Decluttering for your home and health - made easy

Blog post by Green and Prosperous, with infographic by EZ Living Interiors

Did you know that there are a lot more benefits to decluttering your home than just aesthetics?

Spring has officially been here since March 20th, even if the weather may not be cooperating where you live. Whether you’re still waiting for the winter thaw or enjoying the sunny days, you can do your part to usher in the spring by decluttering your home. Spring cleaning and decluttering has a long and storied history, but the 21st century benefits to this ancient ritual are many. In short, spring cleaning is good not only for the aesthetic improvement it brings to your living space; it also has several mental and physical health benefits. Our ancestors were well aware of this fact.

 Photo credit: Zayabibu via Visual Hunt /  CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Zayabibu via Visual Hunt /  CC BY-ND

In the 19th-century United States and UK, winter left deposits of soot and grime all over the house. In order get rid of the soot, you had to open windows, which usually necessitated waiting for the weather to warm. Annual spring cleaning traditions go much further back in time, though. For example, in observant Jewish households, spring cleaning is associated with Passover (that is, in the years when this holiday falls between March and April). During Passover, Jewish families clean their homes to rid it of all traces of unleavened bread, chametz, which is forbidden during this time of year. Others trace the custom of spring cleaning to the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which begins in spring. Iranians begin the 13-day observance of Nowruz with “khooneh tekoun” (“shaking the house”) by thoroughly cleaning the whole house, top to bottom. Members of the Greek Orthodox Chrisitan church also have a spring cleaning ritual that is associated with Lent, when families spend up to a week cleaning house in preparation for the Easter holiday.

Even if you are not Iranian, or religiously observant, there are many physical and mental health benefits to spring cleaning that can help you improve your stress response, lessen the severity of allergy attacks, or enable you to remain mentally sharp, especially when you are juggling a lot of responsibilities.

First, the problem of indoor air pollution, has, in many cases, exceeded outdoor air pollution in its impact on human health. Allergens are trapped in the home through dust, pet dander, commercial cleaning products (which contain harmful chemicals), and a host of other icky substances you bring in on your shoes and clothing on a daily basis. Airing out the home by opening windows and doors for a short period of time (which incidentally, my German brother and stepmother tell me they do in Germany even in the dead of winter) can help decrease the amount of harmful health effects you suffer from indoor air pollution.

         Photo credit:  UnnarYmir  on  Visualhunt  / CC BY

        Photo credit: UnnarYmir on Visualhunt /CC BY

Second, some health professionals are beginning to acknowledge that decluttering is an important part of the wellness spectrum. Clutter leads to mental anxiety and stress (and yes, you can get so used to it that you don’t process the fact that you are stressed). Our brains are already processing a record amount of information with the prevalence of online technologies, cell phones, and other hand-held electronic devices. Disorganization in the home creates excess mental stimulation, which compromises your emotional health, making you more prone to irritability and emotional outbursts.

Some clinical studies have linked clutter in the home to unhealthy food choices; in other words, the more cluttered your living space is, the more likely you are to choose foods that are not healthy. These studies links clutter to stress-induced behaviors surrounding consumption: stress interferes with your ability to exercise self-control; orients you to a lack of self-control, which encourages you to eat high fat, sweet foods; and depletes your mental strength, making it more difficult to refrain from engaging in harmful behavior. There is one silver lining here, though: developing a more resilient mind-set can help offset the tendency to eat unhealthy foods.

While a little clutter here and there, from time to time, won’t cause much harm to most people, chronic disorganization is another story altogether. It can be a symptom of a much bigger problem like depression, anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Are you up for some decluttering this spring? Whether you have an enormous mess to tackle or just need to do a bit of intensive tidying up, this infographic by EZ Living Interiors can help you figure out where to start, and how to make the process easy and stress-free.

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