“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Hopping into the car, I start merrily on my way early in the morning. I notice the yellow light begins flashing — a reminder that I am almost out of gas. There is a long drive ahead of me, and it’s below freezing outside. I really don’t want to have to get out and pump gas in the cold, but I don’t want to be stranded on the side of a road with no gas. I pull into the nearest gas station. Some people have probably never seen the light come on in their car because they plan ahead better than I have today, but it’s nearly spring, and Tolstoy reminds me it is the time of plans and projects. Maybe I’ll plan to make some positive changes.
There is much to love about spring — the freshness in the air, the buds on the trees that will soon burst into flowers, and the opportunity to freshen things up in my home and in life. Spring cleaning is different from the December 31st/January 1st deal when it’s so cold and thoughts are more about giving up bad habits for a fresh start. This time of year, it’s ALL about cleaning out and deep cleaning, and it is as much a mental cleaning as it is a physical one. Have you already made a plan for some positive changes?
The first step in the spring cleaning plan is to clear your clutter. Once you clear the way, you can open a window, get your duster and maybe a sponge and cleaning solution if you are cleaning cabinets or the refrigerator — doesn’t that just make you feel better already? Positive change. Maybe your spring cleaning project isn’t inside your home, though. Have you decided to do a thorough cleaning of your flower bed? Digging in, getting the weeds out, maybe planting some fresh new flowers can give your yard a feeling of freshness. Positive change. Wherever you begin to clean, your mental health is going to reap the benefits. You see, clutter in the house or weedy flower beds can wreak havoc on a person’s mental health, and as one thing clears it all behind to clear.
Science proves what most of us know if we’ve ever experienced the cleaning high — a clean home, a decluttered home will change your mental health. Almost everyone responds positively to a cleaner environment, and especially women. It turns out that in a 2010 study, women with high stressful home scores proved to have problems with higher cortisol levels and more depression, while women with higher restorative home scores showed a decrease in depressed mood. The study was for women, but I’m betting that many men might respond similarly. Suffering with depression when you’re at home? Look at your surroundings. That spring cleaning might be just the project for you to take on for a few afternoons after work or on your next day off.
Sometimes, though, our mental spring cleaning has to be an intentional scrubbing of negative thinking that holds us back, pulling the mental weeds that have prevented us from seeing the good in life, and throwing out the moldy ideas that keep us from experiencing fun in our day. Seems like our mind can be as full of clutter as the other things in our life!
Standing at my front door, I grab a cloth with some vinegar and water and start wiping away the fingerprints. I had forgotten how white the paint was, and when I finish, I feel better. I’m not sure why, but there is a definite change in how seeing the change in the appearance of the door makes me feel about life. I know you’re busy, so am I, but the benefit of clearing the clutter, wiping down the cabinets, cleaning out the refrigerator, getting rid of the clothes no longer worn, and even beginning to empty the attic’s treasure trove of broken toys is greater than the momentary joy that comes with plopping down and putting up your feet at the end of the day.
We have to start somewhere, and it seems to me that spring is the perfect time to begin making a plan for change. Where will you begin? I might start by filling up the gas tank. Now, that’s a great plan!