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Spring cleaning for your well-being

Today was the kind of day I always dearly miss through the colder months. I got up early-ish, pulled back the bedsheets, and found that the breeze was finally warm enough to open the windows. My house freshened up instantly, as if it had lifted off the ground a few inches. I had cleaned the windows the yesterday, so the sun seemed to shine extra bright through them. I allowed the air to drift all throughout the house, warming it up naturally as I dusted off the ceiling fans, deep-cleaned the dishwasher, and vacuumed behind our bedside tables - both hundred-pound hunks of wood that only get attention once a year or so.

I suppose today was the day spring, and therefore spring cleaning, began.

The concept of spring cleaning traces back centuries, originating from various cultural and religious customs that marked the transition from winter to spring. It has always been a time to sweep away the dust and stagnation of the colder months, making room for freshness, light, and new beginnings, just as this morning ushered in for my home. But the task and the connotation of the big spring clean can certainly harbor memories of our mothers screaming at us and our siblings to stop hiding things under the bed, donate half our closets, and learn how to wipe down our own damn toilet while she hovered over the kitchen tiles with a toothbrush. Not just me, right?

So it makes a lot of sense if the idea of setting up a spring clean routine is more intimidating than it is refreshing. But think about it like this: beyond the mere act of tidying up our physical spaces, spring cleaning holds a deeper significance for our mental and emotional health. Through a ritualizing of the age-old tradition, we can actually make a huge impact on our overall well-being. Research has shown that the state of our surroundings can profoundly impact our mood, stress levels, and overall sense of peace. In essence, by tidying and organizing our homes, we also declutter and rejuvenate our minds.

Two guitars mounted on a white wall next to a teal framed circular mirror

Spring cleaning isn't just about making your home look tidy; it's about creating a space that promotes mental clarity and peace of mind. This age-old tradition carries significant psychological benefits that extend far beyond the physical act of cleaning, with deep roots in various cultures and traditions around the world. In ancient times, it was believed that thoroughly cleaning one's home in the springtime would help drive away evil spirits and welcome good fortune for the rest of the year. If you, like me, tend to follow the physical seasons as a guidebook for how to live your life, spring is certainly the most opportune time to begin waking and stretching from hibernation. What better time to look around and assess what spaces could be freed up to allow more goodness in?

From Persian New Year's "khaneh tekani" to the Jewish tradition of "Passover cleaning," spring cleaning rituals have been passed down through generations as a way to symbolize renewal and rebirth. It's a shame, really, that we often get so wrapped up in doing it perfectly. We may have social media to blame for that, but even just the act of tidying and organizing can garner profound benefits. Numerous studies have highlighted the significant impact of our physical environment on mental health. Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli, making it difficult to relax and unwind. By clearing out whatever is gathering dust (figuratively or literally), we create a more serene and peaceful environment that can help alleviate stress and anxiety. An organized space allows for better concentration and mental clarity, enabling us to be more productive and motivated. There's a profound psychological satisfaction that comes from seeing a clean and organized space. It can lift our mood, boost our energy levels, and improve our overall outlook on life.

So it's clear, hopefully, why we should get behind spring cleaning. But of course, there's the actual having to do it. How do we know where to start?

Depending on the size of your home, the idea of having to clean it all will vary in levels of intimidation. It's important to be realistic about how much time you can give yourself to do it on your own and when you will most likely have time in your schedule to tackle the to-do list. If it's an option for you, it may be nice to outsource some of the harder or more time-consuming jobs to a professional. But above all, setting a sensible timeline for the task will cut down on any stress of actually having to do it.

My favorite suggestions for compartmentalizing the many little check-box items in this feat actually came straight out of a Magnolia Journal a few years ago. In these pages was a premade checklist of chores separated by different rooms in the house: bedroom, bathrooms, kitchen and living room. This provided the skeleton that pretty much any home would have: vacuum the mattress; wash all linens, duvets and pillowcases; dust surfaces; clean the grout in the shower; wipe behind the toilet...the lists go on. But whatever wasn't included there that would apply in my home I added it, like washing our air filter or donating the dozens of old books we haven't touched.

By the time I thought through absolutely everything possible to clean up or wipe down in the house, I looked through the entire list and realized that there was absolutely no way it was going to get taken care of in one day, or even in one weekend. I gave my partner and I just over a month to get it all done. Though the time has already begun to whittle away - and that certainly has left me feeling a little stressed in itself at times - I know many of the tasks will compound on themselves. For now, it's enough to get even just one small thing done every day. Even if it's just wiping down a few windows.

Perhaps your issue isn't that the baseboards are dusty and the tub crusty. Maybe your entire house isn't in dire need of TLC. Maybe you just have some clutter that needs to be dealt with, or some corners that need organizing. In that case, there are tons of practical tips to help in minimizing those tasks, and I'm sure many of them are familiar to you. Still, often the tried-and-true methods are the ones worth sticking with.

  • For larger organizational projects like closets, it's helpful to go through each and every item and place them into either a "keep" or "donate" pile (some might add "trash" as an option, too, but I would only do this if the item is unusable beyond repair). Decide which items are truly worth keeping around, and try to be critical, especially if you tend to hold onto things you rarely touch or look at.

  • Utilize decorative baskets and bowls in problem areas that tend to get cluttered easily. Identifying where these spots are in your home, and simply putting a nice looking container there to catch the things makes a huge difference in the overall aesthetic of that area. It feels much less distressing to look at, and can certainly make things easier to find.

  • If all else fails and you have the means, professional organizers are actually quite affordable and easy to find depending on where you live. If it's an option and this is the part of the spring cleaning journey that gives you heart palpitations, certainly consider it!

I think we may have gotten a little in the weeds here. Remember the reason we're discussing spring cleaning in the first place is that it truly has a transformative ability on our overall well-being as we come out of our winter hibernation. Just as other animals take it slow for months on end, gathering their necessities for coziness (and survival), we, too, tend to shackle up in our homes with less opportunity to let the spaces breathe. That's what this is for.

There's a suggestion in the Magnolia Journal article that I love: after each room is complete, there is a "finishing touch" that ties all the work together in lovely, relaxing ways. Lighting a new candle in the living room, or adorning the dining table with fresh flowers, or laying out clean towels and a glass jar of bath salts by the tub are all wonderful ways to reward yourself for having done the work. Not only that, but you'll get weeks or months of sustained relaxation, clarity, and peace out the deal, too.

Aside from the smaller-term upkeep that always comes with living in a home we're proud of and want to take good care of, it's also important to make the process of spring cleaning an overall enjoyable one so that the mental benefits long outweigh the initial intimidation of having to do it. If we can reframe these "chores" as something of a ritual instead, something that will bring lasting ease and joy into the place we spend the majority of our time, the desire to do it again when the time comes will resurface with ease, too.

So, welcome spring, open the windows, breathe it all in, and enjoy the process. 🤍


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