Clean House Clean Mind – the Mind Boosting Benefits of an Organised Home

Clean House Clean Mind – the Mind Boosting Benefits of Organised Home

Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. – Phillip K. Dick

Coined by the science fiction author, the term “kipple” refers to the stuff that is collecting dust in your home, all the possessions you have but may never use again. We are all guilty of it to some degree because it is an evolutionary trait. We have been wired to keep objects that are useful or pleasing to us, and have done for thousands of years – even as far back as prehistory.

Clutter and mess affect us all, although studies have shown that men are typically less bothered by it than women. While an interesting finding, it is not entirely surprising when we take a look at gender stereotypes – although what did make me chuckle was that according to this study I am a man and my husband is a woman when it comes to mess.

How does an untidy house affect us though? Is the age-old phrase “tidy home, tidy mind” one to live by? The thing is, a clean and organised home can actually lead to improved mental health and a better mindset. In this fascinating and detailed guide, we look at the ways in which a clean home can boost your mind and mood – all of which is backed by science and detailed studies.


Part 1
Mess: The Impact on General Health and Wellbeing

Part 2
Mess and Mental Health: How it Can Affect You

Part 3
Cleanliness and Mental Health: How a Clean Home Benefits the Mind

Part 4
Hoarding: What it is and How to Overcome it

Part 5
Tips: Staying Organised Physically and Mentally

Part 6
Tips: Keeping Your Home Clean

PART 1

Mess: The Impact on General Health and Wellbeing

The state of our homes doesn’t just impact our minds and mental health; it also affects us in a physical sense. Our entire bodies are made of up highly organised structures and processes, organisation and tidiness are rooted deep within our genetic codes. As a result, mess and untidiness can have an effect on our general health and wellbeing, something that this section takes the time to look at in detail.

Infections and Illness 

The air that is inside our home can actually be dirtier than outside, and this is something that we don’t really take the time to stop and think about. There are loads of contributing factors to this unclean air – everything from the shells of dead insects and dust to pet dander can accumulate if your home is not regularly cleaned.

As a result, you may find yourself suffering from allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and a running nose. This is especially true if you work from home. A study carried out by Nicole Keith of the University of Indiana determined that those who kept their house clean were more physically active and healthier than those with untidy homes – reducing the risk of heart disease.

Safety and Wellbeing

Clutter can be the cause of several accidents:

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    Fires
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    Falling
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    Broken Bones

This is because as clutter grows it becomes more of a risk, and this is especially true in hoarding situations (something we look at a little later). By ensuring that your home is clean, organised, and free from homeless clutter, you are reducing the risk of causing severe injury to yourself, or even losing your home through a fire and possibly not being able to escape due to the mess.

Sleep

Clutter actually stops us from sleeping as well as we could be, and this is because the brain sees it as unfinished work, tasks that need to be completed. Due to the unease that it can cause your mind, your quality of sleep is lessened. 75% of those interviewed by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011 found that they experienced better sleep when the area was tidy, and that the bedding being clean and fresh added an extra level of quality. A well-rested mind leads to you feeling happier, motivated, and more productive overall.

Food and Nutrition

When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, it is easy to find comfort in food. A messy home can leave you feeling unmotivated in many areas of your life, and that includes cooking. By ensuring that your house is kept clean and organised, you get to feel better about yourself and surroundings, but it may also inspire you to make good food choices. This includes switching unhealthy snacks for healthy ones, and even cooking meals from scratch.

PART 2

Mess and Mental Health: How it Can Affect You

“Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.” – Sherri Bourg Carter 

I live in what I like to call organised chaos. There are papers everywhere, piles of notebooks, and I’m not quite sure when I checked which pens actually work. I say it works for me, but it actually ends up impacting my work and motivation. When I take the time to clean my desk, and my home, I end up feeling a lot better. In this section, we look at the effects of mess on the mind.

Stress and Anxiety 

In 2009, a study on stress was undertaken, and it discovered that the women who had higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) stated that their homes were untidy or cluttered. The women were also found to be more depressive during the day, and experienced higher levels of anxiety.

Clutter and mess have been shown to increase stress and anxiety levels, which can lead to poor sleep quality and even weight gain. Additionally, too much stress can increase your risk of heart disease as well as increase your blood pressure and heart rate. If the cortisol levels in your body are continuously raised for a prolonged period of time, it can result in a suppressed immune system as well as a lowered metabolism.

Depression 

A messy room or home can be a sign that you are suffering from depression, as well as a symptom. Just getting out of bed every morning is often hard enough, and so the cleaning tends to get left for another day because there is no motivation or desire to get it done. A lack of focus is often detrimental when it comes to cleaning, and the fact that the clutter and mess remains can lead you to feel even worse about yourself and the situation.

Mould can also be a contributing factor to feelings of depression and hopelessness as a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that when they compared the health and well-being of those living in homes with mould and those without, it wasn’t just physical health that was being affected. Even minimal exposure increased the risk of depressive behaviour by over 30%, so ensuring that your home is dry, free from damp, and that any mould is removed quickly.

General Effects on Mental Health

Mess and clutter can lead to a massive reduction in your motivation and productivity. All the brain sees is unfinished work, and so it can hinder its ability to focus on the task at hand. The constant knowledge that you need to get the cleaning done can put you at a massive disadvantage when it comes to working, focussing, or just trying to relax.

It can affect our creative flow and abilities as well, because the mess is distracting to the mind and puts it off the task at hand. This can be difficult for those that are in creative jobs, such as graphic designers and writers, so it is important to ensure that both your work and relaxation spaces are tidy and organised.

General Statistics 

“Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” – Sherri Bourg Carter

An important part of studies, like those on the impact of mess on mental health, is to gather up the statistics. These give a better insight into the ways people are affected by things, as well as the differences between certain groups – like men and women or children and adults. Here are some of the general statistics for mess and mental health:

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    42% of women in a Homejoy survey stated that a messy home caused more stress
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    18% of men in a Homejoy survey felt that cleaning was very therapeutic
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    The same survey showed more men clean regularly than women, but not more thoroughly
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    34% of men in a Homejoy survey claim to only ensure the bedroom is clean
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    31% of women in a Homejoy survey describe themselves as people who clean the whole house
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    18-24-year olds are classed as the messiest generation at the moment
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    54% of people surveyed by Dr Beckmann stated they had cancelled plans because their home was not clean enough for them to host.
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    51% of arguments in the UK are caused by deciding whose turn it is to take the rubbish out

That last statistic may seem amusing, but it is also very true. Hopefully, these have helped you gain a little more insight into the world of mess and untidiness.

PART 3

Cleanliness and Mental Health: How a Clean Home Benefits the Mind

“Neatness and order support health — and oppose chaos.” – Courtney Lopresti

In the previous section, we looked at the ways in which a messy home can impact the mind, and the results were very negative. To counter that, we are now going to take a look at the positive effects of a clean home on your mind and mental health. Please bear in mind that while there are many mental health conditions out there, these three are the ones that have the most studies with regards to cleanliness and to use others would result in more speculation as opposed to evidence.

Stress and Anxiety 

If we look at the 2009 study in the previous section, the women who had lower levels of cortisol experienced happier moods, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, but also ate better, exercised, and were able to get restful sleep. All of this is because their homes were tidy, and so they were not bothered or distracted by mess and clutter.

Often, anxiety can find itself rooted in fear of the past or future, but cleaning can help to alleviate and change some of these feelings. The act of letting go of clutter from the past, of removing dirt from your home, can leave you feeling lighter. However, it also helps you to let go of negative emotions and experiences – two things that are really important for moving forward.

Depression 

Cleanliness is a form of self-respect, and if you keep your home clean, you are showing yourself that you are worth it. Getting it done won’t always be easy, but the results will leave you feeling more confident, valued, and also show you that you are worthy of living in nice surroundings. Over time, and as you continue to keep your home clean, so you see an improvement in your mood and outlook and start to feel a little happier inside. This is because you have clear and worthy surroundings.

Cleaning also means that you are getting some light physical exercise, which has been shown to boost serotonin and oxytocin levels in the body – leaving you with an improved mood by the end of it. Plus, it makes for a great way to take your mind off the things that are getting you down for a little while.

General Effects on Mental Health

If your home is clean and organised, your mind will be as well. This means that you will end up feeling more productive and motivated, as well as ready to tackle work and issues head-on. By knowing where everything is and being in an environment that is spacious and relaxed, your mind is only focused on the task in front of you and not distracted by clutter or mess.

It can also lead to positive changes in general behaviour because having a clean home makes you feel better about yourself. As a result, you are less likely to feel overly emotional or have bursts of rage due to the fact that you are no longer surrounded by clutter and chaos. This is true for both children and adults that have recently changed from living in a mess to living in cleanliness.

PART 4

Hoarding: What it is and How to Overcome it

"(1) the acquisition of, and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value; (2) living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed; and (3) significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding." – Dr Randy Frost and Dr Tamara Hartl

This is the officially recognised definition of a hoarder and hoarding. Much of the time, those who have a lot of stuff will jokingly say that they are a hoarder, but in actuality, you are not until the above criteria have been met. Hoarding often finds a way to overtake your life and home, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent thing – there are ways to overcome it.

In most cases, hoarding is caused by trauma, and this can come in various forms. Anything from the death of a loved one to a divorce is enough to trigger the chain of events that leads to becoming a hoarder. However, it is also important to note that the symptoms can start in childhood, and general hoarding symptoms also tend to make themselves known before the condition sets in.

Disorganisation, a lacklustre attitude towards cleaning, and purchasing more than you need are all tell-tale signs of hoarding. While they can manifest as collecting and remain quite harmless, a traumatic event can set the chain off. The houses may be filled with clutter and chaos, but hoarders are also perfectionists when it comes to their interests and activities. For further clarification, here are the main symptoms:

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    Collect items that may have little or no monetary value, or items they intend to reuse or repair
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    Find it hard to categorise or organise items
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    Have difficulties making decisions
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    Struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
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    Become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
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    Have poor relationships with family or friends

Anything can be hoarded, from newspapers to pets – and the latter is more common than you might expect. As we have already mentioned, hoarding is a treatable condition, and while the road may be long, the results leave those who were suffering with cleaner homes and feeling much happier in themselves. While you might think the first step is to just grab some bin bags and start chucking stuff out as they do on television, it is a much deeper issue than that.

An interesting fact to note is that 30% of those with OCD exhibit hoarding tendencies, and the two conditions often link together. It is a neurological condition, and one that needs to be handled with delicacy and sensitivity. As a result, the first step to getting out of the habit is through CBT- otherwise known as cognitive behavioural therapy. This teaches you new ways to think, altering your thought processes so that you see things in a healthier way, and one that will better your life.

It takes a while, and you need to have both the motivation and commitment, but it really does show results. The therapist doesn’t throw anything away, but they will help you to find the strength to do so, and by the end of it, you will be much better at clearing clutter. Additionally, if you have friends or family that want to help and support you, let them. It is easier to overcome when you know there are people who are there to help when you need it, and a support network can be a vital aspect.

Once you are feeling more confident in your ability to throw stuff out and declutter your home, you can start to take bigger steps. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your home clean and free from unnecessary clutter:

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    Make immediate decisions about things like newspapers and letters
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    Think about what you are buying. Do you need it? If so, is it necessary?
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    Throw out anything that has not been used in over a year
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    Once you have made a decision about an item, stick with it
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    Spend 15-20 minutes cleaning every day. Little and often goes a long way

Hoarding might not seem like a massive issue when it is put on paper, but it can have a massive impact on the lives of those who struggle with it every day. To end this section, here is a little perspective to show you just how dangerous and damaging hoarding can be when left untreated:

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    Makes cleaning difficult, leading to mould, as well as insect and rodent infestations
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    Unhygienic conditions, as mentioned above, can lead to severe illness
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    Creates a fire risk and potential blocking of exits
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    Can cause injury through tripping and falling over cluttered items
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    Large piled of objects can collapse and fall, causing injury or even death

PART 5

Tips: Staying Organised Physically and Mentally

Cleanliness isn’t everything; you need to learn how to stay nice and organised as well – both in the physical world and within your mind. A clean home and an organised one go hand in hand, and it provides some much-needed relief for your brain. Here are a few of our top tips for staying organised – even when you feel like you can’t.

You Don’t Have to Throw it all Out 

The thing is, a lot of the fear and anxiety that comes with decluttering is knowing that it is going to a landfill or an incinerator. However, not everything needs to be thrown out – you can also donate or sell some of your old stuff. This is a great way to ensure that it goes to a new and loving home, and you may even make a little cash in the process. While some things will have to be chucked away, it’s reassuring to know that this isn’t the case for everything.

Wear Clean Clothes and Wash Them 

Ensuring your home is clean is one thing, but your clothes are also important. Clean clothes leave you feeling more confident, boosting self-esteem and self-worth. This is because you know you look tidy and presentable, but also because the smell and feel of clean clothes are great. Walking around in clothing that is dirty or stained has a negative effect on your confidence and mental state, and it is good for your mental health. Wash your clothes regularly, and always wear clean ones.

Use a Calendar

Investing in a calendar or diary is a great way to keep your life on track. You can mark down days when you are meeting up with friends, important work dates, and even plan a neat cleaning schedule to ensure that you keep up with the housework and find the time to do so. It doesn’t have to be physical either; there are loads of apps (including those that come with your mobile device) that can help you to get organised and remember everything.

Buy a Filing System

This is such an important thing to consider because we all have loose paperwork that we aren’t allowed to throw out because we may need it for things like tax returns in the future. For all of your record, documents, and essential pieces of paperwork, you need to invest in a suitable filing system. Whether you go for a full-on cabinet or a simple box wallet with divided sections, it keeps things neat and tidy while also ensuring they are out of the way and in a safe location.

Go Through Your Stuff Regularly 

Every year you really should embrace the concept of spring cleaning. Look at your possessions, your clutter, and ask yourself if you have used it since your last cleaning session. If the answer is no, you should get rid of it. By going through your stuff on an annual basis (or more), you are keeping on top of things, remaining organised, and preventing things from getting out of hand.

PART 6

Tips: Keeping Your Home Clean

Once your home is clean the act of ensuring it remains that way is not always going to be easy. Falling back into old habits can seem comfortable and tempting, but it is important that you don’t give in to the temptation. I have dedicated this section to tips for keeping your home clean so that you can stay on top of things without getting overwhelmed.

Take it One Room at a Time 

The worst thing you can do when trying to clean your home or manage the upkeep is look at the whole mess. Instead, you should do one room at a time. Don’t even think about the rest of your home, just start with one room, clean it up, and then move onto the next. By focusing on a single area, you minimise the stress and pressure, so you get the job done efficiently, feel good about it, and then move on so that the rest of your home can look just as good.

Little and Often

Cleaning can be an overwhelming task, and so sometimes it is best to do a little bit often. If you spend 10-15 minutes each day tidying up and performing a few small tasks it helps you to stay on top of things – so your home is presentable, and you still feel happy and comfortable with the state of your house. Additionally, it should be noted that there is never any shame in hiring some professional cleaners if you start feeling as though it is all too much. We all need help sometimes.

Remember the Lighting 

It’s surprising how easy it is to forget to clean things like lighting fixtures and the tops of frames or mirrors. These little areas collect an incredible amount of dust, and when you take the time to clean it all off, you will feel a massive weight lifted from your shoulders. While they are easy to miss, they are equally simple to clean and won’t take a massive amount of time out of your day.

Make the Experience an Enjoyable One

The act of cleaning can be quite a boring and tiresome one, so you should try your best to make it fun. It’s a good idea to play some music, maybe have the television on, and make a little song and dance out of it. The process goes faster and better when you are actually enjoying it. Additionally, cleaning is a form of exercise, and all that movement burns fat and calories – leaving you feeling better about yourself. Even a little cleaning every day counts as some exercise.

Smells Like Home 

Have you ever thought about what your home smells like? About what you want it to smell like? Even the simple act of lighting a candle can help to bring new meaning to the space within your home, and you have the ability to choose the aroma. Baking things like bread or cookies regularly can also make the house feel warmer and more welcoming. While it may not be a cleaning tip, it is a way to ensure that your house always feels like your home.

Remember These Three Tips

Finally, there are three things you should remember to do every day. They keep your home tidy, but even if they are the only things you manage, at least you have taken one step towards a clean home that day.

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    Make the bed when you get up 
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    Open the curtains or the blinds to let the natural light in 
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    Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, clean them up 

You may have your doubts, but these three little things are amazing when it comes to making you feel better about yourself and your home.

To Conclude

There are many things that a clean home can do for the mind, and if this article has done anything, it should be showing you that. A messy home can increase stress and anxiety levels, as well as lower your mood and lead to poorer sleep quality. By ensuring that your home is tidy, you can ease these feelings and live a more comfortable life.

Mental health and the state of your home are reflected within each other, and if your house is in a terrifying state, then your mental health is likely to be suffering as well. You never need to go through the process alone, and there are plenty of professionals that are able to help you learn new behaviours and help you work through your mental health issues. This guide not only offers insight into how a clean home can help you, but also advice and tips on how to keep your home clean.

What did you think of our guide to how a clean home can improve your mental health? Did it leave you feeling inspired, or are there other concepts you would have liked us to explore? Leave a comment below as we love hearing from you.

Resources

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Will Tottle

Article written by Will Tottle. Follow his work here.

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