Yes, spring gets me invariably to thinking about spring cleaning, but not just in terms of tackling build-up of clutter in the home. I find myself wanting to detoxify my body, clean up my diet, reconsider my life goals, and to examine my daily habits. Am I living in the kind of environment that I want to? Am I feeling my best? Am I mentally sharp? Emotionally content? Am I spending my time on the things that matter to me? In other words, I take the quote above, by nineteenth-century designer William Morris, beyond my home surroundings. Am I putting things into my body that are useful, nutritious and tasty? Am I setting aside time for relationships, spiritual development and hobbies? Am I spending my money on things that enrich my life? I think these are important questions and April is the perfect time to ponder them as we transition from winter into spring with increased energy and initiative as the days grow longer.
I love the quote by William Morris, although talk about a guy with a messy personal life! He was the "Martha Stewart" of his time--a design genius who marketed his concept of stylized nature patterns producing textiles, wallpapers, furniture and house designs. His "Red House" in London is a National Trust property that stands as a quintessential example of Arts & Crafts style architecture. His best selling pattern of all time was "Willow" and it still sells very well as a representation of simplicity, elegance and taste. It's soft teal and olive greens still resonate smartly today. His Lotus Blossom pattern also remains popular and is ethereal. How cool to have your work still selling a hundred years after its creation! He wanted to pare things down from the overly-ornate style of the Victorian era and to celebrate the sleek, elegant forms of flora and fauna. He believed in muted natural tones and highlighting warm wood colors.
Morris' personal life was not so simple. His wife, Jane Morris, became a popular model for painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This was a group of earnest and talented, but rather self-absorbed and immature, artists who also wanted to buck Victorian formalism. They revered medieval narratives of King Arthur's court, Shakespeare's plays, ancient mythology and the stories of the Old Testament. They sought to combine romantic treatment of subject matter with realism in terms of their technique. They produced some beautiful works that still sell in reprint form very well today, however they were not the most stable lot. Jane Morris became the mistress of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a painter and self-proclaimed poet who set up house over the summers with Jane and her children while William was traveling seeking design inspiration. I guess they all had an understanding, but I have trouble respecting Rosetti. After his first wife died of a morphine overdose, he buried a book of his poetry (handwritten) with her in her coffin. Deciding later on that this was "good stuff" that he wanted to publish, he had her body exhumed to retrieve the book. I find that incredibly creepy and selfish--and trust me, he was no Longfellow.
So, some spring cleaning lessons from Morris, his quote and his life:
- Life is too short for clutter. Start purging items that are neither useful or beautiful. Start with one a day. It can become addictive (in a good way)! And don't ever regret what you've passed on to someone else.
- Life is too short for toxic relationships. Start working some distance into them. Let the answering machine get the phone. Don't respond to the text or email. Skip the "happy hour" that turns into an unhappy complaining session. Seek out those who are useful (meaning supportive) and beautiful people (on the inside).
- Life is too short for your body to be filled with toxins. Simple solution: A big, big cup of hot water with a squeezed in wedge of lemon first thing in the morning. Just witness how clean it makes you feel.
p.s. Check out "Healing Traditions" if you want to learn more in-depth about practices that can clean up your inner and outer environments!