Phil Says: Get Ready for Spring (Cleaning)

Apologies for posting this before emerging from my burrow this morning! Today’s my time to shine, but the sun may have other plans — and a cloudy day means that #spring is on the way. I’m not the most accurate predictor of the weather (historically, I get things right just 39% of the time on #Groundhog Day), but even if six more weeks of #winter are on the way, there’s no time like the present to start #cleaning and #decluttering your #nest. Spring cleaning can restore one’s immune system, head off stress, prevent illness and prepare the body for increased physical activity in the warmer months, Healthline says. For me, that means digging a more spacious burrow, foraging for food, hiding from coyotes and um, socializing. Off to Gobbler’s Knob!

How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday

By the time you read this, the year’s extraordinarily short #holiday shopping season will be nearly over. If you haven’t completed your shopping by now, you’ll have to pay for overnight shipping or brave the last-minute crowds at an old-school retail store.

As the clock winds down, you may also have meals to prepare and gifts to wrap. You may need to do an airport run to help far-flung family members join in the fun. You may even need to fit all of these activities in around your work schedule.

That’s a lot of stress. But there are ways to defuse that stress and enjoy the holidays.

The first is to know when you’ve done enough. Striving to create the “perfect” holiday can drive you nuts. There may be a few “nice to haves” or traditions that you just can’t fit into the holiday plan this year — and that’s OK. The sun will rise and set without them.

If you’re short a gift, you can give cash, buy a gift card or sign your giftee up for a subscription service that periodically delivers coffee, tea or wine. There are also plenty of all-digital gift options that can help show you care instantaneously.

Take advantage of services that take some of the work off your hands. Retailers are only too happy to wrap that gift or assemble that piece of furniture. The local bakery can provide a pie, and you can ask guests to bring a side dish.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when the big event arrives. A thoughtful guest will volunteer, of course, but many people may need reminding as they celebrate with family and friends. This is a great way to keep kids occupied ahead of a gift grab.

You can set deadlines on what you need to get done, but build in an hour or two of serenity to maintain your sanity. “Head outdoors for a refreshing change of scene,” Woman’s Day suggests. “Take a starlit nighttime stroll through your neighborhood to view the holiday lights.”

You don’t have to do it all — and even if you could, it wouldn’t add to your enjoyment of the holiday season or anyone else’s. Focus on the big picture and know when to “say when,” and you’ll be able to create warm holiday memories without the stress.

Don’t Stress Out About Your Cookout

Want to keep your cookout stress-free? Prep everything before guests arrive, says the Travel Mamas blog. Marinate your meats and get sides ready to plate well ahead of time — or ask your guests to bring a covered dish to pass. Make sure you have sufficient propane or charcoal for your meal plan, and keep noshes separate from the cooking area to preserve the grill master’s creative space. Invite guests to help themselves to drinks, and consider offering entertainments such as bags or horseshoes. Finally, “Have fun,” the blog says. “When the host is relaxed and having fun, so will your guests.”

Mayday! The Clutter Must Go

In medieval times, May Day began as a celebration of the return of spring. People would weave floral garlands, crown a local May king and queen, and decorate and dance around a May tree or maypole to ensure fertility for their crops. In the late 1800s, though, May Day became associated with the labor movement. Workers’ rights groups designated May 1 as a holiday to commemorate Chicago’s Haymarket Riot.

In these relatively prosperous times, you may instead recall the old distress signal, “Mayday, Mayday!” This expression, it turns out, has nothing to do with the May 1; it is borrowed from the French “m’aidé,” or “Help me.” And people who have too much stuff know all too well the helpless feelings it can produce.

Psychology Today says that physical clutter — which it defines as more knickknacks, paperwork and other junk than can comfortably fit into the space — can have an adverse effect on a person’s ability to move and think. Multiple studies say that streamlining one’s space can reduce stress and improve one’s life satisfaction, physical health and cognitive capabilities.

Physical clutter (and now, digital clutter such as email) competes for your attention, LifeHacker says; it takes away from the tasks at hand and robs people of creativity. In order to think effectively, you must eliminate it. Unfortunately, getting rid of stuff that has emotional value produces a pain response in the brain. It may actually be easier to apply constraints to the things you bring into the home than get rid of the things that are already there.

In addition to increasing stress, clutter can affect your diet, produce respiratory distress, harm relationships, encourage poor spending habits and bring on a host of other problems, the Huffington Post says. And when you have boxes of extra stuff stacked in your bedrooms, overflowing closets and stacks of dusty papers in your office, clutter has reached a crisis level. You need help! (M’aidé!)

Take a deep breath. Designate a place in your home where you can stage a major decluttering (perhaps the garage, where you can also stage a sale). Set up boxes and bags for the stuff you’re going to keep, trash, and sell or donate. Schedule a donation pickup with ClothingDonations.org and start sorting. Decluttering will get easier — and once you start, you’ll feel better in so many ways that you may make it a habit.