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The Importance of Cleaning For Your Mental Health

January 23, 2018

Besties, I need to start this post off with a truth bomb:  I hate cleaning.   There, I said it.  For so long, I have coveted the attitudes of the so-called “neat freaks” and “organized people.”  Those Monica Gellarish types who seem to thrive on maintaining perfectly tidy homes.  Sigh.  I just don’t have it. Don’t […]

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Besties, I need to start this post off with a truth bomb:  I hate cleaning.  
There, I said it.  For so long, I have coveted the attitudes of the so-called “neat freaks” and “organized people.”  Those Monica Gellarish types who seem to thrive on maintaining perfectly tidy homes.  Sigh.  I just don’t have it.
Don’t get me wrong…I mean, I do clean my home.  Regularly, I promise!  It’s just that with two little boys running around leaving a regular trail of dishes, clothes, toys, and garbage as they go, it never feels all the way clean.  It’s never ALL clean ALL the time.
By and large, I have come to accept this and I inhabit the happy middle ground of some cleaning will get done every day, but the house will never be perfect all at once.  Eh, so what?  Perfect is overrated anyway.  
But here’s another truth:  life is all about balance.  And so is self-care.  Many people think of self-care as taking a bubble bath or getting a pedicure; and while pampering yourself definitely falls under the umbrella of self-care, so does adulting.  And yes, even cleaning.  
Even a non-clean freak like myself has got to admit:  I just FEEL better when the house is clean.  A clean (or mostly clean) space makes me feel accomplished and peaceful.  And get this:  it’s not just me.  A 2016 Psychology Today article entitled “The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness” references several studies conducted in the mid-2000s that revealed cluttered and untidy spaces can cause people to feel depressed, fatigued, have difficulty concentrating, and develop sleep problems.  
Say what?!  
Well my friends, since zero of those things sound appealing, let’s re-frame cleaning as self-care, shall we?  While some of you may already consider mopping as therapeutic as a massage (I salute you, you are and always will be #goals to me), there may be others of you who, like me, need a little convincing that cleaning actually improves your mental health.  To us, I give this advice:  Just do it.  Yep, I say that to my clients a lot because it is a well known fact (not to mention the underlying tenet of cognitive behavioral therapy) that if you want to change how you feel, you must first change what you do.  
For all of us who feel a little more like Lorelai Gilmore and a little less like Danny Tanner, here are some ways to make sure we don’t neglect the cleanliness of our abodes to the detriment of our mental health:
1.  Hire someone to do it.  This is my favorite one, for obvious reasons 😉  There’s no study I have read that says to reap the benefits of a clean home, you must actually be the one to clean it.  In the words of Ferris Bueller, if you have the means, I highly recommend it.  
Since, currently, my husband and I are choosing to allocate our funds elsewhere, I’ll continue…
2.  Set an amount of time that you are willing to spend cleaning each day.  Set a timer and get ‘er done.  Focus just on cleaning during that time and when that timer goes off, consider yourself done for the day!  Then reward yourself for a job well done.  I have found this method of speed cleaning particularly useful.
3.  Use a handy cleaning schedule to split your tasks up by day, week, month.  You can make your own or use one like this.
4.  Focus on decluttering.  Make one of your self-care activities on your list of favorite coping skills throwing away 10 items (or donating them).  No matter how much decluttering we do, there always seems to be more stuff coming in.  Keep on top of it by regularly purging things you no longer need or want.
5.  Realize that cleaning and organizing tasks don’t actually take as long as you think they will.  Here is a list of household tasks you can do that take 10 minutes or less.   
6.  Visualize the end result.  Picture your space clean and free of clutter.  Imagine how you will feel once it is.  Even if it only stays that way for a relatively short amount of time (thanks, tiny people!).  Really get yourself to feel that accomplished and peaceful feeling that comes when your living space is so fresh and so clean.
Ok, my friends! What do you think about the importance of cleaning for your mental health?  Do you notice a difference in yourself when your space is clutter-free?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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