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Cleaning and Tidying for Better Mental Health

Cleaning and tidying for better mental health might seem like a strange idea, however there is good evidence to suggest that when environments are clean and tidy, we feel better, and when we engage in the activity of cleaning and tidying it helps us to manage our emotions. At the bottom of this page are some links to articles and online research that explores this further. Along with a couple of blog posts on this website that are also interesting and informative on this topic.

I have my own anecdotal evidence however, that cleaning and tidying supports my overall mood and can lead me to feel better about life. My routines are that at the end of every day I pick up plates, cups, glasses, clothes, odds and ends and I put them away, wash them up or put them to wash. Every week I put aside an amount of time and I clean the house. It’s not particularly major but to me it keeps on top of things, I take out the bins, water the plants, clean the kitchen and the bathroom and hoover. Sometimes I dust and do other things, but on the whole that’s it. I know that if I don’t do this cleaning ritual I can feel a bit out of sorts, similarly if I leave things a mess at the end of the day. In short, once a day and once a week I go through a ritual to reset my environment.

The benefits that I have noticed are that I feel less agitated, because I don’t have to deal with things left over when I am in a rush in the morning, I can just get on with the day, I feel calmer and more in control, it is easier to focus when my desk isn’t a mess and covered in cups. I don’t worry about people visiting because the house is generally ok. Please don’t get me wrong it is no show home, but it is good enough.

Cleaning Tidying and Better Mental Health

I have not always followed these principles however, and there was a time when the clutter in my home and the cleaning had become overwhelming. I had let things pile up around me in my office, I didn’t empty the bin or do the shredding, clothes were everywhere and often plates or cups would be left out from the previous day. At this time everything felt like hard work, it was difficult to be motivated because I had this feeling of being weighed down.

What I did was start with my car, it was small and containable, I cleaned it, cleared out any rubbish and checked it was filled up with screen wash and oil. This didn’t take me that long to do, and this act meant that every time I drove my car I felt differently, I felt better.

Next, I started with the front area of my house, I tided it, cleaned it, fixed anything that needed fixing or replacing and added things that made it feel better for me. For instance, the curtain in my hall window was yellowing and bits on the back of it were falling off (it was a blackout curtain and had a coating). I changed the curtain, and put a pot plant on the windowsill, cleaned the window and the front area of the house. Before this cleaning every time I went to the front door, I felt a bit depressed, it looked awful, and I had this constant nagging feeling that I needed to do something. After I had spent an hour cleaning it up it transformed how I felt about coming home, I noticed that my mood lifted, and I felt calmer.

I then proceeded to break the house down into areas and address an area at a time. Sometimes it would take me a couple of weeks to tidy and clean an area, doing it a bit at a time, sometimes it was just an hour or two. Eventually the whole house was done and felt so much better to live in. I felt calmer and more in control.

Throughout this process I also found that the act of cleaning, tidying, or decluttering acted to help balance my emotions, it helped me to step away from heightened emotions such as anxiety and I felt like I was having a positive impact on my life, it gave me a sense of confidence and a boost to my self-esteem.

Cleaning and Tidying for better Mental Health

If you feel that tidying and cleaning could improve your mental wellbeing, then think about your own plans to address your environment, whether that is at work or home. Here are my top three tips to cleaning and tidying for better mental health

  1. Start small with something achievable, whether that’s your car like me, or just the boot of your car. Break it down and then focus on that area until it is complete. Sometimes you might need to move on and focus on something else and come back to it, but always keep what you are tidying and cleaning manageable.
  2. Pay attention to the changes you have made. Every time you go past your newly tided, cleaned and spruced up bedroom, pause and take it in, remember how good it feels.
  3. Implement a routine to maintain it to some extent. Something daily and weekly to make sure it doesn’t become overwhelming and then maybe something only two or three times a year that means you are really on top of it. For instance, I only really dust two or three times a year, but it’s enough for me.

The beauty is that you can make it work for you and your circumstances. If you feel though that you would like professional help, perhaps you are struggling with anxiety or depression you might want to speak to a professional. Paul offers each client the opportunity to speak with him first in an initial phone call to ensure that he is the right person for you to work with on the difficulties you are experiencing and to answer any questions that you have. Paul is currently only offering support online or on the telephone. Please call him on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave me a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

Online Research and Articles

Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindfulness Practice

Effects of Anxiety on Spontaneous Ritualized Behaviour

The Mental Health Benefits of Tidying Up

The relationship between Mental Health and Cleaning

Blog Posts on this Website

Decluttering for Mental Health

Managing Anxiety – 3 Quick Tips

Cleaning and Tidying for better Mental Health

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