Seven secrets for spring cleaning your practice and your life

Spring is a perfect opportunity to rid yourself of toxic relationships or other mental clutters infecting your life with negativity

Whether out of fear of missing out (aka loss aversion), getting in trouble, or that it might be useful someday, we accumulate an extravagant amount of stuff, both physical and virtual. We’ve all read articles about the importance of spring cleaning and how to declutter your life. Unfortunately, most articles usually focus on physical objects, rather than the multiple facets that make up your every day.

Imagine how much better you would feel knowing you are free of all types of clutter, well beyond your secret junk drawer. We are going to help you do just. All you have to do is commit the desire and the time to do it.

1) Spring cleaning in your personal life

Spring is a perfect opportunity to rid your life of toxic relationships (or any relationship) that infects it with negativity and bad influence. How much better would you feel if you got rid of them?

In some cases, you may not be able to cut the ties completely. So stretch them! Make the necessary changes to get away from soul-sucking individuals and get closer to positive, happy, and compassionate people.

2) Spring cleaning in your home

Remember this mantra of spring cleaning (which I just made up): “The best time to get rid of junk was yesterday. The next best time is today.”

Schedule a few days to go through your home, room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer. Systematically put items to get rid of in four boxes marked “trash,” “recycle,” “donate,” or “sell.” You may need an extra box for anything belonging to the practice.

Some well-intentioned articles suggest you have a “keep-just-in-case” box, especially for clothes and shoes. Honestly, that is a big disservice. If you are unsure whether to keep an item, there is a 99 percent chance you will never need it again. So save yourself the hassle next time around. Be brave and get rid of it now. You can do it!

Studies show having clutter causes stress. A big mess literally increases cortisol levels. Removing clutter should not cause more stress. Don’t try to do it all in one day, especially if there is an emotional component in your decision making (i.e. deciding what to do with items that belonged to a parent, a child, a sibling, an ex, or a deceased spouse). Studies also show that turning music on makes cleaning much more fun. (OK, maybe I made up those studies.) Once you have decluttered, you can reorganize the clean space left behind.

3) Spring cleaning in your car

Clutter also has a sneaky way of creeping into your car. There are clothes in the back seat, receipts in the glovebox, all manner of sports equipment in the trunk, stuff in every nook and cranny.

Again, divide and conquer. Sort items among four boxes: trash, recycle, sell, or place elsewhere. Once you have removed all unnecessary items from your car, you can clean it and show it a little TLC. Wipe the dust, vacuum the floor and the seats, clean the windshield, and dab a few drops of essential oil. The next time you get in your car, you will be greeted by a clean, organized, good-smelling ride.

4) Spring cleaning in your head

Often overlooked, mental clutter is all the junk we hoard in our minds: negative relationships, negative habits, or negative thoughts. It’s all the self-sabotaging ideas that float around. It’s the inferiority complex, fear of success, scarcity mentality, fear of failure, etc.

So strive to eliminate self-limiting beliefs. They take up way too much space in your mind. Limiting beliefs are thoughts that constrain you. By merely thinking you can’t do something, or that it’s too late to change, or you’re not good enough, you’re allowing these thoughts to stop you from even trying. These beliefs rob you of your potential.

This negativity and angst can build up over time. One day, you may realize you are the only one having these thoughts and you are missing out on the love and friendship offered by those around you.

Also, this is a good time to get rid of past mistakes, failures, and regrets. Time to let it go!

So take a time out, write in your secret journal, revisit your goals, talk to a close friend, find your inspiration or motivation again, and reclaim your mind. Move on and make room for positive beliefs, new goals, and new memories.

5) Spring cleaning in your head (part 2)

Another idea to consider during your mental cleanup is a mind dump. You may have several never-ending, always growing, seemingly impossible mental to-do lists. You may scratch one item off, and then add 10 more to-dos… and the cycle continues.

Your mind cannot function properly if it’s filled with clutter. So sit down and dump it all onto a single piece of paper (or digital file if that is better for you). Write down your mental to-do list, your goals, your thoughts, things you need to stop doing—whatever is filling your brain.

Sometimes, visualizing your to-dos can help you take the necessary steps to get things done. If they merely float around your head and surface at random moments, that is not constructive or efficient. Organize your thoughts, open your mind, and be amazed.

6) Spring cleaning at work

Hoarding also is all-too-common in veterinary practices. We collect old journals, ancient books, stained lab coats, torn scrubs, broken equipment, and all kinds of clutter “just in case.”

Do a walk-through, room by room, drawer by drawer, and just like at home, place items in four boxes: trash, recycle, donate, or sell. You may need an extra box to bring back what truly belongs at home.

What items do you no longer need that could be donated to a shelter? Throw away or recycle all the things that are broken, obsolete, expired, collecting dust, or otherwise useless.

In your office, go through your paperwork, junk mail, brochures, and marketing pieces. Organize or shred old invoices. Throw away, shred, or recycle anything irrelevant or outdated. Consider scanning some documents to reduce the amount of paper around you. If you’re hoarding old magazines or journals you haven’t had a chance to read, ask yourself: is the content still relevant and interesting today? If the answer is no, you know what to do. If the answer is yes, consider tearing the article out and recycling the rest. Or better yet—most articles are archived online so you can always find them there.

Spring also is a good time to think about your systems, processes, and procedures. Are they serving a need? Are they efficient? Are they helpful? If not, replace them with better ones. You could also empower your team to figure it out.

This also may be a good opportunity to encourage toxic, disengaged, or ill-fitting team members to explore new horizons. Yes, it’s tough. But everybody will be less stressed after you finally rip the Band-Aid off.

7) Spring cleaning in your digital world

Like in the physical world, your best digital friend is the trash bin. Make a list of all your digital subscriptions: journals, magazines, blogs, etc. Then review it and cull the ones you no longer need. Your inbox will thank you.

Email is a gigantic time-suck that you have to clean up and simplify. Delete old, useless emails. Create folders and organize your inbox. In the future, once an email has been read or “dealt with,” either delete it or file it in the appropriate file folder for future use. No more scrolling through hundreds of emails to find the one you need!

On your computer, browse through your file folders, documents, and pictures. Delete those you no longer need. Backup photos and documents to physical or cloud-based storage.

Spring cleaning probably feels overwhelming. It’s amazing how much questionable stuff we end up keeping. Don’t stress yourself out—that defeats the purpose!

Don’t work on all seven areas at the same time. Too much at once yields poor results. Create a plan and set deadlines for purging each area. Even 30 minutes at a time will help. Once you’ve finished one area, set a deadline for the next one and so on. When you are done, you will feel much better about the whole process and hopefully be motivated to make it an annual event.

This year, make a resolution to think twice about keeping stuff, either physical or digital. It will make your life easier and less cluttered next year. Decluttering and purging have been known to decrease stress, increase creativity, and improve productivity. Who wouldn’t want more of that in their life?

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at and Kat Christman, a certified veterinary technician in Effort, Pa., contributed to this article.

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