Spring is a natural time for renewal. The weather warms, days lengthen, windows open. As clean air and light pour in, you may feel inspired to let that freshness into everything—your physical space, your mind, your body. And it turns out that doing so is intricately tied to your overall health and well-being. Studies show that the rituals of cleaning and getting rid of what's no longer serving you—such as worn-out possessions, old habits, emotional ties, or unhealthy thoughts—can actually improve your physical and mental health. So start by tackling the piles of old bills, the crumbs under the refrigerator, the much-neglected bathtub, and then apply some of those same principles to other areas of your life, such as your workout routine, diet, or relationships. We guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better if you do.

Where do I start?

Choose the area of your life that needs the most attention or that feels the easiest to tackle, and then take one simple action to get started. "Our minds shut down when the goal is too big," says Jennifer Louden, author of The Life Organizer Book (New World Library, 2007). "Don't worry about finishing—just take that first step." As you notice the effects of the changes you've made—perhaps less stress due to the fact you don’t have to spend 15 minutes looking for your keys, or more energy because you've opted for a new workout routine—you'll feel inspired to keep going.

Declutter your physical space

Tackle stuff the smart way

Do you feel rotten when clutter levels rise past a certain point? Consider this research: Self-identified hoarders (who have a tendency to collect and an inability to dispose of things) and family members of hoarders are nearly three times more likely to be overweight and have more medical and mental health issues than their family members, according to a 2008 report in Psychiatry Research. Although hoarding is an extreme example, people with typical clutter problems report anxiety, guilt, and depression about the clutter in their homes.

Whether it's the garage, the trunk of your car, or the playroom, you probably have at least one spot that seems impossible to organize. Rather than rushing out to buy shelves or bins, it's better to start with the big-picture, says Peter Walsh, organizing expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show and author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? (Free Press, 2008). Ask yourself, "What do I want from this space?” For a bedroom, your goals might include serenity, rest, intimacy, or comfort. Then remove anything that doesn't contribute to those key words. "Once you've removed things that don't serve your vision—either by moving them to a more appropriate part of the house or getting rid of them altogether—you can focus on organizing the things that do."

What to donate, recycle, or discard

Clothes and toys: Anything torn, broken, or unused for over a year.
Paper: Newspapers more than two days old, magazines more than two months old, all junk mail, and even your child's excess artwork. (To remember artwork, take digital pictures, suggests Leeds.)
Sports equipment and hobby supplies: Anything you haven't used in a year. If you decide to get back into camping or knitting one day, that's what Craigslist is for.
Source: Regina Leeds, author of One Year to an Organized Life (Da Capo, 2007).

Commit to two basic tasks

1. Make your bed every morning. 2. Designate a spot for your keys and glasses if you wear them. "Getting organized is a project. Staying organized is a habit" says Regina Leeds, professional organizer and author of One Year to an Organized Life (Da Capo, 2007). In order to make the benefits of your spring purge last, make organization part of your daily ritual. Leeds recommends these two simple tasks for their ability to bring calm to your environment (making the bed) and saving you time and angst (designating a spot for your keys). "Once you see how these small actions have big benefits, you'll be inspired to bring a similar sense of serenity to other parts of your life."