As the sun warms this corner of the Earth, many of us have been increasingly doing our favourite pandemic activity: going for walks.
Have you noticed that the melting snow and slush reveals a lot of...well, garbage?
Growing up in the GTA, spring clean-ups of the entire grounds were a given in elementary schools. One afternoon in March, students spill out of their classes with glee, carrying bundles of black garbage bags. By the end of the afternoon, those bags would be filled with the shocking amount of trash laying hidden beneath the snow and frost. It was always an incredible satisfying experience to see all the garbage where it belongs.
Now imagine a similar feeling of satisfaction....and instead of an elementary school ground, it's your own bedroom, or home
Winter is the season we let ourselves settle in, maybe even leaning into the heaviness. Layering up, adding what we need to our lives to bring warmth, coziness, and a much-needed mental health boost. Spring, however, has a lightness to it. We can shed layers in spring.
Enter spring cleaning, when we take the time to tidy up our physical (and even digital) spaces. The effects of this simple act can reach beyond the confines of our physical spaces and benefit our mental wellness too!
With that in mind, this post will explore:
- How our environment affects our mental health
- What decluttering can do for our minds
- Tips to help you optimally declutter your space for mental wellness
Let's get into this.
Environment Affects Our Mental Health
Mental health may come from within, but our environment has a huge influence on how we feel!
Have you ever come home after a long, tiring day only to see that everything is a mess? There are random papers and receipts sitting in piles on the dining table, dishes spilling from the sink to the counter, and dust everywhere. Chances are, looking around at this scene leaves you feeling STRESSED.
Clutter tends to increase stress and drain energy. It can also be just be distracting and annoying.
This is why some of us find cleaning the fridge or organizing the closet to be just as mentally soothing as yoga, mindfulness, or a massage. Decluttering really does affect how we feel!
Accumulating stuff is a very human habit. We live in a fast-paced consumer culture where we are constantly pressured to buy more, collect more, and repeat. This approach is the opposite of mindful, intentional living. To demonstrate another perspective, research has shown that being in a decluttered environment actually helped participants be more 'mindful, aware, and open'.
Other research demonstrates that whether we perceive our time at home as restorative or stressful depends on how we describe our home environment. Women in this study who perceived their homes at cluttered or stressful also has higher levels of cortisol, the hormone that indicates our stress levels.
Clutter has also make it difficult for us to focus on tasks. For some of us, clutter represents unfinished business. Concentrating on a particular task becomes difficult when your environment is constantly signalling that you have competing priorities!
So clearly, we can see that keeping our environment as clutter-free as possible (and we do mean this, because sometimes it's impossible to be completely clutter-free- hello to anyone with kids), has positive affects on our mental health and concentration.
What else is in it for us?
Other Benefits Of Decluttering The Mind
- Decluttering can help us feel more in control of our lives, or help us manage the challenging feelings of not being in control of certain aspects of life (i.e. the pandemic)
- Your physical health may even benefit from decluttering- many people cite messy homes as a reason why they don't like working out at home
- The sense of achievement from tackling a task such as decluttering can give you the momentum you need to approach other aspects of life! Never underestimate the power of momentum
- Decluttering can help you share the love by donating gently used items and passing on once-loved things to friends and family who would appreciate them
Tips To Help Declutter For Your Wellbeing
Not sure where to start? The key is to not get overwhelmed! Clutter is kind of overwhelming by nature, so let's go over a few tips to help you begin decluttering in a reasonable, approachable manner.
It's also okay if cleaning or decluttering is not a priority for you right now. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, starting a new job, or adjusting to life with a new baby (among many other reasons), the prospect of decluttering can actually add to your stress levels. However, if you are ready to embrace decluttering, this section is for you.
1. Embrace The 15 Minute Rule
Sometimes it's easiest to not let the clutter pile up in the first place! Commit to doing as much as you can in 15 minutes every evening. You can even think of this as a little gift to your morning self. As part of your 15 minutes, you can do any combination of:
- Wiping down the counters and kitchen or bathroom surfaces
- Packing away things you will need in the morning
- Tidying up and sort through any loose papers, pamphlets, or receipts
- Cleaning out your purse, wallet, or handbag
- Quickly dusting a few surfaces
- Folding and putting away some laundry
15 minutes every day (or even every few days) can go a very long way. If you have young ones at home, getting them involved teaches them responsibility and also the value of setting yourself up for long-term gains by doing short-term work consistently.
2. Start Off With The Areas That Frustrate You The Most
If you find yourself constantly stressed and frustrated by certain area of your home, that is probably where you need to start.
Those areas are likely impacting your mental health the most. For example, do you approach your work-from-home space every morning and feel defeated by the random piles of paper that need to be organized? Starting here will help you feel better about starting your entire day- it's poweful stuff.
3. Get Other People Involved
If you are struggling with starting the decluttering process, safely invite a friend or family member over and do it together! This build MOMENTUM. Even if you don't finish it all that day, you are in a better position than yesterday because you have that solid foundation.
Also, sometimes an outsider can be a bit more objective (i.e. ruthless 😂) about whether we REALLY need to keep something.
4. Deal With The Sentimental Value Objects
You know, the things you simply can't part from because they are connected to a certain memory or time in your life. Often, this is true and occasionally going down memory lane and getting lost in nostalgia can be a nice experience.
Sentimental objects can also lose their sentimental value though- and if we never sort through those objects, we won't realize this.
This process can also help with mental decluttering- sometimes the memories and feelings connected to those objects are better left in the past.
Decluttering can be an overwhelming task, so remember to start SMALL! Work drawer by drawer, section by section, and room by room. It's also important to set reasonable expectations here. Also, a little clutter is gives our environment character, and makes our homes look lived-in. So balance is key here!
As we mentioned above, not being able to declutter or maintain a clean home should never be a source of shame. Sometimes, all we can manage is the bare minimum, and on those days, that is more than enough.
I want to hear from you: Does spring cleaning have an impact on your mental health?
Until next time!
Mental Health Content Specialist