Less is the New More

Spring cleaning is a phrase that tends to get a strong reaction; it seems people either love it or dread it. Turns out, it can actually be an important part of our mental health to make sure we organize our homes.

Research by the Mayo Clinic shows that having too much clutter can increase our stress levels, but also cause time management problems that impact other areas of our daily lives. Think about it: when your family is ready to get out and have fun in the snow, how much time do you spend looking for hats and gloves? Or when you’re herding kids outside to the car, how many times do you have to run back inside to grab that last thing you forgot? By decluttering and organizing, you can reduce the extra time and stress required to get out and have fun as a family.

When you want to get organized, experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend three steps: 

  1. Commit to getting started. Put it on the calendar, clear your day of everything else, and have everyone in the family do the same.
  2. Be accountable. Tell a friend or extended family member your plan and ask them to check in after to see how it went.
  3. Make it fun. Listen to music, make games out of chores, or promise everyone a reward when you’re done. 

Focus on Functional

Remember that spring cleaning isn’t necessarily about having a perfectly organized home that never gets messy. Focus on making the spaces you have work for your family. For spring, this might mean putting away fall sports equipment or summer clothing and making space for cold weather gear. Organize the entry to your home with space for each family member to store their coats, hats, gloves and boots so they’re easily accessible. 

Another aspect of organizing is decluttering. A great adage to remember is “less is more.” Having more stuff does not make us happier — in fact, research shows that the opposite is true. For example, studies show toddlers are prone to playing longer with just three or four toys than they are when given a dozen or more to choose from. The same goes for older kids, even adults. Reduce the number of things you interact with daily by boxing some up and storing them out of sight. If you haven’t touched them after a few months, donate or recycle them!

Get out of the House

Spring cleaning is also the perfect excuse to get out of the house for some fresh air. If you have a garage, now’s a great time to get ready for the upcoming pleasant weather by gassing up lawnmowers or organizing rakes and shovels to clear out garden space. Get your kids involved by asking them what activities they’re most excited about and helping you get their gear organized and ready. 

Getting the entire family involved can make the entire process go more quickly, not to mention teaching kids responsibility. The trick is to meet them at their level, especially younger kids. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind:

  • Set a good example. Kids learn a lot by watching their parents, so if you dread doing things around the house they will too. 
  • Do it with them. Making it a team effort not only reinforces that parents do chores too, but also gives them a chance to spend time with you. Let them help you fold laundry, or get an extra mop and have a dance party together while you clean floors.
  • Give kids choices. Lack of empowerment is a big source of frustration for kids and can lead to arguments. Asking if they would like to vacuum or take out the trash makes them feel like they got to choose, rather than being told.
  • Set realistic expectations. This includes picking age-appropriate chores, but also checking in with them. If your kids are struggling to do a task, as if there’s something they need or if you can help them. 

At the end of the day, remember that having a plan that works for your family is the end goal. Decluttering and organizing lead to less stress and more family harmony. Putting in the work up front may seem daunting at first, but doing so creates less work for you down the road. Even if you can dedicate just a few minutes a day to cleaning up your family will benefit by having more time to spend together.