NEWS

Spring Cleaning: How Decluttering Your Home Might Help You Declutter Your Mind

drawing of family cleaning the house

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

Key Takeaways

  • Winter is finally over and the spring offers a fresh, lighter start.
  • Spring cleaning often centers around bettering your space, but can also be beneficial for your mental health.
  • Taking time to declutter can lower your anxiety and motivate you for projects moving forward.

The world opens up in the spring. Days are longer, flowers burst out of the ground in a sea of color, and the birds return to the sky in droves—or, more accurately, flocks. The Earth hits refresh after a long, dark hibernation.

And we humans follow suit, shedding our oversized coats and other items that got us through the winter. Some things get donated while other items enter the attic until temperatures drop again. We may move pictures and other knick-knacks around to change a space’s vibe.

This process—widely known as spring cleaning—is not only good for our space but also for our mental health. “Our mental health is influenced by multiple factors, and our physical environment is one of these areas that directly impact our emotional well-being,” says Kristin M. Papa, LCSW, a psychotherapist and certified wellness coach. “Our external environment at times can be a reflection of our inner self, and thus spring cleaning or a ‘reset’ of our living space can also help us have a fresh outlook in other areas of our life.”  

Kristin M. Papa, LCSW

Our mental health is influenced by multiple factors, and our physical environment is one of these areas that directly impact our emotional well-being.

— Kristin M. Papa, LCSW

Spring cleaning is already a widespread practice. In a recent survey from the American Cleaning Institute, 78% of respondents reported that they or someone in their household does a spring cleaning at least once a year.

Only 8% of people said their home never partakes. This was an increase from 2021, when the survey focused on people entrenched in the pandemic. In that instance, 69% of people reported that their household engaged in a yearly spring cleaning. 

How Decluttering Your Physical Space May Help Your Mental Health

The survey asked participants solely about the physical and spacial rationales for tidying up, but there is a wide range of mental benefits you shouldn’t ignore.

“There is a symbolic level to spring cleaning as most take this opportunity to do a deep clean and get rid of things that no longer serve them, which also helps lighten and brighten their psyche as they spring into the spring season,” says Dr. Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist at Jewish Family Services of Greenwich. 

Papa concurs, explaining that removing these unused items can feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders and put you in an excellent mindset to approach other projects moving forward that you’ve put off or found intimidating.  

The act of spring cleaning may also directly lower your anxiety—only in part because clothes are no longer covering your favorite reading chair. “Oftentimes, hoarding behavior—or even much milder, just keeping things like clothes that don’t fit us—is a direct link with anxiety,” says CodyAnn McGovern, a psychiatric physician assistant and former social worker.

Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist

There is a symbolic level to spring cleaning as most take this opportunity to do a deep clean and get rid of things that no longer serve them, which also helps lighten and brighten their psyche as they spring into the spring season.

— Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist

McGovern continues, “So often, those ‘things’ act as a security blanket. When we are able to get rid of the ‘stuff,’ it is liberating and freeing. It reinforces that we don’t need security blankets. We are able to thrive without the weight of the stuff.” 

It can also bring a sense of control into your life. According to McGovern, reorganizing and choosing what goes and what stays where in your house gives you a sense of agency in your life. Whereas being out of control can bring anxiety, these actions can tame it. 

This feeling of organization and control over your life can be especially critical after experiencing years of a pandemic in which so much felt up to chance, notes Schiff. She adds that the act of cleaning itself can provide a repetitive rhythm that mimics mindfulness practices and calms you down.

If you’re new to spring cleaning, Schiff recommends first focusing on small projects, setting a timer, and inviting others to join you. 

What This Means For You

Spring cleaning is one of many ways you can refresh your mental health after a long winter, especially if you dealt with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Take long walks (or naps) in the sunshine, see friends in the daylight, and take in the nature around you.