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The Relationship Between Mental Health and Cleaning

When some people are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, they might try yoga, mindfulness, or even a massage. But for others, giving the shelves a quick dust, wiping down the kitchen counters, or vacuuming the floors can be just as beneficial for their mental health as using a mindfulness app.

In fact, for some people, the simple sight of a clean and organized home can help them unwind and de-stress even after an overwhelming day.

Here's a closer look at the impact of cleaning on your mental health, including the benefits of cleaning and how to incorporate an effective cleaning system directly into your life.

Negative Impact of Clutter and Mess

Keeping your home clean and engaging in the cleaning process is good for you. In fact, research shows that cleaning – or the lack of cleaning – can have a direct impact on mental health.

Clutter May Contribute to Depression

For instance, a study published in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" found that people who described their living spaces as cluttered or full of unfinished projects were more likely to be fatigued and depressed than those who described their homes as restful and restorative. Researchers also found that the women with messy or cluttered homes had higher levels of cortisol.

Clutter May Lead to Decreased Focus, Confusion, and Tension

Meanwhile, a study by Princeton University researchers discovered that clutter can make it difficult to focus on a particular task. More specifically, they discovered that a person's visual cortex can be overwhelmed by objects not related to a particular task, making it harder to focus and complete projects efficiently.

In some ways, clutter and mess is linked to negative emotions like confusion, tension, and irritability while an organized home tends to produce more positive emotions like calmness and a sense of well-being. To the brain, clutter represents unfinished business and this lack of completeness can be highly stressful for some people. This fact is especially true when people have significant concerns pressing in on their lives.

Clutter and mess can create more stress and anxiety, but by cleaning, organizing, and reducing the clutter, people are able to take control of their environment and create a more relaxing environment that helps them focus better on the more pressing issues in their lives.

Benefits of Cleaning and Decluttering

Research has found that cleaning can have a number of positive effects on your mental health, such as helping you to gain a sense of control over your environment and engaging your mind in a repetitive activity that can have a calming effect. Further, cleaning has been found to improve a person's mood and provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Here's an overview of some of the benefits of cleaning and decluttering your home or office.

Benefit to Physical Health

According to a study by NiCole Keith, PhD, a research scientist and professor at Indiana University, people with clean houses tend to be healthier than those with messy or cluttered homes. In fact, cleanliness was even more a predictor of good health than the walkability of a neighborhood.

Gain Control of Your Environment

When people feel like their life is out of control or they are facing uncertainties, cleaning can be a way to gain control in their life. Cleaning gives people a sense of mastery – you can control your cleaning habits, so having good cleaning habits can make people feel like they have structure and control over their environment.

In fact, a study by the University of Connecticut found that in times of high stress, people default to repetitive behaviors like cleaning because it gives them a sense of control during a chaotic time.

Further, clutter and disorganization can be really distracting and make it hard to focus or complete other projects, making you start to feel stuck in a rut. So, if you're feeling an urge to clean and declutter when you're stressed, your mind and body is probably looking for a way to bring some order to your environment. I know I’m definitely guilty of that!

Improve Your Mood

Aside from the benefits of having a cleaner home, the relationship between a clean house and mental health can help you reduce your anxiety.

For instance, a study published in the journal, Mindfulness, found that people who were mindful when washing dishes – in other words they took the time to smell the soap and to take in the experience – reported a 27% reduction in nervousness, along with a 25% improvement in "mental inspiration.”

What's more, studies have found that having clean sheets and making your bed are associated with a better night's rest. And, when you get more rest, that provides a whole host of mental health benefits including an improved mood!

Additionally, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that the physical activity of cleaning coupled with the end result of a cleaner home helps reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Cleaning can also reduce fatigue and improve concentration.

Cleaning can have the same effects as meditation, thereby reducing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.

Increase Your Focus

When your home is cluttered, messy, or exceptionally dirty, the chaos that the mess creates can impact your ability to focus and your brain's ability to process information. In fact, researchers have discovered that people are less irritable, less distracted, more productive, and better able to process information with an uncluttered and organized work area.

If you're having trouble focusing on a project, you may want to try decluttering your workspace first. You might find that devoting just a few minutes to organizing your things and clearing away any mess may make it easier for you to concentrate and get your work completed more efficiently.

How to Incorporate Cleaning Into Your Life

For a great list of ways to incorporate a cleaning system into your life, check out this previous blog post. You can also purchase a copy of No Time To Clean? Listen To Pauline! for detailed step-by-step instructions for cleaning systematically – effectively AND efficiently!

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