Spring cleaning is an annual practice in many cultures and religions around the world. The origin may be traced to the “Bedikat Chametz,” the ancient Jewish tradition of a thorough cleansing of the home before Passover. The Persian new year, Norouz, falls on the first day of spring, preceded by “khooneh tekouni,” literally translated “shaking the house” to meticulously clean everything before the celebration. Historically, in cold climate cultures, the spring is a time to open the windows, clean out the dust, and renew the home by cleaning and de-cluttering from winter stock-piling.
De-cluttering the home can also help us psychologically. Our physical environment has an enormous impact on how we feel. Studies show that messy and disorganized homes are associated with depression, poor coping skills, fatigue, and difficult transition from work to home. Clutter is mentally exhausting.
Research suggests that a clean home decreases anxiety, improves mood, heightens creativity, encourages more cleanliness, allows easier processing of information, boosts productivity, and leads to healthier eating habits.
Your anxiety might be higher now than when you started reading this blog. “How can I get rid of the clutter in my house?” “I don’t have time for spring cleaning!”
Here are a few suggestions to start the process of de-cluttering for better mental health:
- Start with a small area that you see most often.
- Take just 10 minutes for a “quick clean” to feel better instantly.
- Put on your favorite music (Motown gets me moving!) to make the task more enjoyable.
- “A place for everything and everything in its place.” This adage helps to keep things tidy year round, not just in the spring. If an item has a place to be stored (the trash bin may be the best place!) then there are no decisions needed about what to do with it.
Decisions about what to do with stuff may be the hardest part of spring cleaning. There are many reasons for accumulating stuff: memories, unfinished projects, storing for others, “just in case I might need this,” and nostalgia are a few. The process of letting go of stuff may be the most psychologically challenging part of spring cleaning.
Here are some questions that may help with decisions about clutter:
What purpose is the item serving?
What can be discarded without any impact on my life?
Will I realistically finish this project?
Who else may benefit from this item?
Would the emotional cost of keeping this stuff outweigh the emotional benefit of getting rid of it?
The goal is not storage or rearranging. The goal is de-cluttering, which involves decision making about getting rid of stuff. The input and help from a family member or friend might be a valuable part of the decision making process.
Spring cleaning is beneficial for your home and your family, but your mental health may get the biggest boost of all.