Tidying Up & Living Well

Tidying up has positive implications for mental health

No one likes being told to clean their room. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone when wondering why the house had to be sparkling for the company to visit. But, as I’ve entered adulthood and moved into my own place, I’ve come to realize that tidying up & living well are two ideals that are very much intertwined.

So how exactly does tidying up support wellness?

The Simple Science Behind Tidying Up

The basic idea behind a clean home and positive mental health is that a cluttered or messy environment is distracting and can make you feel like you have lost control. It is anxiety-inducing for many.

Conversely, when we clean up a mess or fold a blanket, we are taking control of our environment. Our ability to take control has many positive implications for mental health, especially when we are in otherwise stressful situations. Like, I don’t know, a pandemic!

When we look deeper, women who do not describe their homes as restorative, report higher levels of cortisol! Cortisol is a stress hormone that can have long-lasting negative impacts on our brains. Messy or otherwise stressful home life can deeply impact a person’s mental health. Also, cortisol can increase the risk of many chronic and degenerative diseases.

Cleaning Your Room For Health

How can you incorporate tidying up into your mental health routine?

As with most habit-building, you have to start small.

If you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, do not expect yourself to have a sparkling clean room after one day. Not only does depression sap your energy, but creating habits takes time. When you barely have the energy to eat, you can’t rip yourself apart for not vacuuming your apartment.

But what does starting small mean?

For one, instead of dumping your t-shirt on the floor, take the extra step to put it in the laundry hamper. Or, take the time to pick up one stray sock a day.

By doing small things, you are making it easier to build bigger habits! As you build this capacity, you can change the environment that may be keeping you in your negative funk.

Top Tidying Up Tips

Nothing like an alliteration to convince you to clean your room! Right?

Regardless of your opinion, we can all use some tips when it comes to keeping our house clean. While I could direct you to Pinterest, or similar social media platforms, it is so easy to become overwhelmed. If you’re already struggling to keep your house clean, overwhelm is a good thing to avoid.

So, how can you foster the habit of tidying up?

5 Simple Rules

Here are 5 simple rules that I follow when tidying up around my home:

  1. If you see something out of place, take a moment to put it in its home. Maybe it’s your keys or maybe a blanket needs to be folded. But, taking the time to put something away for 30 seconds will save you a lot of energy on stress.
  2. Focus on one location at a time. Whether it’s the kitchen, the bathroom, or just your bedroom, cleaning one room can give you a safe place to rest. When I lived in residence at university, keeping my bedroom clean offered me a sense of control that I did not have when sharing a common space with three other people.
  3. Alternatively, if cleaning one place thoroughly seems too draining, do one cleaning task. You don’t have to vacuum AND mop in one day. You can wipe down a counter without cleaning the bathtub. Every little bit helps.
  4. Set a cleaning day. Sometimes, clearing your schedule to focus on tidying up around the house is needed! There’s no shame in canceling your plans, setting your favorite playlist, and spending hours focusing on cleaning. Once you’re in the habit of cleaning on a specific day, it’ll be easier to start the next time!
  5. Remember that ignoring a mess will not make it go away. If you clean the dishes or put away your laundry today, it is one less thing to stress you out tomorrow.

Tidying Up Slowly

Tidying up is a habit that needs to be built, and not something most people can do automatically.
Photo by Drew Beamer

Like any habit, learning to be tidy takes some time. If a messy house is stressing you out, don’t stress yourself out more when you don’t clean right away.

We all have finite amounts of energy, and some people have less than others. A lot of times, those who seem to have endless amounts of energy are simply benefitting from the habits they have built into their life. When we create a habit, our body can run on auto-pilot, which saves us a lot of energy.

With this in mind, it’s okay to settle for baby steps, because even baby steps are moving forward.

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