There aren’t many people out there who can honestly say they love to clean their house.
- Enjoy an organised space? Sure.
- Like the feeling of accomplishment afterwards? Well, why not?
But for many, cleaning is a tedious chore. And when cleanliness isn’t a priority, it’s easy for bad habits to creep in and clutter to creep out.
However, keeping your house clean may be more important than you realise. We chatted to psychologist Sarah Godfrey, director/owner of Moving Mindsets Psychology Clinic, to see if there’s a link between clutter and mental health, and whether a clean environment really can help increase overall happiness.
The Benefits of a Clean Home
A clean home is a healthy home.
While many of us grumble about doing the weekly vacuum or complain about how often the entertainment unit needs dusting, keeping the house clean is necessary for all household members’ wellbeing. Obvious hygiene reasons aside, the benefits of a clean home are countless:
- Reduces stress
- Reduces allergens
- Keeps pesky pests away
- Keeps you organised
- Always ready to entertain guests.
But the true benefits lie within our mental wellbeing.
“A clean environment and home signals a level of self-care,” Sarah says.
“It demonstrates pride in what we own and where we live, altruism in caring for others’ view and comfort, and self-nurturing in terms of safety and hygiene.”
Two Very Different Types of ‘Clutter’
Sometimes, clutter just happens. We often don’t even notice it building. It can take years, months or even just a few days for piles of stuff to accumulate, taking up precious real estate on the floor, cabinets, and other surfaces.
But how do you know if clutter is negatively affecting your life?
Sarah explains that there are 2 types of clutter:
- Life clutter (also known as organised chaos)
- Unhealthy clutter (disorganised chaos).
“Life clutter in the home can imply you’re busy living your life, interacting with others and achieving goals,” Sarah says.
“With life clutter, the home is a little disorganised – clean, but a little neglected as you live a healthy happy life.”
On the other hand, Sarah describes unhealthy clutter as when the home slides into real neglect.
“Cleanliness and care is pushed aside as a sense on loneliness, unwellness or lack of belonging is physically demonstrated by the disorganised clutter that enters the home and stays.”
How Clutter Affects Your Life
It’s becoming more evident why clutter is bad for the brain as well as your mental and physical health. Research conducted in 2011 showed how disorganisation affects our ability to focus, and clearing clutter from our work and home environment will tend to result in increased productivity.
As for the psychological effects clutter can have, Sarah draws some insightful conclusions: “We view disorganisation as a lack of control and stability, and often a reflection of our internal mental health. It can be a metaphoric indication that reflects our thinking and self-worth.”
“A disorganised house can cause shame, humiliation, embarrassment, reflect isolation, loneliness and unhappiness.” – Sarah
The Link Between a Clean House and Mental Health
Let’s take a closer look at how your home’s cleanliness can relate to the state of your mental wellbeing.
For most people, a house isn’t just a place you sleep at night. It’s a reflection of your life, shaped by your situation and experiences.
A cluttered home environment is likely to negatively influence how your home is perceived and affect your overall life satisfaction.
Sarah delves further into the relationship between clutter and mental health.
“Depression likes isolation, fatigue and low self-worth,” she explains. “Clutter can replicate this physically and be an indication of how tired, sad and lonely you’re feeling. When we’re depressed we don’t feel or see the reason to maintain an organised, clutter-free environment.”
With no motivation or purpose, Sarah concludes an organised home is seen as too much effort for those experiencing a low mood.
Signs That ‘Messy’ May Point to a Serious Problem
As mentioned, not all clutter is bad. So how do you know a loved one (or yourself) is in need of help with their home and/or mental health? Sarah helps us narrow down the revealing signs to look out for:
- If there’s nowhere to sit, walk or eat on any of the surfaces due to clutter
- If you or your loved one usually enjoys a clean house but effort has become harder, and the internal voice has become more critical
- People don’t come over anymore because the house isn’t clean enough.
Sarah also makes note there is one room in particular that may bear more significance over one’s mental health.
“The bedroom is an important room that can reveal how mentally strong a person is,” she says.
“Often we spend time cleaning and maintaining rooms others see. The bedroom is a private space and can show how well you’re coping with responsibility, your level of self-care and esteem. The messier your private space, the messier your thinking and life might be.”
Sarah poses a question for us all to ponder:
“If you stood and looked at your room from the doorway, what would your room say to you?”
How to Get Motivated to Clean
Sometimes, we all need a little help finding motivation. If you’re struggling to find the drive to regularly clean the house, Sarah has a very simple piece of advice: don’t try to clean the whole house in one go. (Which makes us feel pretty silly about that one time we wrote a guide for doing exactly that.)
“Pick a room that would bring you a sense of joy if it was cleaned or if people visited and spent time in that room,” Sarah offers.
And there’s no need to overwhelm yourself with even doing the whole room. Sarah suggests starting small (such as with just a bookcase or table) as to not get overwhelmed.
“See clutter as emotional baggage. Throw it out, donate or tidy it away as a therapeutic tool to getting control and some healthy order back in your spaces, mentally and physically.”
A clean home can help you keep a clear mind, increase productivity, and ultimately improve overall happiness. Discover more on how decluttering the home can help the mind here.
“A touch of chaos is always healthy in a home as it reflects the real world. Find a balance in your home that reflects pride in where you live, self-care in how you maintain it, and confidence in it reflecting your unique authenticity and style.” – Sarah