Lovely Little Ways You Can Spring Clean Your Soul

Stop making frivolous purchases, hand write thank-you notes, and count your blessings (just to name a few).

may 2016 WOLIAli Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

No. 1. I will stop purchasing objects from flea markets, antiques fairs, and online dealers in a thinly disguised quest for my long-lost and occasionally misspent youth. I will remind myself that buying a nearly empty bottle containing six whiffs of Evening in Paris cologne will not conjure up my robust aunts who wore it or miraculously manifest their soft, padded shoulders against which I fell into a dreamless sleep on Sunday afternoons. I will remind myself that possessing the midnight blue, silver-capped bottle will merely force me to regret spending more money on an empty vessel than they, in their frugality and wisdom, would have spent for a full one. In my life, not only do such items evoke my own mortality, but they also need dusting. Plus, the more ridiculous of them make me recall vividly the phrase that my beloved aunts uttered on a daily basis: “Gina, for a smart girl, you’re not very bright.”

No. 2. I will stop hiding things to keep them safe because the one person from whom these valuable items remain hidden is me—I can never remember where I put something after I stash it away for safekeeping. I once hid a favorite necklace so effectively that I ended up begging every friend and family member to tear apart my closets, bookcases, and drawers to find it. My student Krissy lit candles to get the attention of St. Anthony, and with everybody’s help, including Krissy’s pal Tony, I found the necklace. Now I keep it someplace that’s easy for me to locate—around my neck.

No. 3. I will stop collecting old grievances as if they were old perfume bottles or Hummel figurines. I will get over being indignant, and I will shrug off being huffy. Impatience takes too much time, unfunny bitterness ruins the flavor of life, and resentment gives me lines that make my mouth go down at the edges, which is not a good look. I need this bad mojo even less than I need another empty bottle of Evening in Paris.

No. 4. I will never say “please” before I have said “thank you.” (Unless it’s something like passing the salt. I mean, I’m not crazy. I can say “Please pass the salt” without having to thank every d—n person for every d—n thing.)

No. 5. I will swear less.

No. 6. I will remember to send greeting cards by mail to friends and loved ones so that I might celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, and happy occasions in a timely fashion rather than relying exclusively on Facebook. This way, I will be able to acknowledge the happiest days of their lives before it is too late and without involving Mark Zuckerberg.

No. 7. While we’re on the mailing business, I will also write thank-you notes by hand, and I will encourage any young people I know to do the same. I will communicate my understanding that a card’s embossed “Thank You!” on the front does not mitigate the need to expand upon that sentiment in detail within the body of the text.

No. 8. I will put my money where my mouth is and write checks to charitable organizations whose work I know and respect. If we have the privilege, we should choose to write a check to a shelter or a local arts organization, for example, rather than buy another pair of shoes (or—you got it—another tchotchke). Yes, donating time makes a difference, but so does donating $30, if you can afford it.

No. 9. I will count my blessings whenever I am in the doldrums, count to ten when I am quarrelsome, and count on my friends when I need a laugh.

No. 10. I will encourage in myself and in others a ferocious hunger for learning and an unquenchable need to be generous. I will celebrate whenever possible, reassure whenever necessary, and prevail even if it means being called “bossy.”

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Gina Barreca
Gina Barreca is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut and a columnist with the Tribune News Service.