Photo of an organized desk area.

Spring can be a great time to reduce clutter, start fresh and say goodbye to all of the things in your home that may be weighing you down. In fact, spring cleaning can have a variety of positive effects on your mood, mental health and overall well-being.

Here are 7 tips to help you kickoff the spring season!

Why spring cleaning matters

Do you ever feel stressed out by clutter? Research shows that cluttered spaces can bombard our brains with unnecessary stimuli, which can cause us to feel more stressed or anxious. This is because our brains naturally want to categorize and sort objects. If you’re surrounded by chronic clutter, your brain needs to work overtime to process this type of information, which may also explain why we become frustrated when we can’t find something easily.

It can be helpful to ask yourself these questions to determine if decluttering may be helpful for you:

  • Do you own things that you never use or no longer need, like clothes that don't fit or old electronics?
  • Do you have a "junk drawer" of things you think you'll need, but don't ever use?
  • Do you find yourself buying new items to replace ones you've lost in your house?
  • Do you lack access to certain spaces in your home (i.e. you can’t park in your garage or access areas in your basement)?
  • Do you worry about having houseguests over because of the state of your home?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, decluttering will likely have positive effects on your life. In fact, reducing clutter can lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, improve your focus, allow you to enjoy your space more and help you focus on other tasks or obligations.

Keep reading to find out how to get started.

1. Clarify your vision

When starting any organizing projects, it’s important to clarify what you want to accomplish in your space and why. For instance, you may want to reduce stress, make it easier to find things, simplify your cleaning routine, reduce waste or prepare for your student to return home over the summer.

If you need help clarifying your goals, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do I want to feel after I’m done?
  2. What are some benefits I’d like to see come from this?
  3. What areas of my home could I change to create less stress or overwhelm?
  4. What kind of home do I want to have (e.g. warm/inviting, clean/polished, minimalist/maximalist, etc.)?

Take some time to think through these questions and write out your answers or goals before continuing on to the next section.

2. Start small

Trying to tackle your entire home all at once can be daunting. Instead of trying to declutter, clean and organize everything all at once, take some time to identify areas you’d like to tackle first. Remember that little things can make a big difference when it comes to how your home makes you feel on a daily basis.

Consider creating a short list of the following:

  1. Easy wins: Easy wins are areas or things that are relatively easy to tackle if you have limited time. This includes things like throwing away expired products, loading your dishwasher, wiping down your counters, relocating items to their proper room or location and cleaning out your nightstand. It can be helpful to think through tasks that you can complete in about 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. Trouble spots: Trouble spots are spaces that cause you the most stress, anxiety or overwhelm. Tackling these spaces tends to take more time but can be critical to improving your mental health and well-being. Keep in mind that these tasks may take more than one session to complete, and it can be helpful to set a time limit to help break it up. 30 to 60 minutes is usually enough time to make a dent in trouble spots.

3. Reset your wardrobe

Seasonal changes are a great time to reset your wardrobe. As you transition from cozy winter sweaters to lighter spring apparel, take some time to cull your garment collection. It can be especially helpful to ditch any pieces that don't fit your current body or style. 

While this can be a difficult or emotionally taxing process for some people, it can also be beneficial to your long-term stress levels and overall mental health. Surrounding ourselves with clothing that doesn’t suit us takes up valuable real estate in our closet, depletes our mental energy when getting dressed and can cause us to feel less satisfied with our bodies.

If you’re having difficulty deciding what items should go, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this item reflect my authentic personal style?
  • Would I buy this item for full price today?
  • Would it impact my daily life not to have this item?
  • Is this item really worth the space it’s taking up in my closet?

Here are some ways you can break up your wardrobe reset into manageable tasks:

  • Store or relocate seasonal or occasion-specific items to make room for your spring and summer favorites
  • Choose one category of clothing to go through at a time (e.g. sweaters, jeans)
  • Set up a donation bin that you can easily use to collect items that no longer serve you
  • If you can’t commit to getting rid of all your ‘maybe one day’ clothing items, try to focus on reducing the number of these items you have overall

4. Deal with documents and digital clutter

While many of us would love to eliminate email clutter or get rid of the piles of papers in our homes, this process can be time consuming.

Digital clutter
Instead of trying to get rid of everything at once, break it up into time chunks. For instance, you can try setting a timer for 15 minutes and unsubscribe from pesky marketing emails clogging up your inbox. You may also consider using this time to remove any apps from your phone that you haven’t opened in months.

Physical papers
Similar to clearing out digital clutter, it can be helpful to set a timer to tackle physical paperwork that may be looming around your house. One way to do this is to create a designated ‘inbox’ to corral all of your mail, bills and other pieces of mail that come into your home. Spend 15 minutes each week to review your ‘inbox’ and prioritize time-sensitive items like bills or notices. You may also want to spend some time to create a system for storing important documents, forms and records so they don’t get lost or misplaced (hello, taxes).

5. Don’t forget the fridge

Clearing out your fridge can help you reduce food waste and figure out what types of foods you actually enjoy eating. To start, it’s usually best to take everything out of your fridge so you can wipe down the shelves and bins. However, if that feels too overwhelming, it’s also okay to clear items shelf by shelf. 

Consider tossing anything that is expired, wilted or past its prime. As you start removing items, look at what you are getting rid of. Maybe you didn’t make it through a tub of yogurt or you have apples that have gone mushy in your fruit drawer. Use these insights to plan your future grocery shopping. For instance, you may consider buying individual cups of yogurt or reducing the number of produce products you buy each trip.

Once you’ve cleared your food clutter, try to sort items into categories such as fruits, vegetables, sauces, cheese, meat, leftovers and beverages. Organizing products by type can help you better see what you have on hand and make it easier to find what you need. This can reduce stress levels when preparing for meals or planning your grocery list. 

6. Dealing with donations and unwanted items

Getting rid of unwanted items can be stressful, and it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you can’t donate everything you’ve cleaned out. However, if you do plan to donate or discard items in a sustainable way, here are some tips.

Sorting donations
Depending on your schedule, it may be helpful to collect a large amount of donations before dropping them off or you may prefer to get them out of your house quickly. No matter your preference, here are some tips to help you deal with unwanted items and donations.

  • Selling: If you’re interested in selling your items, you can host a garage sale or list them on a variety of platforms, including Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, Poshmark, ThredUp and more. If you choose to sell your items, take into account the amount of time it will take you to photograph your items, post them online and interact with potential buyers. You may find that it’s not worth the trouble for lower-value items. In this case, consider setting a price limit for which items you want to sell versus donate. For instance, you may decide that you’d only like to sell items that are worth $50 or more and donate anything under that threshold.
  • Gifting: Gifting items to friends and family can be a great way to give possessions a new life. Consider the types of items that your loved ones may need, and try to avoid overloading them with things that may become clutter in their own homes. If you’re not sure who to give an item to, consider joining a “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook. These groups allow you to post items and give them to various people in your residential area. Most groups allow pickups, so you don’t even have to leave the house to get rid of your stuff!
  • Donating: Donation centers like Arc and Goodwill are a popular way to get rid of items. However, it’s important to avoid donating items that are unusable. For instance, if you have broken electronics or clothing with holes and stains, it’s best to find an alternative way to dispose of these items, such as electronics and textile recycling programs. You can also use this as an opportunity to make an impact on your community by donating to causes you care about. For instance, many animal shelters accept donated towels and blankets for their dogs. Consider looking into organizations that are looking for donations in your area that you’d like to support.
  • Trash/recycling: While we may hate to admit it, some items just aren’t worth saving or re-homing. If this is the case, it’s okay to toss them in the trash, recycle or compost bin. If you have items that are difficult to get rid of, like sensitive documents or electronics, consider participating in events like community shredding or electronics collection days.

7. Maintain your space with closing tasks

Organizing our homes can be difficult, and keeping them that way presents additional challenges. Sometimes it’s best to think of maintenance as an act of future kindness. For instance, you may not want to put away the dishes at night, but recognizing it as an act of kindness for your future self can help you stay motivated to complete maintenance tasks. Similarly, you can create a list of ‘closing tasks’ that you do each night to reset your space before bed. Try to keep your list short and only dedicate 15 to 20 minutes to closing tasks. These can include things like loading the dishwasher, cleaning the counter, putting away personal care items on your vanity and other small tasks that will help you contain future clutter.

Share these tips with your student!

If your student is planning to move home over the summer or change living situations, share these tips with them to help them have a smoother moving experience.