My Cheat Code for a Healthy Spring

 It's that time of year again when many of us feel the pressure to complete this annual unwanted task...

Spring cleaning.

As the spring season begins, the fresh air and sunshine help bring our bodies and minds out of winter gloom. And some folks get the urge to refresh their spaces... throwing out the things they don't need or want anymore and giving everything a deep clean.

And while not everyone looks forward to what can feel like a gargantuan task, science shows that cleaning – especially as a habit – is great for our health...

According to an online survey of 2,000 American adults, each hour of weekly cleaning increased people's happiness by 53%.

It also improved people's relaxation, heightened their focus, and helped them sleep better and be more productive...

And for folks with kids, nearly 60% of parents said their kids studied better in clean spaces and 49% saw improvements in their kids' behavior.

All from a little bit of cleaning every week.

Disorganized spaces cause stress. They make people feel distracted and they hamper productivity... Just imagine trying to focus on a task when all you can see are uncompleted chores and clutter building up all around you.

A study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that women who reported living in a cluttered environment produced cortisol more consistently throughout the day than women who reported living in clean spaces. So your perception of your own living space matters when it comes to your levels of stress.

A 2018 survey conducted by the cleaning company Clorox found that being in a clean space left 80% of respondents feeling more relaxed, 60% feeling less stressed, and 72% feeling more productive. (Of course, Clorox has a vested interest in more folks enjoying cleaning to sell more products. But other research confirms these results.)

In addition to all the mental benefits of cleaning, we also can get a good workout... Doing chores like vacuuming, gardening, and scrubbing requires balance, strength, and range of motion. So much so that – according to experts - folks can burn hundreds of calories per hour while cleaning.

It's a simple way to sneak in some movement – an essential part of healthy living – during the day.

So, if you need a little help getting started, we've put together seven tips...

1. Go slow. You don't want to tackle your entire house in one weekend. Remember, all the moving and cleaning is physically exhausting, but the act of letting things go also taxes us emotionally.

Plan your approach and try to do one or two rooms per day. For more cluttered areas, set aside more time. You might take a three-day weekend to do the garage, for example.

When cleaning, work from the ceiling to the floor. And use household products to clean, like peroxide and vinegar with orange peels, rather than harsh, toxic chemicals.

2. Figure out what to keep. When deciding what to keep, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I use this item on a regular basis?
  • Can I still use this item?
  • Does this object bring me joy?

3. Donate. Often, donating items is easier – and more rewarding – than simply trashing them. Knowing someone else can use and enjoy the item helps us let it go.

4. Use stations. A helpful tip when you're deciding what to do with your things is to set up four stations, such as boxes, trash bags, or simply marked areas of a room. Label them Keep, Trash, Donate, and Store. For each item you come across, assign it to one of these stations.

5. Try the six-month test. Box up items you might be reluctant to give away. Mark the box with a date in the future – six months is usually a good start. Put the box out of sight. You can try the garage or the basement, for example. Go back in six months and see if you've needed or missed anything in there. If it's out of sight, you'll grow less attached, and letting go becomes easier.

6. Go digital. Paperwork is one of the worst offenders of clutter. Health & Wealth Bulletin managing editor Laura Bente recommends going digital. She bought her parents a small desktop scanner to digitize all their important paperwork. (You can find document scanners on Amazon for around $100.)

7. Employ the "one in, two out" rule. Typically, we apply this to clothing. For every new piece of clothing you purchase, you must get rid of two pieces. But you can also apply this to books, DVDs, shoes, and even kitchen utensils.

This month, start your new cleaning routine. You don't have to do it all at once. I like to spread my cleaning out over a number of weeks. It allows you to spread the mind-clearing and movement-based positive effects for a longer period of time.

Do what I do and mark your cleaning days on the calendar. That serves as a great reminder to reap the benefits of tidying up your space.

If you have any spring-cleaning tips that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them! Send us an email to [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team

March 26, 2024