The case for an early spring (cleaning)
When the wintry mix makes going outside unpleasant, the couch and a good book are tempting. But think: if you do your spring cleaning now, you'll be able to enjoy the first warm days of spring outside smelling flowers instead of inside scrubbing floors. Plus, if you start now, you can leverage the momentum of the new year and the revitalized fervor for the Konmari Method.
Why should I do a deep-clean?
A Princeton study found that a junk-covered room amps up stress and frustration by overloading your mind with stimuli. Basically everywhere you look you're reminded of something you should do. That only intensifies during those long winter evenings when it's just you, the pile of books you've got to alphabetize, and the crusties underneath your stove grates.
Clutter in particular seems to have a deleterious effect on your mood and health. As a 2017 article in Psychology Today noted, "life satisfaction, physical health, and cognition all speak to the value of streamlining."
Plus, it turns out people who regularly tidy up are getting a fair amount of light physical activity. That's good for your resolution to fight a growing waistline, sure, but cleaning also offers the benefit of space in your house to do things like rolling out the yoga mat or firing up an exercise video, doubling down on the physical benefits.
And if you do it now, it'll give you an edge when spring rolls around. Nearly three-quarters of us ring in the new season with a bout of cleaning, during which we tackle time-intensive jobs like cleaning baseboards and dusting ceiling fans. Tackling what you can now will mean there's less to do when you'd rather be outside. (Some tasks, though, like washing windows, should probably still wait until you're in significantly above-freezing temperatures.)
Organize your things and donate the items people need most
A good place to start your winter cleaning journey is with the things you no longer need that others can use. Winter clothing and shelf-stable food should be at the top of the list. (Though it's worth noting that canned food and is good to donate regardless of the season).
Up next should be unopened soap, shampoo, and other toiletries (even in sample sides). Make sure any clothes you donate are clean and in good shape. Check items from long-term storage carefully, as bugs can be persistent when there's a meal involved, or may have laid their eggs before you stored the items in question. For clothes not in good shape (thin, stained, or with tiny holes), check to see if you're local government participates in textile recycling.
Next consider what you've accumulated—gifts, free stuff from work, clothes and toys for yourself—over the year and pare down items that serve similar purposes. For example, if you got a new phone or computer for Christmas, donate the old one. Be sure to include any cords and chargers, and consider including a pre-paid minutes card if you can afford it.
Tips for tackling big indoors projects
During winter we spend more time in our homes, and when the snow flies, or freezes into a sheet of black ice on the highway, you'll want your space clean and tidy to stave off cabin fever.
That said, don't declare this the weekend you finally scour the stains out of all the tiles in your kitchen. Break a big task into more digestible chunks and tackle those grout stains a row or two at a time. A steady stream of achievable goals are a huge motivation boost and will give you room to fit other things into your day.
Give yourself a flexible deadline and bend the scope of the task to accommodate. Instead of having that shelf in order and the books to be donated out the door by the first day of spring, set a steady, regular pace that you can pick up and put down as you need. Even if the big stuff isn't complete by the time the robins come back, it's still much closer to being done than it was before.
Finally, consider tackling multiple projects on a rotating basis. While there's substantial disagreement over just how long we can focus on a specific task, switching things up keeps us more productive for longer. For work that's repetitive or doesn't need your full attention, multitasking and doing it in "small bites" can also help.
Lay the groundwork for other spring tasks
If you're planning a particular spring blowout, such as a garage sale, start the prep now. Organizing and pricing items in January and February means that once the driveway is clear, you can simply roll out the stuff, post the flyer to Facebook, and start moving stuff out for good. Garage sales can be exhausting simply because people wait until just before to price, organize, and arrange. Spending an hour or two over the winter squaring away these tasks will make it much easier.
In other cases, you'll want to start now anyway. Dusting, for example, isn't just a way to make your home presentable, it helps anybody with a dust mite allergy who drops by.
For other tasks, take the winter to do some research. If you're planning on starting a sustainable garden, now's the time to plan out which local plants you want and which tools you need. If you're going to rip out your water heater or make your house more energy efficient, start researching technologies and approaches that best fit your budget and needs. Painting? Look at swatches and pricing. Think of it this way; once the boring part's done, you can get to the project that much faster, and then enjoy the sunshine that much more.
Written by Dan Seitz for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why wait until spring to do some remodeling, painting, or other home project? Reach out for a service quote — before the spring rush.