Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction – or relief – once you have tackled the household chores. But did you know there are hidden health benefits to doing them?
A 2008 study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found just 20 minutes of sustained housework a week can reduce depression by 20%! This was further backed by a later study by Indiana University which found a correlation between cleanliness and physical activity. And that’s not all. Other health benefits associated with cleaning include reducing allergens, boosting mood, improving sleep and increasing productivity. Not bad for a chore.
But regardless of its benefits, if you have too much clutter, you’ll spend more time cleaning. That’s more time dusting and hoovering instead of valuable ‘me time’ or time with family. And unlike cleaning, too much clutter isn’t good. It’s been scientifically proven to increase stress, reduce sleep, impact on decision making and cause accidents. You want it out of your life for good. Here’s how you can beat clutter and keep your home ship-shape at the same time.
#1 Start Small
“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started” – Dawson Trotman
While it’s tempting to put off a spring clean, you can make the task less daunting by taking a little-and-often approach. Focus on one room to clean and declutter. Don’t try and declutter your home in one go. If that feels too great a challenge, choose a piece of furniture – a bookcase, chest of draws or wardrobe – in that room and set aside 30-60 minutes to tackle it.
But remember, Rome was not built in a day, so don’t worry if this task stretches over several weeks. You need to know where to focus, so try to get a rough idea of what items are worth a regular spring clean and which aren’t- then write it down so you don’t forget.
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#2 Involve the family
Unless your kids are tots, decluttering your home is a chore the whole family can [and should] lend a hand with. And while you might not want your child sorting through family heirlooms, valuable, fragile or hazardous items, they can certainly lend a hand in their bedrooms or playroom.
Assign young kids responsibility for a piece of furniture. For older tweens and teens, their bedroom. Cleaning and decluttering is a valuable life skill, but it also teaches your child responsibility, to value their possessions, as well as philanthropy and recycling too! But before they begin, set clear expectations of what’s expected. Talk them through steps #3, #4 and #5, though prepare to offer young kids a helping hand.
#3 Grade it
Start by removing all your possessions from the item of furniture you’re cleaning and decluttering. So for a bookcase, remove every book. For a wardrobe, every item of clothing. For young kids, it might be wise to supervise them as they do this and help guide their decisions.
As you handle each possession – often for the first time in many months – ask yourself the following questions to determine whether the item is a keeper or clutter:
- Why did it come from? Did you buy it? Was it a gift? Inherited? Items you care little about are prime ‘clutter’, but be sure to ask yourself the following questions before deciding.
- Is it needed? If you have not used an item for a year, why? Will you use it again? If there are valid reasons for not using it, keep it. If not, consider adding it to your ‘clutter’ pile.
- What it’s value? Consider its financial and sentimental value. Would disposal upset someone? Could you sell it? Don’t class it as clutter until you have answered this question.
Items you care little for, are no longer needed and have little or no sentimental value are ‘clutter’. Removal of these items will improve your home environment, allowing you to perform daily tasks more efficiently (you know where everything is), reduce your cleaning workload (less dusting and tidying) and potentially cut your contents insurance premium too!
Now that you have identified the clutter, it’s time to sort these items so they can be disposed of in a way that benefits our environment, local communities, and our wallets.
#4 Sort it
The truth is that, while these items may have served their purpose, there are plenty of other households, local community groups or charities could still make use of them. (To find a list of community foundations local to you in the US, click here. If you’re reading this from the UK, click here).
And if the kids helped grade, ensure they get stuck in with sorting too. It’s where the real learning – and fun – is to be had.
So start by dividing your pile of clutter into four piles:
- Items you can sell. Consider selling any unwanted items with second-hand value. You could list them on eBay, sell them at a car boot sale, or organise a garage sale.
- Items you can pass on. These items must be in saleable condition but of little second-hand value. Donate these items to local charities, community groups, and schools.
- Items you can recycle. Sort unwanted items that can be recycled – cardboard boxes, glass bottles, paper – into a pile to take down your local community recycling centre.
- Items for refuge. Finally, items that can’t be sold, passed-on or recycled should be placed in the garbage pile. Try to minimise the number of items in this pile where possible.
Now that you have your four piles, bag them up so you can continue with spring cleaning. Rather than leave them in the corner of the room (thus causing clutter), allocate an area of your home to store all the sorted items you wish to sell or pass on, place items for recycling in a recycling box, and put items for refuge in the trash can ready for collection.
#5 Clean it
Now that you have identified and sorted the clutter, it’s time to return your room back to how it was. Start by wiping down the item of furniture you decluttered – a wet cloth or duster will do – before returning your possessions to their rightful place. Next dust or wipe down each of your possessions before arranging or packing them neatly.
And don’t forget to get the kids involved too! Young kids can help out with dusting, while their older siblings shouldn’t be phased by using the hoover, polishing or wiping down surfaces. Once you’re done, repeat steps #3, #4 and #5 until you have decluttered the room. Finish up by dusting light fittings, sills, window ledges and hoovering the carpet or mopping the floor.
Hurrah. you have just decluttered and spring cleaned an entire room! Feels good, doesn’t it? Before progressing to the next, be sure to take a well-earned break.
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Keeping on Top
By doing a little and often you keep on top of clutter! But remember, regular upkeep is key to declutter your home. You should expect to revisit each room or item of furniture as and when necessary. Whether that’s once every few months, yearly, or every few years is up to you.
But every time you clean and declutter a room, the process becomes that little bit easier the next time around. And you’re left with a cleaner home, more headspace, and a clear – and repeatable – system for keeping it that way.
How often do you clean and declutter your home? Tell us in the comments below!