Five ways cleaning can improve your mental health

If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, clearing clutter is one way of gaining back control.

The events of the last 18 months have highlighted the importance of mental health and as we continue to navigate life’s increasing demands, it’s up to us to care for our bodies and minds.

Sleep, exercise, and healthy nutrition are vital, but did you know that cleaning can make a difference to your wellbeing too?

A 2017 study on clutter and overconsumption found that cleaning helps our minds feel more in control and elevates feel-good hormones in the body – which makes it a double win!

Psychologist and life coach Dr Tshepiso Matentjie outlines five ways cleaning can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing:

  1. When we clean, we move our bodies, which helps to release feel-good hormones into the blood and lower cortisol (stress) levels. This allows tension and anxiety to ease, so that the body and mind can unwind.
  2. Cleaning can create a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and control. Achieving a clean space can also give us the motivation to tackle other challenges, encouraging the belief that we are capable and can overcome obstacles.
  3. A clean, tidy environment can help foster a positive attitude. If you get into the habit of doing it regularly, it may also lay the foundation for other positive habits like discipline, and focus.
  4. Cleaning with others can be a bonding activity and help to improve family relationships. It creates cohesion and relieves the pressure from being shouldered by one individual, which often creates tension in the home. 
  5. Your home is an extension of your how you feel about and see yourself, so cleaning is a form of self-care that can help with developing and maintaining self-esteem. People who struggle with depression and anxiety often find cleaning difficult, but report feeling safer, calmer and happier when their space is clean and tidy. 

“Committing to small daily tasks … is a good way to stay on top of mess and enjoy a happier home,” says Dr Tshepiso. She suggests using a resource such as South African site for simple, expert cleaning and organising tips.

Here are several examples to get you started:

  • Reduce clutter: Getting rid of packaging, gadgets, old clothes and anything that is no longer needed will make rooms tidier.
  • For thick dust: Wipe with a damp microfibre cloth that traps grime and allows you to get rid of it, rather than spreading it around.
  • Storage: Hooks are a great way for efficiently dealing with coats, bathrobes and shopping bags when storage space is limited.
  • Rubbish: Make sure there are always bin liners and recycling bags available so there is no need for rubbish to accumulate. Putting it outside promptly will prevent odours.
  • Ironing: An effective hack is putting wrinkled clothes in the tumble dryer on a high heat with a handful of ice cubes for 15 minutes, so the melting ice can steam away creases.
  • Stains: These vary, but in general, a good approach with spills is to blot up any liquid with a clean cloth or paper towel immediately. 
  • Floors: Make cleaning floors easier by buying a powerful, cordless vacuum cleaner that is simple to use.

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