You can find tons of lengthy, multi-tiered “spring cleaning checklists” out there. In fact, I’ve even Googled it for you. Getting organized on paper can be a huge help, like a road map on a long journey. It can also seem like a long list of crimes– and the execution of each task is your punishment.

Instead of another checklist, here’s some inspiration to help you get started. And also a great justification to skip the whole thing and wait until su

Bird by Bird

This is the title of a book by Anne Lamott that a dear friend read to me while I was in college agonizing over a research paper. She tells the story of her ten year old brother who had 3 months to write a report on birds; he finally began the day before it was due. This is the advice their father gave his teary-eyed and overwhelmed son: just take it bird by bird.

It’s the same reason you may have heard dental hygiene crusaders urging you to floss just one tooth. It’s easy to lose your way and your will when you take a perspective that is too encompassing and try to do it all at once. But most people can deal with one bird, one tooth, one drape, one stray pen cap in an overstuffed junk drawer at a time. Whittle the task as tiny as you need until it feels doable then focus on nothing else. This is the only way I know to conquer.

And if your checklist is like a road map, remember this from Doctorow via Lamott: “You can see only as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The Dark Side of Spring

But Spring fever can be as maddening as it is exhilarating. Pressure and expectations rise as your internal gears begin to shift along with the rest of the bursting and buzzing world. In this Psychology Today article, Dr John Sharp tells us some reasons that psychiatric admissions and incidence of self-injury actually spike in April and suggests some grounding strategies to deal with the chaotic transition.

We no longer endure the grubby winters of wood-burning stoves and coal chutes. So if your spring-style is more bizarre Alice in Wonderland tea party than Disney cartoon blue jay sing-a-long, you can clear out the stale air by just opening all the windows while you roll out your yoga mat. The rest really can wait.

Let the season of rebirth vitalize rather than muddle your best intentions. Above all, take care of yourself.