It’s that time of year again. You might think of spring cleaning as yet another chore to add to your to-do list. However, could this annual rite benefit your mental health? It can, in several important ways.
Instilling a sense of harmony in your environment is one of the quickest ways to soothe your soul. You probably spend most of your time at home — you might even work there these days — so making it more comfortable and inviting ensures you’re happier.
Although it may seem silly, the simple act of restoring your home to order can give you a powerful psychological boost. Let’s take a closer look at the mental health benefits of spring cleaning.
1. It Restores Your Sense of Agency
What is a sense of agency, and why is it important? Agency refers to your perception of your ability to make a positive difference in your world through your actions.
If you don’t have a strong sense of agency, it’s easier to fall prey to mental health woes like anxiety and depression. If you feel like nothing you do can impact an uncertain future, it’s natural for your fears to spiral out of control. Likewise, if you feel trapped in the jaws of capricious fate, you might give in to despair instead of striving for the rich and meaningful life you deserve.
A sense of agency is critical to cultivating a growth mindset. That’s the deeply held core belief that you can improve your skills with practice and time. People with this mindset are more likely to succeed because they don’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. Instead of seeing obstacles as roadblocks, they view them as challenges, opportunities to use their growing skills to find new ways to succeed.
How does this apply to spring cleaning? Have you ever stood gazing at a room that looks like the aftermath of a hurricane and wondered where to start? You may have thought, “This is hopeless. It’s going to take forever, and I can’t do it.”
However, you know that you can — and doing so proves it. Even cleaning one small corner at a time provides a sense of satisfaction that begins to restore your sense of agency. Once you revel in the pride of a job well done, you’ll have the energy to say, “On to the next.”
2. It Eases Depression Symptoms
Depression encompasses a complex array of symptoms, including the following:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” moods
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Loss of pleasure in daily activities
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Physical aches and pains
There are various treatments for depression, including talk therapy, medication or a combination of both. However, a recent study found that physical exercise is 1.5 times more effective at easing symptoms than these traditional methodologies.
You’ll get plenty of movement climbing up and down stairs with giant loads of laundry and scaling ladders to get those cobwebs out of the corner. Best of all, you don’t have to put on clothes and go to a gym. You can wear whatever you like when your vacuum cleaner is your only audience.
3. It Soothes Anxiety
Do you feel your blood pressure rise when you come home to a house that looks like a toy-and-laundry bomb exploded all over? You aren’t alone, and it isn’t because you like to nag your family members about picking up after themselves. There’s a scientific explanation for your stress.
Clutter bombards your visual field with excess stimuli. It’s like looking at a to-do list the length of an average CVS receipt. Of course, you feel overwhelmed.
Fortunately, the best cure is to get moving. Make a spring cleaning checklist and hang it on your refrigerator or wherever you’ll see it regularly. Each tidy checkmark should help bring your diastolic and systolic numbers down a bit. For example:
- Clean out the basement and attic (and have a yard sale)
- Dust all high corners, artwork, ceiling fans and light fixtures
- Polish or wipe clean all furnishings of dust and fingerprints
- Clean out cabinets
- Clean all kitchen appliances
- Wash all bedding and pillows
- Wipe down walls
- Vacuum and mop all floors
4. It Creates a Sense of Order and Purpose
Uncertainty can drive you mad with anxiety, and many people are still reeling from the shake-ups the recent pandemic delivered. Clutter can leave you feeling adrift, as if problems could blindside you at any time. Furthermore, getting out of the house in the morning can start your day off on a stressful note if you don’t know where to find your kiddo’s homework — or your car keys.
Spring cleaning creates a sense of order and purpose, where everything you own has a place and happily occupies it until you need it. It might not be fun to pull everything out of closets and cabinets and reorganize your belongings, but all that effort pays off when you can find exactly what you need when you need it without a fuss.
Make your spring cleaning a time to organize. For example, you might tackle the following projects:
- Your entryway: A shoe rack reminds family members and visiting guests to kick off their Keds before walking on your white rugs. Cubbies or a coat rack provides a storage place for outdoor gear and your kid’s backpack and lunch kettle while a set of hooks is for key storage space.
- Your pantry: Use clear plastic or glass containers to store items that go stale, like cereal and bread, to preserve freshness and make it easier to see what you have. Use wire racks to build shelves for canned goods. Hang a spice rack on the back of the door and a storage tube for all those plastic bags that people inevitably bring home from the store until you’re ready to reuse them.
- Your cabinets: Look for pot racks and dividers that make grabbing the perfect lid and pan easier without taking everything else out of the cabinet.
- Your drawers: Use cut-off pieces of paper towel roll to make individual dividers for sock pairs. Use small trays to organize push pins, rubber bands and paper clips.
5. It Reduces Stress
There’s a world of difference between what you have to do and what you’ve already done, and it’s between your ears. How often does your mind turn to your need for spring cleaning? Why are you still procrastinating and letting it eat up your mental space?
The best way to ease stress from tasks left undone is to finish whatever is weighing on your mind. Spring cleaning doesn’t require any special talent, nor do you need big muscles or expensive supplies. Just do the work — and then revel in your accomplishment.
Mental Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning
Do you want to improve your mental health? Tackling your annual spring cleaning could do more for your mind than you think.
Spring cleaning provides mental health benefits like restoring your sense of agency and relieving anxiety and depression. You could feel better by the end of the weekend — and owe it all to your mop and bucket.