The transition from winter to spring comes with great expectations for positive change. A University of Michigan study found that when people go outside for at least 30 minutes during warmer climates, they are in better moods and have improved memory.
Though spring is associated with tip-toeing through gardens filled with blooming tulips and mating butterflies, there’s an indoor activity that’s similarly ubiquitous in pop culture — spring cleaning. While the change of seasons is inevitable, cleaning and reorganizing your life is something you have to undertake yourself. But just because it may require some extra time doesn’t mean it should be stressful. According to research done by the University of New Mexico, people with a lot of clutter in their households have a negative outlook of their homes and selves. In recent years, reorganizing the home has become a self-help philosophy. Martha Stewart, the queen of all things domestic, has embraced the importance of spring cleaning. Meanwhile, Marie Kondo — the proclaimed “organizational guru” — has landed a deal with Netflix for a TV show about “cleaning.”
Despite now being popular, the task of spring cleaning can definitely still feel overwhelming and monumental. You can find yourself filled with self-doubt, asking what should stay and what should go? To help you sort through this and attain a sense of inner peace, we have written a beginner’s cleaning guide that makes Kondo’s best-selling philosophy more practical and approachable.
Step 1: Set Clear Goals
Before you start reaching for the trash bags and cardboard boxes, you should ask yourself what you are exactly trying to achieve. Are you trying to simply get rid of some old stuff? Or, has this change of seasons inspired you to do something much broader with your life like finally getting rid of all of your ex’s belongings?
Start out by writing a few sentences envisioning what you want your home to look like. Perhaps stick with a few adjectives describing what you want your space to look like. In a tutorial for The Pool, Kondo asks a journalist what she’d like to convey with her desk. The journalist said,“I want my desk to be efficient and clean.” Kondo subsequently shows her how to achieve that ideal. After you’ve written a succinct vision for yourself, cleaning will seem less daunting because you will have a clear end goal.
Step 2: Start With Your Bedroom
Though Kondo recommends that you should divide your belongings into categories before going room by room, the bedroom undoubtedly has a significant importance. The National Sleep Foundation concluded that people who make their beds on a daily basis (or on most days) were 19% more likely to be getting a consistently good night’s rest.
Sleep makes us more productive and happier. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the U.S economy annually loses $63 billion because of sleep-deprived workers. Out of any place in our homes, our rooms provide the biggest sense of refuge and comfort.
Kondo famously tells her clients and readers to ask themselves if each item they own sparks “joy.” The cleaning guru recommends that people go to their closets and touch every piece of clothing to see if they have a visceral emotional response. If you feel indifferent to an item, you should throw it away or donate it. And if touching an article clothing fills you with excitement, you should definitely keep it. Before throwing something away, Kondo asks her client to thank the item for its service. Yes, this process may seem tedious and borderline absurd. But by making cleaning a thoughtful and slow activity, you will approach it with mindfulness and stray away from impulsive decisions that you will later regret.
Step 3: Now Move On To Categories
Once you’ve tidied up your bedroom, you can then approach your home as categories. Do you have too many books or an excessive amount of plants? What about that coffee table that hasn’t been used in months?
Kondo instructs readers to follow her five categories: “clothes, books, papers, Komono (miscellaneous items), Mementos (items with sentimental value).” Since most of your clothes will probably be in your bedroom, you can move on to books as your next step.
The guru recommends that her reader compiles these books into a series of genres and then decide whether to keep them. Even though you may assume that reading the first pages of an unopened book may tell you whether you like it or not, Kondo advises that you should just approach books like any other item and hold it to see if it brings visceral joy. Every home is different. So, it’s important to personalize your own subcategories to fit your unique needs. However, Kondo’s subcategories do provide an insightful example and starting off point.
Step 4: Deal With Sentimental Objects
When you are spring cleaning, it’s easy to throw items you don’t care about in bulk. Kondo’s method slows down that process to minimize the risk of someone throwing something away something that may actually bring them joy.
Dr. Maryam Afshar, a market researcher who has done studies on “object attachment,” has concluded that the amount of value people give to items isn’t so clearly defined. However, she has set up six general categories: “sentimental, service, social status, social interaction, sales price, and self-concept.”
The “sentimental” category is particularly tricky because an otherwise mundane object can conjures specific memories. Afshar uses the example of a refrigerator that was “owned by someone’s mother who passed away recently” to convey this point. Since items like these bring memories and have their own specific histories, there’s no way to predict how you will react when faced with the prospect of throwing it away forever. If you regret getting rid of a pair of socks, you can easily replace them. On the other hand, sentimental objects can never be restored. We recommend that for these items you not only approach them last but if you do end up tossing them away, you hold onto that trash bag for a few hours or days before taking it to the dump. This way, you will be entirely sure that you’re ready to move on.
Everyone wishes spring cleaning can be a speedy and breezy process but there’s something to be said about going at a slow and steady pace. If you’re looking for more tips on how to achieve a healthy and active lifestyle, check out our blog.