Why Cleaning Makes You Feel Happy

Why Cleaning Makes You Feel Happy?

By Jane K - 03 of Nov, 2020

"Clean house, clear head" rings so very true with me. As someone who is at a constant war with their anxiety, I'm always seeking healthy, straightforward ways to face my mental health head-on. My whole life, I've been what people jokingly called a "neat freak," a trait that I got honestly from my mom. I'm the person people roll their eyes at when I genuinely say that I like to clean. Still, I never realized the value of cleaning beyond a spotless home until I skipped my Saturday morning ritual after a long week and discovered how off-balance I felt.

My home is my sanctuary and safe zone, so when I return to find it clean and clutter-free, my mind is more at peace.

If you suffer from extreme anxiety, you know the feeling of panic that comes over you when things just don't feel right and you don't know how to fix them. It's easy for your whole world to feel off-kilter if just one element of it is disrupted, but cleaning your home can actually help your mental state right itself and restore balance. When I clean my house from top to bottom, I go into a quiet (and private) zone where I let all of my anxieties take the back seat to the task at hand. It's restorative for me, and best of all, I'm left with a sparkling house when all is said and done. 

Here are a few reasons why decluttering your home can actually improve your emotional outlook.

1. Decluttering Is a Form of Physical Release

Why do we collect things? When weā€™re depressed, why do we go on spending sprees? Why do we feel the need to collect large amounts of items? Why are we sentimental? The truth is that we usually arenā€™t collecting ā€œthings.ā€ Our clutter is usually an assortment of emotions and memories; these are things that we truly care about, even if the thing that we really care about is largely intangible.

And because of this it can actually make decluttering physically painful. To get rid of things ā€“ even things that we donā€™t need and things that are distracting us ā€“ will hurt. This makes us very reluctant to get rid of items, regardless of how useless they are. Of course, when let out of control, this type of behavior can quickly spiral.

Clutter can even become a psychological crutch. Clutter in our lives tends to go far beyond the external. We all carry mental and emotional clutter as well as too much material stuff around that keeps us stuck, spinning, unfocused and oftentimes unhappy. When cleaning out your home, car and closets, itā€™s also important to clean out other aspects of your life and self that may have become cluttered or stagnant over the last few months.

You collect things for a number of reasonsā€“maybe you think youā€™ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value, or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep the item, even if you havenā€™t touched or used it in weeks, months, or years. You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear youā€™ll read or those killer pair of shoes that youā€™ll bring out for just the right occasion.

But the reality is, you probably made a mistake in buying those things and it literally hurts your brain to come to terms with that fact. Researchers at Yale recently identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards:

But itā€™s this very same issue that can actually make decluttering feel physically relieving. Once you get through the initial hurdle of pain, youā€™ll recognize that you didnā€™t need that item at all; that your emotions, memories, and feelings are still there. Most people will then feel more in control of their own physical space, which will further empower them to continue organizing and decluttering.

2. How A Clean Space Affects Your Brain

Do you know whatā€™s lurking around in your clutter? In your home, itā€™s probably nothing more than some unclean socks at worst, but in the wild, it could be all sorts of dangers. The human brain is simply not a fan of clutter. In terms of your brain, simpler is better: thereā€™s less to focus on and, inherently, fewer dangers around.

Clutter has a negative impact on psychology. It can make us feel stressed out, depressed, and anxious. And it isnā€™t just about immediate dangers (are there snakes hiding in those boxes?). Clutter hides dirt and decay; it can be an unhealthy environment. Your mind and body both know this and it will remain uncomfortable until you resolve the situation.

This evidence showcases the way that messy spaces can make it difficult to focus on particular tasks and achieve goals throughout the day. But by engaging in the ritual of cleaning, research shows that we feel more optimistic after failure, as tidying up can actually boost self-esteem and confidence. To some extent, the act of organisation provides a physical signal to tell the brain that we have achieved success in being orderly, which will inevitably result in feelings of affirmation.

3. Your Clutter Can Actually Be Unhealthy

Clutter attracts dust, dirt, and even mold. Over time, clutter can impact the air quality in a room, and make it both stuffy and warm. Decluttering can make you happy not only by improving your mental health, but also by improving your overall physical health. This is especially true if you have kids or pets, or live in high traffic areas such as the city.

A decluttered room will be brighter, sunnier, and have superior air flow. Replacing some clutter with plants and opening your rooms to some natural sunlight can have an even better impact. If youā€™re questioning why youā€™re feeling slow and sluggish in your own home, this could be the answer why.

It isnā€™t just that decluttering can make you happy. Keep in mind that having clutter around could actually be the symptom rather than the cause. If youā€™ve noticed clutter piling up around you, then it could actually be a sign that maybe something isnā€™t quite right in your life. And thatā€™s not a bad thing. Either way, the answer is to take control!

By taking control of your clutter, you also take control of your state of mind. Slowly but surely, you can improve all areas of your life, starting with this as a foundation.

Are you ready to get started? Follow the steps in our declutter clinic and start releasing unloved, unused things from your home and your life.

4. Clutter Has a Direct Impact on Your Focus

Clutter doesnā€™t just represent emotions. Clutter can also represent unfinished tasks. Look around at the clutter in your room. How many of them are unfinished projects? Piles of bills? Stack of work that has to be done? How many of them relate to household chores or tasks, such as a cleaning that was left half completed?

A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothersā€™ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.

Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. Thatā€™s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at peopleā€™s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

The truth is that clutter is usually a sign that something has gone wrong. If it isnā€™t emotional pain, discussed above, itā€™s because weā€™ve become distracted and started procrastinating on things that we should complete. Clearing out this clutter isnā€™t just going to remove these worries, itā€™s also going to be the first step to ensuring that these chores and activities are actually completed. The less clutter is around you, the less likely it is that youā€™re ā€œforgettingā€ something or leaving tasks abandoned.

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1 comment

  • I bought the broom & love it. I cannot believe how much it picks up!

    Sharon Niebrzydowski

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