Tidy house, tidy mind: the connection between cleaning and a positive mind

I can say with complete conviction that when my home is a cluttered mess of crumb covered surfaces and long since hoovered carpets, my mind is in a similar state of disarray. When my environment is clean and tidy, I always feel significantly calmer and less distracted. There are few tasks simpler and more rewarding than cleaning, it provides a sense of control that can only be described as a form of therapy. Whilst students are generally associated with grotty living conditions, there is absolutely no need to live up to this expectation, instead, declutter that mind and reach for the Marigolds.

The process of cleaning has an immensely positive impact on our mental well-being, as it gives a sense of accomplishment and allows you to feel as though you are achieving something when you are perhaps at your lowest. For many, cleaning can provide a useful distraction against anxious thoughts and the physicality of the process can lift you from a black mood with the endorphins released by working up a sweat.

There are undeniable links between cleanliness and a positive mental state. A research project by Princeton University in 2011, showed that clutter can make it more difficult to focus on a particular task due to the visual cortex becoming overwhelmed. This suggests that a clean house allows for greater productivity, as there are less distractions, making one feel far more organised and together. Another survey carried out by the National Sleep Foundation found that 75% of people had a better night’s rest from having clean bedsheets. And there is no doubt that nothing beats the feeling of clambering into crisp clean sheets in freshly washed jammies.

As well as having a positive impact on your mental health, the act of cleaning itself is proven to have considerable physical health benefits. House Beautiful suggests that the tasks of ironing and hoovering burns between 150 to 300 calories.

Perhaps having an extremely house-proud mum has made me ultra-sensitive to the cleanliness of my student flat, but I am often shocked by how lax my lovely, yet lazy, flatmates can be in regard to simple tasks that keep our flat hygienic and looking and smelling lovely. The process of simply changing the bathmat on occasion seeming like an alien concept to a select few – maybe the feel of damp and dirt trodden matted fabric under one’s toes, is preferable to a fluffy, freshly washed bathmat? Despite this, some gentle persuasion and a colour coded cleaning rota can do wonders to establish that sense of calm created by a clean and healthy environment. A rota also distributes the tasks fairly and makes you feel less like that one irritable and nagging flatmate. It also makes sure that all the seemingly obvious cleaning tasks get noticed and in theory, get covered. And if not, feel free to throw out that garlic press that has lain on the kitchen surface, unwashed and stinking, for the past week.

Cleaning tasks can also seem far more manageable if you have a dedicated day in the week where you make a to do list and identify three tasks per room that you want to focus upon. So, whether this is Hinch’s own Freshen up Friday, a Scour down Saturday or a Tidying Tuesday, dedicating a particular day allows you to be more focused on the task in hand, leaving the rest of the week free for the usual distractions of University life. Listening to music whilst cleaning is also a fail-safe way of making the process seem a lot more appealing. The motivation that a favourite album can provide is unbeatable and suddenly the task of cleaning seems considerably easier. I think the variety of products out there to assist us with keeping our homes clean and healthy can be overwhelming, especially on a tight student budget. However, it does not need to be overcomplicated, as long as the space under the kitchen sink is home to a fairly standard antibacterial spray, a bottle of bleach, cream cleaner and a bathroom spray, then you are all good to go.

The age-old phrase, a tidy house is a tidy mind, is there for a reason. A healthy environment no doubt equates to a much healthier mind and body, allowing for greater control and productivity. So, dust off the cleaning products and create a comfortably cleansed environment and reach for that oasis of calm.

Image credit: Becca Clark via Pixabay

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