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How Cleaning Your Space Can Improve Mental Health

How Cleaning Your Space Can Improve Mental Health

Have you ever come home from a long day only to feel more exhausted when you step inside your messy house? Science can explain why you find clutter so frazzling.

Fortunately, you can brighten your outlook and tidy your home in one fell swoop. Here’s how cleaning your space can improve mental health.

1. It Improves Physical Symptoms

Living in a messy environment can make you sick. You’re more likely to come into contact with germs, but that’s not the only health risk you face.

For example, do you habitually wake up with a stuffy nose? Dust mites, dander, and dead skin cells can trigger allergies if you aren’t washing your pillows every few months. Fortunately, you can clean them the same way you do your sheets — toss them in the washer, add your favorite fabric fragrance and voila.

Poor indoor air quality can also make you feel sick. When was the last time you changed your home’s air filter? The EPA recommends doing so every two to three months, although you may need to do so more often if you have pets or smokers sharing your abode.

2. It Declutters Your Visual Field

Why does clutter drive you crazy? Science explains that all the stimuli overwhelm your visual field, making you feel frantic. Looking at a messy house is like having the world’s strictest schoolmarm chastise you over an incomplete to-do list every time you open your eyes.

Clearing the mess brings a nearly instantaneous sense of relief. Better yet, it provides a tangible sense of accomplishment. There’s nothing quite like leaning on your mop after some heavy-duty housecleaning and marveling at your sparkling floors to make you pat yourself on the back.

3. It Provides a Sense of Agency

Agency is the sense that your actions can reap positive changes in your life and the world around you.

Why does it matter now, more than ever? A strong sense of agency helps you stay grounded through life’s storms. However, the past two pandemic years and resulting economic and societal upheaval have left many feeling helpless, as if there’s nothing they can do to improve their plight.

Cleaning your physical space improves your mental health by proving that your deeds make a difference. Having control over something — even your dwelling space — restores your sense of agency.

4. It Increases Your Self-Esteem

Have you ever hesitated to invite friends to visit because of your messy house? If so, you might have felt embarrassed, even ashamed, of how you let disarray take over your life. Fortunately, there’s an easy cure.

Grab a mop, bucket, vacuum, feather duster — whatever you need. At the very least, pick up those scattered toys and paperwork and organize them in bins and files. Once you do a little, you’ll likely feel inspired to finish the job and feel much better about yourself when you’re done. Hello, delayed housewarming party!

5. It Decreases Your Cortisol Levels

Nature designed the stress hormone cortisol to pick up where adrenaline leaves off, preparing your body for ongoing stress — like famine or drought. However, it can go haywire in modern times when there’s no escape from overwhelming stressors like a micromanaging boss. It can increase your addictive tendencies and make you gain weight by causing cravings for fatty, sugary foods to survive what your body perceives as a continuing attack.

Cleaning lets you dissipate this hormone the way Mother Nature intended — through physical activity. A thorough round of vacuuming burns calories while catering to your body’s fight-or-flight response. Can cleaning help you shed unwanted pounds? Ask yourself who wants Doritos crumbs all over their newly cleaned couch.

Quick and Dirty Cleaning Tips

What if you’re pressed for time like so many Americans? Heed these quick and dirty cleaning tips for an uncluttered, tidy look without spending too many hours with a mop in hand:

  • Create a place for everything: A basket hanger provides a tidy place for picking up Legos while enhancing a rustic farmhouse look. Cubicles make it easy for tiny hands to put their toys away, and mail and key organizers destroy that mess on your counter where you throw your stuff upon arriving home.

  • Fold, straighten and fluff: You don’t have to make your bed like a hotel maid, but you should pull up your sheets and fluff your pillows. Fold any clothing lying around — unless it belongs in the laundry basket. In that case, you know where it goes.

  • Vacuum, dust and mop: You might need to get out the scrub bucket to tackle deep-down grease on your kitchen floor or cabinets. However, you can give your entire home an uplift in 20 minutes or less by hitting all hard surfaces with a feather duster. Follow with a quick vacuum of your fabric furniture and floors, then use a mop to give hard floors a quick shine and remove bacteria and pollen. You’ll wow your guests in no time at all.

  • Add fragrance: Your sense of smell can improve your perception of your home’s cleanliness. You can pick up an aromatherapy mister and essential oils for less than $20 or opt for clean-burning candles like soy to add a light fragrance to your space without toxic chemicals.

Clean to Enhance Your Mental Health

Your mental health can decline when you feel perpetually overwhelmed. Coming home to a cluttered house day after day only increases your stress levels.

Fortunately, cleaning your physical space can improve your mental health. Follow the tips above to feel better and create a sparkling home worthy of welcoming guests.


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