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In the past couple of weeks, at least three clients have said, “I’m so ready to start taking things apart and clean out the clutter. It always makes me feel better.”Gallagher

Spring cleaning. Simplifying. Organizing. Music to my ears. A prompt for the sun to come out and show up those ever-present smudges on windows that are invisible when it’s gloomy.

I understand the mere idea of straightening anything can seem depressing. But for many of us, there’s an instinct within, as in most species, to clean house, tidy the nest and throw away piled-up debris. If you’ve ever watched an eagle prepare for the arrival and raising of its newborns, it’s astounding how much housekeeping gets done, especially by the dad.

So may I suggest while you’re going through this annual routine, that you consider including the “inner bottom line” that belongs exclusively to you?

It functions the same way. Within this totally private, internal place where our choices and values exist, clutter and (create) debris from too many thoughtless, even destructive, choices we’ve made lie in wait, usually at a moment when we can least afford to trip.

It’s also on the inner bottom line that your “short list” is found, that list of 10 or 12 things in your life that are non-negotiable. Things you wouldn’t compromise, no matter what. If you’ve recently taken stock and made adjustments to accommodate the primary people and relationships in your life along with the essential things you need to feel safe and content, then you’re playing with a full deck. But if you haven’t taken a personal inventory in the past five years, your list is out-of-date and needs of a good spring cleaning.

Think about it. What mattered most when you were a teenager isn’t what matters to you in your 30s, much less your 50s or 70s. So constant adjustments must be made.

To simplify the process, here are four key questions to help you begin:

1. What’s keeping you awake at night?

2. Who’s in control?

3. How long has this (annoying, stressful, abusive or disappointing) situation been going on?

4. What’s it going to cost to resolve this stressful dilemma?

There’s a price for every choice. And when the price gets too high, something has to change.

Control and power are at the heart of any dilemma. Gaining clarity about what people and things in your life matter most and which choices will be best for you and honor those values will change everything.

So lighten the load. Jettison the excess. Toss the debris. That includes any relationship that doesn’t treat you with respect, honesty and appreciation. After all, why would you want to have any person in your life who treats you badly?

Olive Gallagher, a life coach, author and ethicist, recently moved to Lake Oswego. She’s been writing the “Inner Bottom Line,” a nationally syndicated column that tackles personal choices and ethical dilemmas, since 1996. Her classes at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center will be Thursday and next March 20 with a focus on choices. For questions, reach her at 503-908-7842 or theinnerbottomline.com.

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