By Melissa Haskin

Buzzing bees, a peek-a-boo sun, and droplets of rain on blooming buds means springtime has arrived. But leftovers are lurking from a busy holiday and being cooped up during the winter, possibly including a blackened oven, dust on the mantle, and pet dander under the couch. It’s time for Scrubfest 2013.   

Cleaning can improve both your physical and mental health. Clutter can be just as bad as allergy-triggering dirt and grime. “Clutter can make you feel overwhelmed,” says Dr. Justin Montoya of ProHealth Family Medicine in Eugene. “It increases anxiety.” In fact, we lose a year of our lives finding lost items says the National Association of Professional Organizers, and the national Soap and Detergent Association reports that 40 percent of housework could be eliminated if we would just take the time to de-clutter. “Getting rid of clutter can diminish anxiety and improve mood,” says Dr. Montoya. 

Start by purging. Then organize what’s left. It sounds simple, but deciding what to keep can be the hardest part. Ask yourself: “What do I want from this space?” and organize around that. The vision will help you decide what is important to keep. Check out Pinterest for visual ideas of what you want your rooms to look like and how to organize them.

Organize your closet by hanging similar items together. Organize piles of clothes into a set of stackable drawers or decorative baskets. Add a few baskets to the living room—one for the magazines, one for blankets—soon it’ll look more orderly. In your office, get rid of old receipts you don’t need and file the rest in a coupon holder. And don’t forget your purse—a little reorganizing there will make you feel de-cluttered wherever you go.

Clutter isn’t the only thing building up in your house though. There can also be pet dander, dust, grime, and, worse, mold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), molds can grow just about anywhere, but they “grow best in in warm, damp, and humid conditions,” like your bathroom or basement. They can cause stuffy noses, eye irritation, wheezing, and even skin irritation. Dr. Montoya says when cleaning your house focus on things like mold and pet dander that can potentially trigger allergies. You don’t need a complex, expensive cleaner to get rid of mold. The CDC says it can be removed with a bleach solution consisting of no more than a cup of bleach per gallon of water.

There are a lot of alternatives to traditional cleaners, which can be harmful to the environment. According to Tom Kay of the Kiva Grocery Store, Citrisol, a citrus-based cleaner and degreaser, is a really good overall cleaning solution. Another is Biokleen, one of the top sellers at both the Kiva and New Frontier Market. Kay explains that it’s enzyme based, which is better for the environment. The Ecology Center, an environmental organization supporting sustainable living, has a list of alternative cleaning recipes online. It recommends scrubbing mold with vinegar and salt paste. Common household items like baking soda, peroxide, and vinegar can solve many cleaning problems. For instance, mix one quart of warm water with 1/4 cup vinegar and two tablespoons of lemon juice to create a homemade glass cleaner.

When scrubbing down your house, there are a few things you don’t want to forget. “To reduce colds, get doorknobs and light switches,” says Bryan Pace, owner of ProClean Solutions in Eugene. Dust can also collect on the coils of refrigerators, causing them to be less effective he says. And don’t forget to pull out refrigerators and ovens, where food can get lost and attract rodents.

Spring cleaning can be refreshing. If you feel overwhelmed, make a plan and tackle tasks one at a time. It’s okay to take a few days. It’s also okay to cheat and call a cleaning company, no one will ever have to know you did.