Benefits of a reasonably tidy home on the mind

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, although I have written quite a lot of drafts. So I thought I would type up a quick post, and perhaps it would get me on track for writing – especially with the upcoming New Year.

Tidy house, tidy mind
http://www.singlemotherahoy.com/2013/01/tidy-house-tidy-mind.html

I am a fan of having things neat and tidy (Although, this is not a part of my obsessive compulsive tendencies). In this regard, I should explain that I enjoy having things tucked away neatly and that there is no mess sitting about the room (Only organised chaos – mainly books).

I like my room to feel open, clean, neat and airy. Closed spaces are something I’m not a fan of. If I had a small room, I would try and limit the amount of furniture in it so that it would feel more open – less closed up and disorganized.

Closed spaces, or clothes strewn about tends to make me feel as if I’m in the wreckage of a bomb. It puts me in quite a foul mood and it rather causes the sensation that you cannot function because the mess is there.

I’m not obsessive over it, although it does eat at my nerves and mood after a while. Especially when I share a room with two of my sisters, one who could live in bomb wreckage and wouldn’t care about her socks or trousers laying strewn about the floor of the room, or if she has smashed makeup on the floor.

It makes for a quite frustrating living arrangement and I’m constantly folding her clothes to put them away.

Which lead me to wonder – does our physical surrounding impact our wellbeing? Or how we feel emotionally and mentally?

I’ve watched a few documentaries on mental health, it seems that some of those who suffer with depression (Some, not all – everyone is different) will have untidy bedrooms or homes.  In the documentary which I watched (BBC One, Doctor in the House), the doctor went to the woman’s home and looked around. He told her that a good start to getting her mind organised was to have her physical surroundings – where she spends the most time, tidied up.

  • Note: Those of you who might suffer from OCD in relation to tidying or cleaning should not take this as advice to give into compulsions more. If you feel a compulsive urge to tidy or have obsessions about it, this is beyond having things neat for the sake of a clear mind, and so you should consult a doctor about OCD, especially when it leans towards having things neat/clean. It’s ok to have things neat and tidy, but when you feel distress in regards to it or compulsive urges, it is not ok.

The patient who was being treated for depression wasn’t cured by a tidy room, obviously, however, she did feel (according to the interview), a weight had been lifted off her shoulders a little bit. After all, every little helps.

Your surroundings are observed by sensory stimulation – seeing it, the smell, what we hear etc, which also

Air quality is especially important as we breathe it in and feel it. Source Two dictates that stuffy or “inappropriate air quality” can lead to “absenteeism and disengagement towards learning and social activities” (2). One important reason that rooms or areas that you spend the most time in should be aired in order to circulate new air in and to replace the old air with fresh oxygen. This also has wonderful health benefits, I try to air my room before I go to work, so that it’s fresh for when I return.

I actually also find it quite interesting that the layout of the room can ignite some feelings of discontent and agitation, as well as feelings of being unsafe. (2) Although, of course, not everyone has enough room to play about with layout.

Lighting is important in regards to how our physical surrounding impacts our emotions. If a room is dark and stuffy, many people will tend to isolate themselves more if they live in it constantly. (2) This isolation, in turn, would lead to the development of issues which could then, in turn, develop into disorders and negative emotions.

With several factors mentioned, individuals should be made aware of the benefits that tidy environments can have on them:

  1. Reduces stress and depression: There was a study conducted in the ‘Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin’, in which those ”who described their homes as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more depressed, fatigued, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who felt their homes were “restful” and “restorative,”. (3)
  2. Helps you eat better: In a study published in Psychological Science, Dr Selbuh stated that “Clutter is stressful for the brain, so you’re more likely to resort to coping mechanisms such as choosing comfort foods or overeating than if you spend time in neater surroundings”. (3) It’s no secret that the food we eat plays a large factor in our mental wellbeing. After all, the brain receives the energy from the food we eat, as well as the nutrients. Being able to think without your mind feeling cluttered, as a result of messy surroundings, would allow us to make better food choices, and in turn, would improve our mental wellbeing as the good food provides the good nutrients.
  3. Encourages you to stick to a routine: If you become involved in a  cleaning routine, your organisation skills can be transferred across to other things, such as exercise or study. Routine is linked to organisational skills, and if one can organize themselves by getting into a cleaning routine, this can be used in regards to organizing an exercise or study routine.
  4. Boosts your relationships: This is not only in regards to a romantic partner, but also in regards to family/friends etc. You want to be able to feel a certain pride in your surroundings and to be able to invite people over spontaneously without having to worry about a mass cleaning event. This means you won’t be as snappish towards friends and family, as you will feel more relaxed with your surroundings. You will also feel less resentment when someone randomly decides to visit as you won’t feel like you need to rush to hide your dirty secret (Messy home). Another important point is that, according to Dr Selhub, ”For couples, clutter can create tension and conflict And the time you spend looking for missing items can also take away from time you could be spending together” (3). A tidy home means a decrease in depression, anxiety, embarrassment and shame, and also means more fun when visitors come calling as you won’t need to rush to tidy!
  5. Increase Productivity:The journal of neuroscience reports that when there are lots of un-tidy things around your home, it overloads you visual cortex and makes it more difficult for your brain to process information or focus on the task in hand. Hence, de-cluttering your work desk and having less things to look at will considerably improve your ability to focus”(3). Having tidy surroundings will give you less items to fidget about with, and more time to actually sit and focus on the task at hand. As a result of more things being done, this also means you have more free time to do as you wish. More time to focus on yourself. Surely that in itself is encouraging to create a routine of tidiness?
  6. Helps you to be more healthy: If you have more time when you’ve tidied and you’ve got yourself into a tidy routine, it means you will be able to more easily put yourself into a routine of being healthy. This includes exercise, food, implementing things which help you to relax – mindfulness, meditation – whatever works for you. Also, the lack of visual clutter will create less mind clutter and will help you to focus on self-care in regards to your wellbeing. It is even possible to suggest that giving those with mental distress a routine, such as, tidying up clothes or doing dishes – making the home neat, might cause some distraction. Then there are also the benefits of less visual clutter etc.
  7. Helps individuals to sleep: It’s no secret that those with depression/anxiety disorders have trouble sleeping, as well as others who suffer mental distress. Living in a tidy and decluttered environment will improve general stress and depression, which ”naturally will result in a better slumber” (3). Another study also indicated that, ”according to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 75 percent of people reported that they got a better nights rest with freshly changed sheets and fluffed pillows. Furthermore, doing things like making your bed and tidying away clothes in the morning mean you are 19 percent more likely to get a good night’s sleep” (3). This is especially a benefit if the cleaning is done before bed. It means that individuals can go straight to bed after a busy day without worrying about tidying up that night. This means that you can be stress-free, in cleaning regards, before bed, which in turns, means your mind might be quieter as you doze off.

As mentioned before, so long as this is done moderately and not obsessively, then a tidy home can be good. If one obsessives and begins to feel distressed, then it becomes an obsession and compulsion and I do not wish for anyone to become obsessed by something which is supposed to create a relaxed atmosphere. For more information, if you’re worried that you might have a cleaning obsession and wish to read more, follow these links: 

  1. http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/how-to-stop-obsessive-cleaning/
  2. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
  3. http://www.ocduk.org/types-ocd

Perhaps it would be best if we all engaged in a great minimalism experiment to see how we might feel at the end of it.

References:

  1. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/tidy-messy-environment-impact-decisions-behavior-study/story?id=19909678
  2.  http://www.academia.edu/471564/The_effect_of_the_physical_environment_on_mental_wellbeing
  3. https://www.busyclean.co.uk/blog/7-amazing-impacts-of-cleanliness-on-your-mental-and-physical-wellbeing/
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