It may have been just a taste of spring, but a day or two of warmer temperatures this week may have had you thinking about opening the windows and doing a little spring cleaning.
Each year, nearly 78% of households engage in spring cleaning, according to results from the 2020 ACI National Cleaning Survey.
For those who partake in this annual ritual, that data likely isn’t shocking. However, what may be surprising for some are the number of benefits that spring cleaning can provide, including strengthening the immune system, reducing stress and lowering the risk for depression.
Spring cleaning, a common ritual when the weather begins to warm, also can provide excitement for the upcoming seasonal changes.
“It’s almost like we are coming out of the slumber and cold of winter months, awaiting the warm, fresh air of spring and summer,” Indiana University psychology professor Dr. Beth Trammell said. “Spring cleaning is our ritual of bringing our mindset out of winter mode and into spring mode.”
This year, spring cleaning may take on additional meaning for some.
“As we have been reflecting on how hard this past year was, many of us have been inside with many restrictions on our outside lives that we are hopeful will be lifted soon,” Trammell said. “I believe spring cleaning this year will be a glimmer of increased hope for a new normalcy for many of us.”
While spring may mean an onset of allergy symptoms for some, a study by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows that spring cleaning can help sufferers avoid symptoms.
Decluttering also can provide a refreshed mental space, since research has shown clutter can make it more difficult to focus on tasks. In fact, a University of California study found that stress levels rose in participants who lived in homes described as cluttered or unfinished projects.
“Clutter can lead to feelings of being disorganized, anxious, overwhelmed and depressed,” said Chandra Lyles, manager, psychiatric social services, Community Healthcare System’s Behavioral Health Services. “It can also have a negative impact on your physical health as well as decreasing and limiting active mobility in your space.”
Spring cleaning can promote a feeling of accomplishment and calm while decreasing chaos, she said.
Trammell said she knows this feeling first-hand.
“Most people you talk to will agree that they feel better when their space is decluttered and clean,” she said.
When faced with the prospect of spring cleaning an entire house, where to begin is often the first question.
“I would recommend you clean the room that you spend the most time in,” Trammell said. “That will give the biggest bang for your buck. Since you spend the most time there, it is most likely that you will enjoy your new decluttered space.”
With more people working from home nowadays, that may be the office.
“Certainly making it a routine to tidy your desk before the end of your day will make going back to that space the next time a bit easier, so your home work space may be a great place to start,” Trammell said.
The bedroom is another good place to start, Lyles said.
“The bedroom is a great area to focus on when cleaning because it can provide better sleep quality, as well as provide a relaxing haven to calm down after a hard day,” she said.
For those who enjoy cooking, organizing the kitchen can provide benefits as well.
“Some people find cooking a great stress reliever and having a well-organized kitchen can promote better food choices and healthier eating by making your own meals at home,” Lyles said.
Although not often thought of as a first choice to declutter, the bathroom can be another starting point for long-term benefits.
“The bathroom can also be beneficial in improving your mood, as hot baths and showers help to decrease stress and improve wellbeing,” Lyles said. “The feeling of water can reduce pain and inflammation while also having a calming effect on the body, which helps reduce anxieties.”
Trammell also recommends creating a “sacred” space.
“Maybe it is a corner of the living room with an amazing chair or a spot in the closet that you can cozy up to,” she said. “Essentially, creating a little space that you specifically dedicate with things that you love and want to be in can become a respite for you when you are looking for a special place to unwind.”
Spring cleaning shouldn’t be limited to households and office spaces, however, Trammell said. A mental spring cleaning checklist that includes items like setting priorities, letting go of grudges and focusing on physical health can offer a fresh start.
“Many of us may be falling out of the resolutions we tried to accomplish and so we are looking for new goals and focal points,” she said. “Spring is a great time for folks to begin thinking about new short-term goals that maybe they didn’t get to in January.”
Trammell often promotes the practice of mindfulness, or essentially the act of mind-decluttering by participating in activities such as yoga, she said.
“I also recommend guided meditations and daily gratitude practices as a way of decluttering and refocusing the mind,” she said.