• Barb Mayfield

Is it time to clear the clutter?


Are you spring cleaning? If social media posts are any indication, this year more people appear to be deep cleaning and decluttering their homes than in recent history. Why?

Is it because so many more of us are “stuck” at home? Is it a distraction from working at home or the news? Do we notice the clutter being around it more?


One reason may be that bringing order to our homes helps us feel more in control of our lives. During this time when everything around us seems out of our control, getting control over our junk drawer, desk, or hall closet may be very therapeutic.


Decluttering has been shown to improve our mental health, boost our self-esteem, enhance our ability to process visual stimuli, think more clearly, and be more productive. If you are working from home for the first time, making your environment more livable can lead to better productivity and less stress.


Personally, we have joined the spring cleaning movement due to our calendars being more open. We intended to clean out files and storage in our home ever since cleaning out both of our mothers’ homes 10 years ago when each one downsized to independent living apartments. Neither mother was a hoarder, but a LOT of stuff can accumulate in a large home over the years. We promised our children we would try to do the job ourselves before they had to.


We can attest to the benefits. It feels really good to get rid of stuff you don’t need. It can be fun to come across things you forgot you owned. Getting organized and deep cleaning really does give you a feeling of satisfaction and calm during a time when it’s easy to feel distressed and powerless.


How do you declutter? Pick the approaches that work for you. Consider these:


Try the ‘KonMari’ method: Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, suggests asking each item, “Do you bring joy to my life?” If the answer is no, toss it.


Keep only what you use and what you love: A good question to add to the joy question above is whether you use an item. Most everything you have in your home should be used at least once a year. This allows for keeping seasonal and holiday items that are used annually and then stored for 12 months. If you can’t recall the last time you used, wore, or enjoyed the presence of something in your home it’s probably time to give it away, sell it, or toss it.


Try the ‘Triage’ approach: Decide which parts of your house are most essential to clean and declutter first. These are like the patients who receive care first in a disaster because treatment will make the most life-changing difference. These are generally areas that are the most visible. Once the most critical areas are taken care of you are ready to save the rest.


Create small daily habits: Spring cleaning is great, but daily decluttering and cleaning are essential. The more you tackle daily the more beneficial the outcome. What daily habits have been shown to make the most difference? Making your bed, dealing with mail rather than allowing it to pile up, hanging up clothes and putting away laundry, clearing off counters and tables, and having an end-of-day clean-up ritual.


Another benefit to spring cleaning during a pandemic is to help prevent the spread of infection. The CDC has specific guidance on cleaning to prevent the spread of sickness here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html


Whatever reason you have for clearing the clutter and cleaning, you will be glad you did. Make it a habit to keep your environment clean and clutter-free.

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

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