natural choices. Don't think that you're depriving yourself by cutting out chocolate (opt for darker chocolate treats, if you must); consider healthy food as something that will nourish you, and make you feel fantastic.
Worried about the cost of healthy food? Here are some extra tips for eating clean on a budget:
- Don't be afraid of buying shop brands – quality is often just as good
- Stick to produce that's in season – there'll be plenty of it. Thus the price will come down
- Know when to skip organic – things like onions, avocados and cabbage absorb minimal crop chemicals (but buy organic apples, strawberries, grapes and celery)
- Buy frozen fruits and veg – they're an affordable option and often more nutritious than fresh
- Don't let things go to waste – slightly out-of-date veg can be turned into soup or thrown into a stew.
Once you've tweaked your diet, introduce a little more exercise. We're all so desk and sofa-bound these days, it's no wonder many of us aren't as fighting fit as we'd like. We sit in our car or on the train to get to work; we sit at our desks, and then we sit on the sofa to enjoy the latest Netflix Original series. Stop. Get moving! Could you take a stroll after dinner? Could you change your commute to incorporate more walking or cycling?
It's tough to get motivated and take steps to be healthier, but small changes are the way to go. Introduce one healthy option each day and go from there. If you always have orange juice at breakfast, for example, could you replace it with a mug of green tea? Every little tweak helps; keep telling yourself that and great things will happen.
Spring clean your business
If you're a freelancer reading this, then what could you do to spring clean your work? Could you find a better task management tool to get organised? Could an alternative accounting system help? (I recommend FreeAgent.) What about your website? Is it time for a rethink?
What about clients? Is there someone holding you back? A company that never seems to pay on time? Could you cope without? Read our tips on how to weed out unwanted clients to spring clean your business.
For me, I'm always changing things and reassessing what is and isn't working for my own business, Boomerang. Whether it's processes, tools, software applications or my online presence – there is always something I can improve. And the benefits are enormous. I feel in control, ready to tackle anything and as though a weight has lifted from my shoulders.
Spring clean your spare time
Away from work, how are you spending your free time? Are you slumped in front of the television, enjoying a fresh beer? (Hey, no one is judging – Designated Survivor is addictive!) Although it does no harm to relax and occasionally enjoy a little drama on the flashing box, could there be something else you could be doing to unwind? Something creative, perhaps? Have you always wanted to learn how to paint, cross-stitch, potter, sculpt, code...?
Aside from telly, how else could you be spending your time? Reading is one of my favourite pastimes. My home is full of bookshelves and books, all just waiting for me to devour. Nothing makes me happier than standing back to observe my shelves, pondering over what to read next and then curling up to get lost in another world. Need inspiration? London Review of Books is a good shout. Or why not join a book club? Check out Reader's Circle to find one in your local area, or why not start your own?