How Spring Cleaning Helped Me Get a New Start on My Dream

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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It had been the door that simply remained closed in my house, the room I didn’t show anyone. Right behind my kitchen table where I normally sit with my laptop, writing this blog and doing work for clients in my bright and sunny kitchen, I just kept that white door tightly shut when giving house tours!

Behind the closed door is the room that had been my office, before I decided that I preferred working in the kitchen, with its coral accent wall, exposed brick, and large bank of windows at the back. I love being in a sunny space, and watching the sky change colors at sunset here on the west side of the house.

my sunny kitchen

After I turned my former storage closet in the front of the house into a little meditation room, I started to use the office as a “storage room,” since there isn’t much closet space in my apartment. My home was built in 1845 and was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and it’s a gorgeous historic home with elegant historic detailing, but not a lot of storage space.

Over time, my office accumulated piles of papers and books, and then boxes and bags of clothes I intended to get rid of, and soon enough the floor was covered with stuff. After a while it just felt overwhelming! I avoided opening that door because I wasn’t even sure how to get started with organizing it.

Dealing with It!

Underneath all those boxes was a pretty room waiting to emerge again.

The office has royal blue walls and white trim, since I’d read somewhere that blue is a great color for creativity, and I loved the brightness of it. It has a wall of built-in white bookshelves and a desk that was made by setting a door over four wooden filing cabinets.

Whether I reclaimed it as an office or a spare bedroom, I knew it was time to let that room become part of my happy home again.

I was sure a feng shui expert would point to it as a source of blocked energy.  I knew it needed to be dealt with eventually.

(Does anyone else have that “I’ll get to it someday” space in the house, by the way? Perhaps some of you have a closet, a corner of the basement or a drawer or two somewhere where you stash all the stuff you don’t know what to do with right away. That was my blue room!)

Luckily my awesome mom decided that she wanted to help me unclutter the office as a birthday present, since she figured that would be more worthwhile to me than a gift of more “stuff.”

Cleaning Up The World!

Last Saturday, on Earth Day weekend when clean-ups were taking place around the world, my mom and my 24-year-old sister Margaret headed to my house from Massachusetts to clean up this little corner of the world. It was time to make the blue office a workable space again!

And time to clear the energy in the house. It felt daunting to tackle all that accumulated clutter, but I knew we’d make it happen as a team.

My sister and mom arrived Saturday morning and we dove into it. Beatles music playing in the background, Margaret started sorting piles, while my mom put away dishes and straightened up the kitchen.

I had to decide what went into recycling, what got tossed, and what would get shredded. I’m a pretty sentimental person, and I love cards and photos, so we kept stacks of those: cards I’d received, blank cards I’d bought to give to someone someday, miscellaneous pictures from all different eras of my life so far.

Some decisions were easy to make. Magazines got recycled, old bills that had been paid and dealt with got shredded, old journals got saved. There were so many notepads full of notes, from past client projects and my notes about my own creative projects.

What to save, what to toss? Which notebooks were worth keeping?

Notes From A Happy Life!

I found notebook after notebook filled with affirmations and intentions about what I want to create. You could find evidence of all the self-development work and spiritual practices I’ve engaged in over time on every other page.

Does one keep notes that point to the path? Or let them go and just live it? I kept journals that also told stories of my travels and romances, about how my book got started.

I kept notebooks from my writing coach about how to write a book, since I am still completing mine.

I kept old and newer drafts of the book, knowing that I may still want to look back at older drafts, or save parts of them.

And I tossed lots and lots of to-do lists that had been checked-off, and lists of intentions for the day, for what I wanted to experience in a day: love, fun, joy, miracles, magic.

I have experienced SO much magic in my life, so those intentions must make a difference.

Old Clothes, Got To Go

Several bags of clothes and shoes that don’t fit or don’t suit me any longer were put in the truck of the car to be taken to the Goodwill. Since my bedroom closet is still overflowing with all kinds of outfits, from the very casual to floor-length backless sparkling ballgowns (like the blue one I wore to the Obama inauguration!), there just seemed to be no point in holding on to those that aren’t a match for my personality any longer. I’m definitely keeping the gown, however!

Obama inauguration gown

Shoes I’d bought on sale to match an outfit that pinch my toes had to go. I did hang onto all my favorite pairs of pumps that are the most fun, just because I love the look of a gorgeous pair of heels.

I am looking at this as a chance to update my wardrobe with a look of more understated elegance. I love dressing in flashy outfits for fun sometimes, as those who know me know well, and also figure that to advance to the next stage in my career and life, looking classy and elegant is good.

Vision Boards

I also found old vision boards with images of things I had already created in my life, which is always encouraging! And some with future visions yet to come. Those all got saved just because it’s fun to see what we have created already, and where we want our dreams to lead us next.

I believe so strongly, and have seen it in my own life and the lives of those around me so many times, that when we hold a vision of what we most want to create, our greatest heart’s desire, and follow our joy to lead us in that direction, miracles happen.

I love vision boards for that reason, since they can be a springboard to miracles and dreams, and are just fun to piece together!

A Live Well Lived (and Just Beginning!)

The fun part about sorting through all your old stuff is that you get to revisit memories of happy times and amazing things you have created.

I have to look back on my life so far and say –  it has been amazing!

I have had the privilege of traveling extensively on four continents, so far, which was always a dream; made incredible friends all around the world; taught with my spiritual teacher in India; danced professionally; written a book (still in process, but getting there!); graduated from Harvard and Princeton; worked on important initiatives for my community here in Troy, New York; done strategic planning work for the City and County of San Francisco; raised tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for various organizations through planning fundraising; and mostly just had great adventures and shared a lot of LOVE, which is what matters most to me.

From here I get to leap into the next phase of my life: doing even more writing, coaching and teaching, which I love, and seeing how I will integrate my public service background more fully into my life again now.

Lessons Learned That Matter Most!

Spending all that time with my old “stuff” and looking through old notebooks reminded me of the life lessons that matter most to me. So here are the life lessons that I’ve learned that I would love to share with everyone around the world:

  1. Follow your joy to create a life you love.
    This is an oldie but a goodie, like Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss,” and it is just so true! When you feel true joy when moving in a certain direction, it’s a good sign that you are on the path to lots more happiness.
  2. Be true to yourself.
    You are the one person you will spend the rest of your life with, so honor and love yourself, and learn to trust your own instincts about how best to live your life.
  3. No matter what the question is, love is the answer.
    Looking back on my life so far, I have always felt good about my choices when they came from love. Sometimes I have let fear enter into my decision-making process, and then I’m not always as happy with the results. Choosing from a place of love always works. Ask yourself, what would love do? when making an important choice, or meditate on it. Move towards what joyously expands you!
  4. Miracles happen when we follow a path with heart.
    I have always experienced great synchronicity and miracles when moving towards my dreams, with love. This is what I want for everyone!

By the end of eight hours of working on that room together, we had an organized office, with books neatly lined up on the shelves, the floor clear and swept. We celebrated with pizza and wine by candlelight.

Hoping we can all tackle the physical and mental clutter that can keep us “stuck” and live lives we love! Here’s to that!


  • Organization is such an uplifting feeling when you are done!  It frees up space to invite in the new.