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Benefits of Spring Cleaning

Sunday, April 30, 2017

True confessions, I am not the best housekeeper in the world. My home is basically clean but you may indeed find dust bunnies under the bed and well, my sock drawer looks more like a can of worms than foot apparel. I do try to be tidy but being super fastidious does not seem to be in my nature. Recently, I took one of those personality tests that at the end describes your style. Mine said, “fairly casual about exact standards,” which of course may explain my tolerance for a few crumbs on the counter and chipped paint on the baseboards. All this being said when springtime arrives, even I get the urge to spring clean. What is it about this ritual that soothes the soul and brings satisfaction? Beyond the benefits of eliminating dirt and dust, spring cleaning actually profits us emotionally and mentally.

Spring cleaning, de-cluttering, and generally organizing your space is associated with improved mood, decreased stress, and heightened creativity. When we are surrounded by mounds of papers, overflowing closets, and chaotic countertops, we lose our sense of control. The brain perceives that work will never be finished. Interestingly enough it can even effect our eating habits. Cornell University researcher, Dr. Brian Wansink, found that people who leave cereal boxes, potato chip bags, and such on the counter weigh more than those with clean, clutter-free counters. John Fader, Ph.D., concurs in his Psychology Today article, The Psychology of Spring Cleaning, stating, “organization and order have been associated with choosing to eat more healthily, being more generous, and conventionality.”

There is also a liberating effect when sorting out items and letting them go. Tidying up guru, Marie Kondo, in her book The life-changing magic of tidying up, states that unless an item sparks joy, we should let it go. Kondo addresses all sorts of categories to consider while tidying up including: clothes, books, papers, CDs, DVDs, skin care, make-up, accessories, electrical equipment, household supplies, kitchen goods, sentimental items, and photos. In every category, she makes the same suggestion. She proposes gathering all like items and then one by one picking up each item and assessing it. Kondo then explains that we should only keep those things that speak to our hearts. I recently went through this exercise with some of my archive boxes in the attic and threw out five boxes worth of stuff! Many of the items “sparked joy” when I was 16 but had long since faded from memory. Per Kondo’s advice, I thanked the item for the happiness it brought to me in the past and then said goodbye to it. Kondo does not advocate throwing away everything. I am keeping the love letters my hubby wrote to me in college. They are precious and still bring me great pleasure when I read them. But the high school graduation cards and the sixth grade research paper – well, it was time to say adios.

And of course, there are simple benefits to garden variety spring cleaning. Scrubbing floors, washing walls, taking down and putting up curtains all burn calories. The movement keeps our joints limber. Doing these mundane tasks also helps relieve stress and frees the mind from other every day concerns. Whether you are methodically going through every nook and cranny in your house or just giving it a good basic once over, your mind, body, and soul will be better for it!

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have article suggestions or questions, contact Lorraine at or 585-335-4327.

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