Are you in need of an emotional spring clean? TikTok says it’s time to start ‘Cobwebbing’

Out with the old, in with the new

American actress Hope Lange (1931 - 2003) plays the owner of a haunted house in 1960s TV series 'The Ghost and Mrs Muir', circa 1969. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I called it, people; we are officially in the era of the Loud Breakup.

Yes, women are burning their wedding dresses and throwing divorce parties (don’t invite me), but there’s also a quieter form of emotional liberation on the rise called ‘Cobwebbing’.

Put simply, ‘Cobwebbing’ is an emotional spring clean. The term was first coined by Bumble Sex and Relationship Expert, Dr Caroline West last October (very apt for spooky season). However, as we collectively look to spring clean our physical spaces, ‘Cobwebbing’ is taking on new meaning. “The change of seasons, especially springtime, is a natural moment to pause, reflect, and set intentions for your next chapter,” says West.

West says clearing out your ex’s stuff (both physical and emotional) can help you make way for meaningful connections, but I’d argue that you don’t need to be in—or newly out—of a romantic relationship to benefit from an emotional audit. Maybe it’s because I am A. never one to skip a trending social movement and B. a hoarder, but I’d guess we’re all hauling around ideas that no longer serve us. Emotional baggage isn’t the reserve of romantic relationships.

Let me explain: I once had a job that was so toxic that on days I’d work from home, I’d physically hide my laptop after 5.30 pm because the mere sight of it was so triggering. When I moved on from said undisclosed job, I found great catharsis in clearing out any ‘cobwebs’ connected to that role, but I probably wouldn’t have thought to do it if I hadn’t been moving house at the time.

We all know the benefit of clearing out the debris of romantic relationships, lest we forget that episode of Friends when Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel have a boyfriend bonfire (and nearly burn down the house in the process), but what about the ghosts of other relationships? They could probably do with exorcising, too. “Some emotional cobwebs are hidden - these might be past feelings, beliefs, or fears that we haven’t processed,” adds West.

Moving on from past relationships—be they platonic, familial or romantic—is different for everyone, says West, explaining, “It’s important to acknowledge the emotions first and give yourself space to reflect on them”. Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, an award-winning mental health expert, psychologist, and author, adds, “If we don’t pay attention to our emotions, they will still be there and have an impact.”

By actively ‘cobwebbing’ your environment of the past, you can move forward feeling more empowered and confident. Bumble reports that people are prioritising themselves this year - over half of us establishing more boundaries in love, life, and work. Boundaries have become somewhat of a social media buzzword in the last few years (right up there with gaslighting and triggering) so it’s a relief to see this trend translate into action.

Joanna Ziobronowicz, who has written a book about self-defence psychology, explains that women go through a kind of “good girl conditioning”, internalising the idea that the happiness of others comes at the expense of their own. “The “good girl” was taught to suppress anger, prioritise the needs of others and fulfil obligations and responsibilities, often at the expense of self-care,” she says. Ziobronowicz argues that “‘good girl conditioning’ is not conducive to creating clear and healthy boundaries in the modern world” and that noticing feelings of discomfort when expressing your boundaries or asserting your needs is a pretty clear indication that you’ve had some ‘good girl conditioning’.

Ready to cobweb your conditioning? Ziobronowicz recommends:

  • Learning how to say no
  • Finding healthy ways to express anger
  • Stop prioritising others’ needs at the expense of your health and wellbeing.
  • Breaking free from the constant need to be overly nice and please others.

How hard can it be, eh? The good news is that, as Ziobronowicz, who has a Master’s in Psychology and Linguistics, says, the brain has a “remarkable capacity to rewire and adapt by remapping previously received information.” In layman’s terms, the more we protect our boundaries and advocate for ourselves, the weaker the old patterns become. So, it’ll get easier over time as we increase our understanding of our emotions.

“When we increase our emotional intelligence, we often move away from prescribed behaviours, such as those from good girl conditioning, and instead more consciously define ourselves,” adds Dr. Marie. This makes it easier to authentically express ourselves, take care of ourselves and have more genuine connections and communication.

Still not convinced? Here are three key reasons why you should do an emotional audit now, courtesy of Dr. Marie. Now excuse me while I go and hoover the dusty corners of my psyche.

Three reasons to have an emotional spring clean

  1. Greater awareness: something we need to increase our emotional intelligence
  2. Increased resilience: with greater emotional information, we have a better read on how we're doing, and that can better inform the actions we need to take now.
  3. Better relationships: that clarity on your emotions can make it easier to be present to others and better understand them as well as express yourself with more clarity your perspective.
Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.