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How Spring Cleaning Can Boost Your Mental Health During COVID

Rachel Burris5-Minute Read
March 16, 2021

The loss, isolation, confusion and chaos that COVID-19 has created has introduced new levels of stress into our lives. It’s safe to say that we’ve all felt a bit helpless over the last year. Those feelings of stress and helplessness can easily erode our mental health and well-being, but there are small steps we can take to counteract them.

While we may not be able to control the virus – or when we’re able to return to normal life – one thing we can control is our personal environment and how it makes us feel. Spring cleaning can actually improve your mental health. Learn what steps you can take to get started.

Why Spring Cleaning Is Even More Important This Year

The loss that has resulted from the pandemic has been tremendous. Individuals have lost their loved ones, their health, their sense of community, their jobs and their financial security. With all of the deprivation and misfortune, it’s no wonder that mental illness has been on the rise over the last year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 41% of Americans reported having experienced symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder between January 6 – February 15, 2021. This number marks an increase from the 11% of Americans who reported similar symptoms during the first quarter of 2019.

Even just the act of being forced to work from home has caused many to struggle with an inordinate amount of stress. “Our homes have become our workspace, spaces for family and personal life. It is all very confusing to work on the same dining table that you use for family dinners or sleep in the room you work from,” says Dr. Yasmine Saad, clinical psychologist and founder of Madison Park Psychological Services.

“It is therefore very important that our home be the most organized and decluttered as possible. Otherwise, it is too much for our brain to handle,” Saad adds.

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How Can Spring Cleaning Minimize Stress And Reduce Depression?

Although you may not realize it, our environment greatly contributes to our mental state. That’s why spring cleaning can be a very useful tool for combatting the negative impact COVID-19 has had on our mental health.

“Often, a messy space can contribute to stress and tension, while a cleaner space can help people feel calmer and lighter,” says Dr. Brian Wind, clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer of Journey Pure. “Cleaning is a way of using familiar patterns to restore a sense of certainty over the outcome. Cleaning and decluttering is also a familiar action for many people, which can be comforting and provide a greater sense of control.”

Seeing the clutter that has accumulated around your home can trigger feelings of hopelessness and make you feel incapable of creating positive change in your life more generally. However, taking the time to clear away the clutter can even help you get ahead of the symptoms of depression you may be experiencing.

“Spring cleaning can help decrease the intensity of depression, as it changes the messages you are sending to your brain. From ‘I cannot do anything’ to ‘I have cleaned my apartment,’ there is a sense of empowerment,” says Saad. “The key is to keep that sense of control going by engaging in other behaviors that reinforce the idea that you have control over your life.”

4 Steps To Help You Begin Your Spring Cleaning

If you want to rid yourself of that feeling of powerlessness, taking control over the state of your home is a valuable place to start. Here are 4 steps to help you begin your spring cleaning.

1. Consider How You Want To Live In Your Home

Before you start decluttering and cleaning, you should make sure you have a clear sense of your end goal. “Think about the result,” says Saad. “Envision the home you want to have and how it would feel to live in it. Use that visualization throughout to remind you why you are spring cleaning.”

This step is also one of the basic rules of the KonMari Method, as it helps ensure you follow through and continue to tidy long after your spring cleaning.

2. Go Through Your Belongings

When spring cleaning, you shouldn’t just make things appear neater by stuffing items in your closet or under your bed. You need to go through all of your belongings and pare down to make sure they all have a specific place in your home.

Instead of going room by room, it’s best to sort through items by category. Doing so will ensure that you’re aware of duplicated items and ultimately end up storing like-items in the same place.

“When decluttering, if you focus on what you want to keep rather than what you will be getting rid of, you allow yourself to be a curator of your future,” says Michele Vig, founder and chief organizer of Neat Little Nest. “You will focus on picking the best items out rather than having the focus be what you’re letting go of.”

Concentrating on what you’re keeping instead of what you’re discarding will help you remain positive about your efforts and prevent you from fixating on what you’re giving up. Ultimately, this method will ensure you remain focused on the vision you have for your ideal home.

3. Break Efforts Down Into Manageable Tasks

Spring cleaning can be a gargantuan task. When faced with so much work, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up.

“The key is to do it step by step, section by section, to prevent feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Start with what is manageable, that will give you a sense of control, then use that sense of empowerment to take on another section,” says Saad. “Be mindful of your body's message. Are you tired, demotivated? Analyze what happened and rebalance yourself. Take a break if you need to.”

Breaking your spring-cleaning efforts into smaller, more manageable tasks will prevent you from burning out. With each task that you complete, you will feel more in control and have more faith in your ability to accomplish your responsibilities in the future.

4. Remember, Spring Cleaning Is Just The Beginning

Relish in the satisfaction of having transformed your home into the ideal space you initially imagined. However, keep in mind that spring cleaning may improve your mental health right now, but you must maintain the newfound order in your home if you want to keep your stress levels in check.

Continued maintenance is often a real struggle for most people. But, you can come up with a plan: “Making spring cleaning a part of a regular routine can reduce clutter from building up and allow people to maintain a clean space,” says Wind. “Spring cleaning every month can also be a self-care habit to reduce stress and increase a sense of control.

Every item you find a place for, every task you check off, is a step in the right direction. So, regardless of how long it takes, make sure you slowly chip away at the clutter because the more organized your home becomes, the better you will feel.

As Saad explains, “Controlling what you can control is a very powerful message that leads to healthier thoughts and emotions.”

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    Rachel Burris

    Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Quicken Loans, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.