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Whether you’re a neat freak whose idea of heaven is Marie Kondo-ing your sock drawer on a Saturday evening or someone who loathes household chores and does the bare minimum, there’s no denying that when the tidying up, putting away and cleaning is done, we feel better. That hard-to-explain feeling of lightness you get when your home is organized can easily become addictive, as the raging popularity of cleaning gurus such as the infamous Mrs Hinch shows. For some of us, keeping a clean home may seem like quite a minor thing, but numerous studies have shown that our living environments have a huge impact on both mental and physical health – things too important to neglect. It seems that there is really someone behind the old saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’. So implementing and sticking to a household cleaning schedule is more than just a series of chores – it’s a contribution towards our health, even a form of self care.
Reduce Your Levels of Depression and Anxiety
As the conversation around mental health has picked up, so more and more celebrities, ordinary people and even royals feel able to speak about their own experiences with conditions such as anxiety. Many of us suffer with stress or panic attacks in some way, and the busy, always-connected, fast-paced world we inhabit can often leave us feeling as though things are spinning out of control. One tool which can be really useful in managing the symptoms is to look at the controllable variables in your immediate sphere of influence. You may not be able to control what is out there in the wider world, but you can control what is arguably more important – the fundamental building blocks of your life – your diet, exercise levels, the amount of sleep you get and the cleanliness and organization of your immediate surroundings.
Studies have shown that operating in a disorganized atmosphere subtly increases the mental load that you have to deal with. Searching for that missing item once may not be much of a drain on your time and energy but scale that up to multiple times a day and it soon becomes a problem. The teachings of the Minimalist movement tell us that all possessions require a tiny part of our mental energy, so the more you have, the bigger the burden you carry on a daily basis. Furthermore, having a good clear out can be really reinvigorating. It gives us a sense of control and agency over our own lives in uncertain times and eases the low-level worry of finding things when we need them.
Put simply, mess causes stress that can build up over time and it’s all entirely avoidable. As for dirt in the home, that puts us at unnecessary risk of illness too – not just physically but in our minds. If you have depressive tendencies, one of the first signs of a depressive episode manifesting itself can be a dirty, cluttered home environment, and it becomes a vicious cycle with the chaos outside causing more chaos internally. Keeping a tidy, clean house on the other hand has been shown to prevent the decline of the stress hormone cortisol. So if you are at risk of mental illness in some way, it may be well worth your while to ensure that your home is well maintained.
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Keep Your Body Healthy
Your home environment can also have a huge effect on your physical health too, and if it’s not clean and well maintained, you could soon be paying the price of not investing the time in a healthier living environment. Studies are increasingly showing the hugely important role that air quality plays in our overall well being. If you or your family suffer from respiratory and allergy issues, then keeping your air clean is massively important, as it is for those who have compromised immune systems, such as the very young or elderly, or those going through cancer treatment. Dust and dirt can seriously compromise this, as can toxic chemicals in things like cleaning products, new paint and some scented candles. The EPA has stated that indoor air is twenty per cent more polluted than outdoor air. If that doesn’t convince you of why you should clean your air ducts, consider that we spend up to 90 percent of our lives indoors, and that poor indoor air quality has been linked to serious diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and COPD.
Start by having a regular service booked in for your HVAC system, and consider purchasing a HEPA air filter if you live in an especially polluted city environment. Look into replacing chemical cleaning sprays which can be bad for our health and the environment with effective natural alternatives, like cleaning with white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. You can also switch to low-VOC paints and carpeting when you redecorate, and purchase organic beeswax candles which don’t contain any chemical residue in the smoke.
Keeping a tidy home is all about self-discipline, and where we practice this in one area of our lives, so it becomes easier to extend it to other parts of our world. This could explain why studies have found that when people live in more tidy homes, they are actually more likely to stick to a workout regime! As exercise has many proven benefits for mental and physical health in itself, the indirect benefits of keeping a clean and tidy house are almost as powerful as the direct ones. In fact, if you’re short on time you can combine the two by looking at exercises you can do while cleaning!
With so many compelling reasons to tidy up, getting started can feel like the hardest part, but all you need to do is just pick a small area and get started, one thing at a time. Even if it’s just tackling that forgotten junk drawer or taking one bag of clothes to the charity shop or switching to natural cleaning products and ditching the chemicals, making a start means that everything becomes easier!