Spring comes just in time for many of us. After we settle in for our long winter's nap, we start to feel glum as dust and things we haven't had time to put away start to pile up. With the new season comes also the medicine to cure our melancholy: Spring cleaning.
Spring cleaning is a mood booster. Be it our homes or offices, the psychological payoffs that result from tidying up our spaces for the new season are significant.
We like the places that we "own" (whether they hold literal or symbolic meanings for us) to send out messages about us that we value. When they don't, our emotional health suffers. Lots of people want to tell the world that they are tidy, so for them a disheveled home or office is stressful. A little window spray and spending some time returning everything to its rightful place replaces that stress with bliss. Also, clutter makes us tense, so efforts to minimize it have a similar relieving effect -- even when it can't be eliminated altogether.
At home and at work we often put objects and images on display to convey those desired messages -- a family photo shows devotion to loved ones, a trophy from a dance competition, an heirloom that reflects one's heritage. Spring cleaning is a time to reconsider and fine tune for the year ahead. Are you establishing a new life after your college years? Time to take down the tiny replica of your university's mascot. Taken on a new cause as a mission? Put a logo where that mascot was. When the messages you're sending out are consistent with what's important to you, you'll feel more comfortable. If you want to keep sending the same signals, spring cleaning and de-cluttering also makes that clear. People will then be able to see your photos, etc., when you remove the dust and the random stuff leaning against them.
The act of cleaning itself can also elevate your spirits. Many cleaning products have smells that are relaxing or have positive associations for most of us, which the scents of dust and dirt do not. For starters, lavender has consistently been shown by researchers to relax us and floral scents bring pleasant thoughts to mind for many people. And speaking of heightened senses, just like other types of exercise, the act of cleaning causes our bodies to release endorphins. You've heard of a "runner's high" -- you can achieve a similar adrenaline rush from cleaning house. So, spring cleaning is a tradition worth preserving. It's good for us, just like all the fresh air and sunshine coming our way.
Top Flickr photo by *Ann Gordon