Spring Cleaning and Mental Well-Being

Hermina Drah
Morgan Blair
Written by Hermina Drah on 18 March 2024
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 19 March 2024

Evidence suggests that cleanliness and mental well-being are connected and that a tidy environment can relieve stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling calm and centered.

If you're feeling weighed down by anxiety, emotional overwhelm, or crippling stress, it's time to discover how the simple act of spring cleaning can bring you relief.

Spring Cleaning and Mental Well-Being

The connection between cleanliness and mental health

Research shows that cleaning around your home can do wonders for your mental health and overall well-being. 

There are many ways that adopting cleanliness into your everyday routine can benefit your mental well-being, such as;

Decrease stress levels

A cluttered room can make you feel on the edge. 

According to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, individuals with cleaner homes feel less anxious and stressed. That's because cleaning can provide you with a sense of control, helping you dial down stressful and anxious thoughts.

Improve mood and increase happiness

According to an article published by Harvard Health, staying physically active can release feel-good hormones or endorphins.

When you clean, you're doing more than just wiping away dirt. You're also engaging in a form of physical activity that benefits both your body and mood.

Sharpen focus and increase productivity

Insightful research reveals clutter decreases focus levels and productivity.

The brain prefers order so the constant presence of clutter can sap mental energy, decreasing the ability to focus.

When your space is organized and clean, you'll feel more concentrated, productive, and motivated to hit deadlines and crush goals. 

Improve sleep quality

Spring cleaning also benefits your sleep routine. 

Based on findings by the National Sleep Foundation, a peaceful sleeping environment is crucial for high-quality rest and overall improved mental health.

To increase sleep quality and relieve unwanted stress from your bedroom, experts recommend keeping the bedside table clean and organized.

Encourages healthier choices

An Indiana University study found a link between physical health and clean home conditions. It seems that tidy spaces can inspire you to make healthier lifestyle choices such as sticking to a workout routine.

In a nutshell, findings suggest that there is a strong connection between cleaning and mental well-being.

How does clutter and mess impact mental health?

Clutter can hurt your cognitive function and focus. Moreover, living in a messy environment can take a toll on your happiness.

Research in the Journal of Neuroscience by McMains and Kastner (2011) highlights how clutter and mess can limit your brain's ability to process information. 

The findings by McMains and Kastner show that physical clutter may reduce your brain's capacity to focus on a single task. 

Also, it can impair your cognitive performance. That’s because clutter is a visual distraction — it can reduce working memory and increase cognitive overload.

The benefits of cleanliness and routine beyond mental health

Spring cleaning can reduce stress levels, improve cognitive function, and make you feel generally happier. 

There are also many other benefits of cleanliness and a dedicated routine.

Enhance your problem-solving skills

Tidy spaces reduce cognitive overload caused by mess and clutter. 

Researchers say that tasks that require minimal cognitive effort can free up brain space for creative thinking — for example, vacuuming, cleaning counters, and picking up dirty laundry may allow you to think more clearly about bigger issues.

A clean and tidy environment eliminates distractions, making it easier for you to focus on coming up with solutions and new ideas.

Improve your physical health

Cleanliness can also be beneficial for your physical health. When you spring clean, you reduce the presence of allergens like mold and dust that trigger immune responses. 

This can lead to benefits such as improved respiratory function and reduced chance of illness caused by germs and bacteria

Improve relationships with loved ones

An orderly home is more inviting and comfortable for your guests. 

So, spring cleaning can also lead to improved relationships and boosted social engagement. 

Additionaly, establishing a cleaning routine can help distribute household responsibilities more evenly among other family members — this can reduce conflict and create a sense of teamwork.

Cleaning as a compulsion: Things to consider

Spring cleaning feels healing, but for some, it can become a cause of anxiety. If you find yourself excessively cleaning and obsessing over the tidiness of your space, you may be dealing with a compulsion

Cleaning compulsions are very frequent and they are typically rooted in the need for control. 

A study examined 62 undergraduate students placed in situations designed to provoke anxiety. It observed their cleaning habits and categorized them into either a low-anxiety or high-anxiety group. 

Findings from the research indicated that anxiety triggers a higher likelihood of engaging in repetitive or inflexible actions. Additionally, the research highlighted a connection between ritualistic behaviors such as cleaning and feelings of anxiety.

What can you do if you have a cleaning compulsion?

The first step in addressing a cleaning compulsion is to notice the behavior as problematic. 

Establish cleaning times to set healthy boundaries and deal with compulsive behaviors. Furthermore, talking to a mental health expert can be beneficial. 

Final thoughts from recovered

Spring cleaning can reduce anxiety, ease stress, and improve mood levels. Furthermore, a tidy space can help you feel focused, productive, creative, and social. 

But remember, don't let spring cleaning be your sole strategy for achieving a sense of predictability and structure in life. Cleaning is a useful tool — use it wisely!

Resources:

  1. Elsbach, K. D., & Hargadon, A. B. (2006). Enhancing Creativity Through “Mindless” Work: A Framework of Workday Design. Organization Science, 17(4), 470-483.
  2. Gaspar, J. M., Christie, G. J., Prime, D. J., McDonald, J. J., & Posner, M. I. (Ed.). (2016). Inability to suppress salient distractors predicts low visual working memory capacity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(13), 3693-3698.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, July 7). Exercising to relax. Harvard Health.
  4. Keith, N. Tidier homes, fitter bodies? Indiana University.
  5. Lang, M., Krátký, J., Shaver, J. H., Jerotijević, D., & Xygalatas, D. (2015). Effects of Anxiety on Spontaneous Ritualized Behavior. Current Biology, 25(14), 1892-1897.
  6. McMains, S., & Kastner, S. (2011). Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(2), 587-597.
  7. Pacheco, D., & Rehman, A.(2023, November 8). The Bedroom Environment. Sleep Foundation.
  8. Sander, L. (2019, January 25). What does clutter do to your brain and body? newsGP..
  9. Saxbe, D. E., & Repetti, R.(2010). No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,36(1).

Activity History - Last updated: 19 March 2024, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 14 March 2024 and last checked on 19 March 2024

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

Ready to talk about treatment? Call us today. (855) 648-7288
Helpline Information
Phone numbers listed within our directory for individual providers will connect directly to that provider.
Any calls to numbers marked with (I) symbols will be routed through a trusted partner, more details can be found by visiting https://recovered.org/terms.
For any specific questions please email us at info@recovered.org.

Related articles