Spring Cleaning

Written by Dr. Laura Kaae

As we start to approach the warmer summer months, many people take the time to re-evaluate their homes and opt for some spring cleaning.  Spring offers a perfect time to re-center ourselves, clear out the messes of winter and focus on a brighter, more peaceful space. 

A variety of trending docuseries right now highlight this concept of de-cluttering.  While each show has their own verbiage (editing, purging, tidying etc), each focus on tackling messes people have acquired, purging what is not needed and capitalizing on items that are necessary – including the things that bring homeowners joy. These programs got me thinking - what is it about watching these cleaning shows that is so alluring? 

For one, when we tune into these organizational shows, we as viewers can see other people struggle with clutter or disorganization. From a therapeutic perspective we refer to this as normalizing the behavior. In other words, if a celebrity in a fancy Hollywood mansion has a messy pantry it can make us feel a bit better about our own closet haphazardly stuffed with bulk purchased mac and cheese boxes. Beyond just normalizing, these shows can be encouraging and hopeful. Viewers are inspired to see that with an overhaul and some tweaks to their own home organization, an uncluttered life is achievable. 

You may have heard the phrase that a messy space is a manifestation of a cluttered mind. From that perspective an overhaul on your “stuff” is as good for your space as it is for your brain. In my practice this generally holds true for most people. If you are looking for a good opportunity to spring clean your space and your mind – keep in mind a few tips for your process. 

  1. A good first step to decluttering both your brain and your space is to come up with a vision of the changes you desire. What do you want the space to look like? How would you feel when you entered your space? How might you be the best version of you in this area of your home? You could make a list of the attributes you value in a space (e.g. serene, productive, soothing, cheerful) that you want incorporated into your home.
  2. Pace yourself. It’s unrealistic to think you can undo years of unkept spaces in an entire house with just one long day of work. What is more achievable? Take on projects one bite at a time. Start with one small, relatively easy room in your home (a bathroom is usually a good place to start) to give yourself some momentum and build confidence. Resist the urge to “do it all in a day” or you’ll set yourself up for failure. 
  3. Think sustainability. Approach this aspect of positive changes to your home with an attitude of “can I keep this up?” It’s easy to see the picture-perfect images on the internet or a Instagramable curated space and want to make your home emulate that space. For example, an entryway with no clutter would be ideal, but realistically if you have children or pets you’re going to need some sort of hooks or storage for all their gear no matter how much cleaning you do. Any changes you are looking to implement will require you to ask yourself- is this sustainable for my lifestyle?
  4. Feeling overwhelmed? Give it 20 minutes. This is a method (also known as the Pomadoro technique) I recommend to most clients who are feeling overwhelmed by a task (any task!) and commit to just 15-20 minutes of you time. Pick a task you really are avoiding (for example vacuuming, cleaning out your closet, organizing your calendars) and set a timer for 20 minutes. See how much you can accomplish in these 20 minutes. There is something uniquely satisfying about racing the clock and telling yourself you “only” have to do the task for a finite period of time. Even better if you pair this technique with a spouse, roommate, or kids – everyone can race the clock and see who can accomplish the most in the short period before the timer goes off. 

Happy spring cleaning- may this year bring you a peaceful home and refreshed mind!