Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 25: There Goes the Neighborhood

by Michael on April 15, 2010 · 0 comments

Nothing says "we're bold neighbors" like meerkats. (Photo by Brendan Adkins)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a 30-day project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

If you have a yard, you’re probably still working on it. If so, carry on. If not, it’s time to expand your scope beyond your property line. You’re also going to get excited for the future, and I predict your handwriting will be awful.

Your Home: Help Improve Your Neighborhood

Do you talk to your neighbors? Do you pick up trash or sweep the sidewalk? Have you ever brought out the grill and made burgers for the block?

People spend a lot of time in their own world, walking from their doors to their cars and from their cars to their doors, without really interacting with their neighbors or taking much interest in the area. A neighborhood where everyone keeps to themselves is a neighborhood with more garbage and crime, and less happy people.

It’s time to turn that around:

  • First and foremost, you should strive to get to know your neighbors. Start out by just saying “hi,” “good morning,” or something similar. Offer to help carry something heavy they’re struggling with. Or you can go big: a neighbor of mine moved into our complex and almost immediately started holding gatherings just for her neighbors. Needless to say, when she’s around everyone stops and talks to her, and there’s a lot of smiling. Have a BBQ and invite everyone you can.
  • Clean any trash you find on the sidewalk. Don’t wait for the city to do it. When people see garbage strewn about, they feel less guilty about dropping their own wrappers.
  • Just get out and walk around the block. Be aware of your surroundings.
  • When you see suspicious activity, report it. Someone hanging out on a corner where they don’t live, talking on a cell while watching every car that passes by, is probably not just lost. Knowing your neighbors means knowing who shouldn’t be walking out of your neighbors’ house holding their new flat-panel TV. Residential burglaries are often foiled by an observant neighbor. Form a neighborhood watch.
  • If you have pets, arrange to swap pet-sitting when you go on vacation. Same with plant-watering.
  • You don’t get out of this because you live in an apartment or condo building. Plan an event in the club room or on a deck, just for the residents.

The point is to make your little corner of the world a happier place. When you do, you’ll feel safer within your own four walls, I guarantee it.

Your World: Save for Something

Impulse buys are fine, but too often they’re made with credit. It feels so much better when you’ve been squirreling away cash and can finally afford something free and clear, whether it’s a new shirt or an iPad or a vacation.

Pick something you really want—it should be something you can’t just outright pay cash for this minute—and resolve to buy it only after you’ve saved up money earmarked for that item.

You can work backwards from the price of your desire, and arrange to save predetermined chunks from each paycheck so that you know exactly when you’ll have enough coin on hand for the purchase, or simply put whatever you can in a safe place and let it happen when it happens. However you decide to do it, get started right now. Even a quarter in the piggy bank toward a Caribbean beach vacation is a start.

Plus, if you use a savings account to hold your funds, you’ll find that the interest works in reverse from that on credit cards: they give it to you!

Yourself: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

Your brain and body work very efficiently together. Everyday tasks like brushing your teeth or eating a meal are things you don’t think about—the body’s on autopilot and the brain can even divert attention to other things.

But while efficiency is good, so is keeping your mind developing and alert. A Japanese study found that during normal, practiced tasks only one of the brain’s hemispheres engages, but people who used their non-dominant hand for everyday tasks engaged both hemispheres. So, to stimulate your brain, use your non-dominant hand for your daily tasks. If you’re a righty, go lefty. If you’re a southpaw, grab and use things with your right.

Try to do this exercise for an entire day, and include some handwriting. Creating a paragraph of handwritten text with your “other” hand may just be one of the most difficult things you do today. Some people feel it brings out more of their creativity to write or print this way, and do it whenever they’re feeling “stuck.” Start out with simple, short words to get the hang of it, then work up to a paragraph.

It will be challenging, and you might even risk hurting yourself (take it from me: brush those teeth slowly), but give it a shot.

See you tomorrow—and keep meditating!

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