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5 ways to spring clean with mental wellness in mind

Spring officially arrives on Monday, March 20, which means spring cleaning may be on your to-do list.

But did you know cleaning up your space isn't just for appearances or even physical health? It can also have an impact on your mind.

Anita Yokota, therapist-turned-designer and author of "Home Therapy," understands the connection between environment and mental health. After spending 20 years as a therapist, she now helps clients identify the frustrating pain points in their homes, how to modify spaces to help productivity and foster being more present with loved ones.

"It's not just fixing those dilapidated kitchen cabinets or the old flooring... it's really deeper than that," she says, explaining the crux of her home therapy method is using the "psychology of intention to design functional homes where we can deeply connect."

To help you start the season on the right foot, Yokota shared tips for refreshing your home with mental wellness in mind:

Use the "ski slope" method: If you feel overwhelmed by looking a particular space full-on, Yokota suggests what she refers to as the ski slope method, where you start in one spot and zig-zag through the room (as if you're skiing down a mountain) so that you have a streamlined plan of attack and develop a sort of momentum.

"People are loving it because it's very bite-sized (and) doable, but then you get to finish the room or the space, so it's very satisfying," she says.

Don't be afraid to declutter using boundaries: Don't underestimate the power of baskets when you declutter, Yokota says, as they can be a useful tool in creating helpful boundaries between you and your things.

"Baskets are not only a stylish way to organize our clutter, but they also help us visually feel contained," she says. "I don't think people realize how much security we find in good boundaries."

Stimulate your senses: A simple way to give your home a mindful-focused refresh is through scents, Yokota explains.

"Springtime is a time of renewal. Whether it's your bathroom, your bedroom — those are really important places to renew ourselves," she says, pointing to aromatherapy diffusers as a helpful tool to "excite your olfactory system."

"It sends that message to our brain for what I call the happy hormones, which is serotonin and dopamine," she adds. "It just really renews us in a quick and easy way."

Sensitive to smells? Refreshing your environment with an air purifier is another option, Yokota suggests.

Set up a holding box: When cleaning up or letting things go, people often react to a sense of being overwhelmed by becoming one of two things: a tosser or a saver, Yokota says. 

"Tossers, when they don't like this feeling of overwhelm, they're like, 'I'm just gonna get rid of it, I'm just gonna purge it.' And then savers say, 'I'm so overwhelmed. I'm just going to put my head in the sand. I'll just keep everything,'" she explains. 

To avoid falling into one of these buckets, Yokota suggests setting up a box or bin where you can place items you're unsure of for a set amount of time. If you haven't used that item within 48 hours, for example, you can be more secure in deciding whether to keep or let it go.

"Having a holding box or something that visually symbolizes our ambivalence and helps us... work through the overwhelm. That's a very, very powerful decluttering tool," she says. 

Be kind to yourself: When you feel overwhelmed by your home, Yokota says that's a cue to check in with your expectations of yourself and your space.

"Am I expecting too much and pressuring myself? Because when we are feeling overwhelmed, most likely we have some kind of expectation of the situation like, 'My home should be clean' (and) 'I'm a bad home manager,' and we start personalizing things," she says. 

Instead, try to meet yourself in the middle by asking: 

  • What are things I can do today and now? 
  • What are some expectations of myself that I can give myself grace on?

"When you start having more realistic expectations of yourself and your home, you embrace it more," Yokota says. 

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