As the warm weather is approaching, we may be dreading that one daunting task that calls our name in the midst of April showers and blooming flowers ... that is spring cleaning! However, what you may not know is that all of that dusting, scrubbing, and roll-up-your sleeves worthy activity can serve us twofold. While spring cleaning has the obvious benefits of a tidied closet, a sparkling counter top, and open desk spaces, more importantly, it has been associated with improved mood, decreased stress and heightened creativity (Psychology Today, 2015). Let's face it, spring cleaning doesn’t just look good, it feels good.
THE IMPACTS OF CLUTTER
Studies have shown that a dirty, disorganized space can bring forth health threats in the form of mold, bacteria, and clutter-caused injuries in addition to negatively impacting mental health (Mental Health Weekly Digest, 2010). Clutter can increase our stress levels by distracting and overwhelming our senses with extraneous stimuli - unsightly piles and messes, as well as uninviting smells and noises. Piles of paper can signify that work is endless, and that even when we finish a project that we are working on, there is more to be done. Beyond these negative effects, a disorganized space is associated with less physical activity while order and organization is associated with eating better, being more generous, and conventionality (Psychology Today, 2015).
In a study by Saxbe and Repetti (2010), women who described their homes as being messy or disorderly displayed flatter diurnal slopes of cortisol, an indicator associated with depression and poor coping skills. These individuals also experienced greater increases in depressed mood throughout the day, greater fatigue in the evening hours, and a more difficult transition from work to home life (The Guardian, 2016). This study suggests that our physical surroundings can limit the ability of the brain to process information, taking a drastic toll on our mental and physical health.
TIME TO TAKE ACTION
Although spring cleaning has its benefits, there are certain barriers to getting rid our junk. The time and energy it takes to decide on what you want to clean, and to make a plan for doing so are often saved for more prioritized tasks. Many of us would also rather spend our precious down time relaxing rather than organizing our cabinets. That being said, try to take comfort in knowing that your home and/or workspace do not have to be spotless for optimal living and working conditions. The key is finding a balance, to determine what kind of space is most efficient and productive for you to operate best in.
As you take on your spring cleaning this season, consider these tips from professional cleaners and organizers (The Seattle Times, 2016):
- Take on one area or task at a time - do what is attainable and organize two or three hours at a time
- Clean from top to bottom - knock down dirt clouds from counters, as floors should be the last thing that you attend to
- Don't clean whenever you feel like it - put cleaning dates in your calendar, as you will adhere to this commitment with more success
- Finish what you started - don't try to do everything at once
- Ask for help! - when the task seems too large, call upon friends, family, or professional cleaning services if needed, no one said you had to do it alone.
If you are still unsure of where to begin, perhaps you may benefit from a spring cleaning checklist as depicted below.
What are your spring cleaning tips for the home or office? Let us know in the comments below!
Mental Health Weekly Digest. (2010). Spring cleaning spruces up your home and helps your mental health shine. Retrieved from https://global-factiva-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/redir/default.aspx?P=sa&NS=16&AID=9UNI011000&an=MHWK000020100319e63m00090&cat=a&ep=ASI
Saxbe, D. E., & Repetti, R. (2010). No place like home: Home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(1), 71-81. doi: 10.1177/0146167209352864
Psychology Today (2015). The psychology of spring cleaning: Is your junk cluttering your mind? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-you/201504/the-psychology-spring-cleaning
The Guardian. (2016). The secret to spring cleaning: don't just organize your stuff – get rid of it. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/15/secret-to-spring-cleaning-better-mental-health
The Seattle Times. (2016). Spring cleaning do's and don'ts: 8 tips from professionals. Retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/life/lifestyle/spring-cleaning-dos-and-donts-8-tips-from-professionals/
Photo Credit: http://whattheflicka.com/spring-cleaning-soul/