Is it possible to go too far with your spring cleaning?

According to one study by the University of Minnesota, a messy space can promote creativity and new ideas. Getty Images

Spring is in the air, do you know what that means? It’s time to get cleaning.

For some they can’t wait to get that elbow grease going and organize their closets and garages – others, however, dread the thought of it.

Sure, eager spring cleaners will say it’s a great opportunity to start anew, but experts and research suggest that there can too much of a good thing – even when it comes to spring cleaning.

READ MORE: Recipes for spring cleaning with homemade, natural products

In fact, going overboard with the de-cluttering can potentially impact both your wallet and creativity, and can even go as far as hindering productivity for some.

Not the de-cluttering type

Good news, organized-chaos lovers – there’s an argument that can be made for your less-than-organized preferences.

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According to David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson, authors of the book A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, moderately disorganized people, institutions and systems are often more efficient, resilient, creative and effective than those that are highly organized.

They also argue that when people become anxious about their messy homes and disorganized schedules, it’s often not because of the actual mess and disorder, but because they assume they should be neater and more organized and feel bad that they aren’t.

One 2013 study by the University of Minnesota found that while having a clean space may encourage healthier eating, generosity and conventionality, a messy space can promote creativity and new ideas.

(Maybe this explains the success of notorious mess keepers like Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Mark Zuckerberg.)

“I think messy people get a lot of flack,” Kathleen Vohs, the study’s author, told Global News. “I think generally that people and organizations and spouses and parents just don’t think that messiness has any value and we were able to demonstrate a very clear and desirable value. [People and organizations] need to be creative, but of course we also need to be rule-following.”

But as great as a bit of moderated messiness can be for creativity, too much clutter can hinder productivity as Vohs points out.

The trick to finding that balance is to determine your messiness threshold – that sweet spot which encourages both that genius creativity and sensible productivity. Everyone has one, it just depends on how far you’re willing to take it before it becomes a problem.

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READ MORE: Spring cleaning: How to organize your closet, cupboard space

But remember there’s a fine line between messiness and hoarding.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), hoarding is a compulsion to collect, buy, acquire and save items that have little or no value. This can have harmful emotional, physical, social, financial and legal effects on both the hoarder and their family.

The ADAA lists the following as typical characteristics people who hoard:

  • Avoid throwing away possessions, even common items like magazines, bags, boxes, food, etc.
  • Experiences severe anxiety when throwing things away.
  • Has trouble making decisions about organization.
  • Feels overwhelmed or embarrassed by their possessions.
  • Is suspicious of other people touching their possessions.
  • Thinks obsessively about their possessions.
  • They may have function impairments, like loss of living space inside the home, financial difficulties and social isolation.

Mind your money

When it comes to matters of the wallet, spring cleaning may encourage some to spend their hard-earned cash.

According to Moneris, consumer spending during the spring months has been steadily increasing over the last seven years, specifically among the furniture and home furnishings and retail sectors.

For example, April 2015 saw an increase in Canadian consumer spending of 6.4 per cent on a year-over-year basis. Among the top expenditures were home improvement and retail (women’s accessories), which saw an increase of about 12 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively. Women’s apparel also saw a jump of just of seven per cent in sales.

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In 2016, there was an overall increase of 8.3 per cent in spending in April in Canada, with the furniture and home furnishings sector being within the top three areas Canadians spend the most on (over 13 per cent).

There may be a few different reasons for this.

First may be because you’ve become overzealous when cleaning out your closet or bathroom cupboard and have thrown things away that perhaps you should have kept. Instead, you have to replace whatever it was you threw out.

“We find that – yes – there is such thing as going overboard,” Linda Vanderkolk, principal lead organizer of professional organizing company ClutterBGone said. “We find this happens quite frequently especially if adult children are helping their senior parents to do some spring cleaning … If they don’t check with their parents first they may be throwing something out that has something valuable attached to it in some way, whether it’s sentiment or monetary.”

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In fact, Vanderkolk once had a client almost throw away a Fabergé egg. Yikes.

Another reason could because you now have all this new space to play with in your closet or living area and have convinced yourself there’s a bit of wiggle room to purchase that new blouse you’ve had your eye on.

That kind of makes the whole “spring cleaning” process sounds kind of redundant, doesn’t it?

READ MORE: Spring cleaning or spring dumping? City wants you to be mindful of where you dump your junk

Well, if you do your spring cleaning right you won’t have to (or want to) spend money, Vanderkolk says.

“One of the questions we ask our clients is why are you holding onto this item?” she said. “An answer we get back is ‘It might come in handy one day.’ The reality is ‘one day’ rarely happens and chances are if you do really need to replace it, we look to see if it’s something that’s easily replaceable.”

It doesn’t have to be time consuming

When it comes to cleaning and organizing in general, the tricky part is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.

What if you’ll need this item in the future? What if you’re giving away something of value?

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It doesn’t actually have to be that complicated, Vanderkolk says. If you want to be efficient with your time (and money), ask yourself these five questions when deciding on an item:

  1. Are you holding on to this item out of guilt? (For example, did someone give it to you as a gift and you feel like you have to hold onto it as an obligation?) If so, it’s not worth keeping. You are not insulting the person who gifted it to you by giving it – or throwing it – away.
  2. Why are you holding onto this item?
  3. Is this an item you would replace if it was lost in a fire? If not, then it may be best to get rid of it.
  4. If you’re holding onto an item that you’d like to one day give to your children – is this something your children will actually want? If so, keep it. If not, find another home for it.
  5. When it comes to paper clutter, ask yourself if that document is something you would need in a future circumstance (for example, doing your taxes). Is it current or relevant enough to be useful? Does it exist in another place or format? If you needed it in the future, could it easily be searchable online?

“Spring cleaning is a time to freshen up and lighten up,” Vanderkolk says. “This is a time to have a fresh start and clean up the dread and dirt and stuff from the winter and kind of move forward in a positive and healthy way.”

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