Spring Cleaning for Mental Health

With the first day of spring just behind us, have you thought about “spring cleaning” yet? The practice of spring cleaning dates back hundreds of years with some roots in cultural and religious traditions. At a very basic level, it just makes sense. As the days get longer and we are exposed to more sunlight, we tend to feel more energized and motivated to “shake out the dust” that has accumulated during winter. Does the thought of doing this feel overwhelming? Does the idea of tackling that ever-growing stack of papers on the counter make your stomach hurt? If so, it may be helpful to consider the negative effects of clutter on your emotional well-being.

Clutter is mentally exhausting. How many times have you walked into your home, noticed its current state, and sighed a big sigh of frustration or defeat? According to Jonathan Fader, PhD (2015), “women specifically have shown to have chronic levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, if they perceive their homes as cluttered.” In addition to this negative impact on mental health, a disorganized space is associated with less physical activity while organization has been associated with behaviors like choosing to eat more healthily (Fader, 2015). Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. (2017) recommends taking small opportunities (five to ten minutes) to tackle little bits of a larger project; this can lead to feelings of satisfaction and more motivation to return to the project later.

If you are feeling really motivated to declutter, it may be a good idea to tackle your home one room at a time. Joshua Becker, author of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life and Clutterfree with Kids recommends removing anything from your home that distracts you from the things that you most value (Wachter, 2015). How do you know what you most value? Try imagining that a tornado swept through your home; what would you be most sad or even devastated to lose in this natural disaster? This exercise may help highlight that you have way more “stuff” than you really need or even want to have.

Last but not least, after you have de-cluttered your space, try to identify ways to maintain this more mood-friendly environment. After big events like birthday or holiday parties, there may be tend to be more “stuff” around, but think about how you would typically like your environment to be and ways to preserve it (and your sanity). Do you need a letter sorter near the door to prevent stacks of mail from piling up? Would it be helpful to have a night-time ritual for the kids to put their toys away? Get creative! Your mind, body, and home will thank you for it.

Written by Alexis Anttila, MA, LAMFT


Biali, S. (2017, March 29). Spring clean your space, your stuff and your life. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201703/spring-clean-your-space-your-stuff-and-your-life

Fader, J. (2015, April 03). The psychology of spring cleaning. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-you/201504/the-psychology-spring-cleaning

Wachter, H. (2015, April). Becoming minimalist: 7 Thoughts on simplifying your life. Experience Life. Retrieved from https://experiencelife.com/article/becoming-minimalist-7-thoughts-on-simplifying-your-life-from-joshua-becker/

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