Being that springtime is naturally the season for new beginnings, it makes sense that we're familiar with the concept of "spring cleaning." Along with the fresh new leaves, flowers, and animals, we follow by seeking to create newness in our homes- cleaning out and organizing what we've accumulated during the winter's hibernation energy and pursuit of feeling cozy.
It turns out that organizing our homes and reducing clutter doesn't only look pleasing, but it also has a positive effect on our mental health. Humans were aware of this as far back as 6000 years ago when the Chinese art of feng shui, the practice of harmonizing humans with their environment, is said to have been created. Even then, they understood that our ability to move happily and freely in the home can contribute to serenity, energy, productiveness, and overall well-being. Recently, scientific research has shown that living in a cluttered home can have negative effects on your health.
Living in a cluttered home can lead to people reporting lower measurements of their well-being, mental clarity and mental health, as well as measuring lower on assessments of visual processing. Disorganized homes are also associated with disordered and unhealthy eating habits and people living in messy homes generally have higher levels of stress hormone, cortisol. It is fair to say that other life variables that cause stress might be preventing these individuals from tidying up and this is important to remember. However, the studies show that if you can put in the effort and time to reduce clutter in the home, it will have positive effects on your level of happiness.
WHAT DOES "CLUTTER" MEAN? Psychology Today recently described "clutter" as "accumulation of more possessions than can fit into the available space. There are many different types of clutter and it may be valuable to understand which one you are most prone to accumulating to prevent further pile-up.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF SPRING CLEANING FOR MENTAL HEALTH? While there are various design, feng shui, and streamlining professionals, Marie Kondo for one, who will differ in their opinion in this, I've collected concepts here to provide some helpful and practical tips. Remember that ideally, this would be done in each room and it makes the most sense to move in order.
1. REDUCE ITEMS IN THE HOME.
Throw away empty containers and cases, old or expired food and spices, old make-up and care products, broken appliances, tools and toys, dead pens, unnecessary items and papers, old receipts that you don't need for taxes. File the things you need to keep. If you do not need them, get rid of chipped or cracked dishes. Throw away, consider donating, or re-purposing torn or stained clothing, towels, and linens for cleaning.
Donate clothing and shoes you don't wear, linens or towels you do not use, food items that are still good to food banks. You can donate mismatched plates and cups, movies you no longer watch, CDs, VHS tapes, books you no longer read, toys no one plays with, handbags, backpacks, suitcases, appliances and tools you no longer use.
Recycle old magazines, papers, business cards, and packing material. Unused containers can be recycled or turned into organizational tools.
2. ORGANIZE WHAT REMAINS.
Use storage boxes and their lids to keep items separate. Put away seasonal clothing and decor. Organize old paper and shopping bags for re-use. Consolidate coins and take to a coin machine or bank. Get into each cabinet and dresser- refolding and arrange each item. Relocate things to more sensible or easy to access places. Designate a place for items and keep all like items in one or two particular places. Remember to always return items to their place.
Make a plan for which room(s) you'll clean and when. One room per day may already be a lot of work. Make sure you have the required cleaning supplies before you begin and containers to help you maintain your previously established categories (trash, donations, recycling, keepers.)
Launder or clean curtains, throws, pillow coverings, bedding. Working from the top of the room to the bottom, dust or wipe down corners of the ceiling, walls and windowsills, shelves and surfaces, books, keepsakes and toys, appliances, electronics and their accessories. Wipe down mirrors, wall art, and windows, Get into cabinets and dressers, the oven, the refrigerator and freezer and wipe down drawers and shelves, ice trays. Clean the floor and baseboards last, remembering to vacuum underneath furniture and switch out or launder small rugs and mats.
4. OPTIMIZE FOR HAPPINESS AND FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Walk through your home and pay attention to how smoothly you can move from place to place. Remove or relocate obstacles like tripping hazards, tables you bump into, items that are frequently knocked over. Pay special attention to the entryway of the home and each room. If you can, seek to let in as much natural light as possible and address any areas of the home that are poorly lit. To make the rooms more inviting, add art or plants if you don't already have some. Think about if you actually like your art and decorative items, and consider removing any that invite negative thoughts or memories. For more in depth advice and feng shui concepts, read on.
I hope these tips help you understand how maintaining an organized home is meaningful to your health and has given you some actionable steps with which to start. The more you can work toward creating a home that is comfortable and uplifting to you, the more easily you can bring your best self into the world!