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Keeping It Clean

May/26/2024 / by Brian Sodoma

How an immaculate home, room, or workspace can be good for your mental health

beige and black jute welcome mat outside a door
Photo via Shutterstock

Clean home, uncluttered mind. That’s the thinking for many people, as considerable research evidence continues to show tidiness may indeed support mental well-being. A 2017 study linked cluttered environments to procrastination, while another published in 2021 examined the lives of 96 mothers and found a chaotic, cluttered home had negative effects on caregiving. Let’s take a closer look at the brain’s neurological response to clean environments, why it tends to prefer them, and offer a few tips for keeping your home clean and clutter-free.

Why Our Brain Likes Cleanliness

Dr. Renee Solomon is a clinical psychologist in California. She also runs Forward Recovery, a drug treatment program, where patients abide by certain rules, chief among them being keeping their personal spaces clean. Beds must be made daily and areas need to be kept picked up. “I really feel our environment on the outside reflects how we feel on the inside,” the mental health expert said.

Clean environments can boost serotonin levels, Solomon explained. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that delivers messaging between cells in your brain and others throughout the body. It has a hand in elevating mood, promoting good digestion, supporting immune function, and even healing wounds. Highly anxious people, in particular, Solomon noted, tend to experience that serotonin boost in uncluttered, clean physical spaces.

“You may hear some say ‘I can’t do anything until my area is clean.’ Other people may not say that, but I do think that it does impact them internally,” she said.

Robin Murphy, owner of Chirp Chirp, a New York-based cleaning company, finds clients are often motivated to have their home professionally cleaned because it’s the only time the home is top-to-bottom clean, instead of only having areas cleaned throughout the week.

“Being in a clean home really can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood,” she added. “It’s like having a clean car or wearing a nice clean pair of sneakers to the gym, you just feel better. Plus, cleaning, to me, also gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Before You Start A Cleaning Routine

If you feel a clean home or workspace could help improve your mood, and you want to develop a routine, Solomon recommends starting small. Focus on one room, a space, or an area of the home that you think would benefit from being consistently clean and tidy. Then develop a routine that’s easy to adhere to. It could be to simply make sure to pick up the area for a few minutes every night before going to bed.

“There’s no one size fits all here. It’s really about being in touch with what feels right for you,” Solomon said.

Tips From A Cleaning Pro

If your goal is to keep your home clean throughout the week, Murphy has a few tips to help you stay on track.

Make Decluttering A Priority

Murphy recommends sorting through mail daily and avoiding unnecessary items in the home. Before you purchase something, ask yourself if it’s something you really need, and where will you store it? In addition, “Spend a few minutes each day picking up items that are out of place and consider a monthly routine to sort through items that you no longer need or use,” Murphy said.

Daily Wipe-Downs And Immediate Action On Spills

Don’t let spills sit for long and wipe down frequently used surfaces, such as kitchen counters and vanities, daily. Clean sinks promptly, too. After you brush your teeth, wipe down the sink. The same goes for the kitchen sink. After you use it, wipe it to avoid grime buildup, Murphy emphasized.

Use Doormats And Sweep/Vacuum Regularly

Even quick, once or twice-weekly sweeping and vacuuming will significantly reduce dust and dirt in the home; and doormats catch dirt that would otherwise be tracked inside, the cleaning pro added.

Load The Dishwasher Daily And Be A Smart Multitasker

Loading the dishwasher keeps the sink clear. Murphy also likes to incorporate small cleaning tasks into her day. “For example, while waiting for your coffee to brew, you could unload the dishwasher and wipe down the kitchen counters,” she said.


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