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As it’s World Mental Health Day our latest blog entry is all about how cleanliness can affect your mental health. Whether it’s at home, at work or even in the car, the cleanliness and organisation of the environment you’re in can help shape your mental health.

Being in environments that are cluttered make for easy distractions, which can in turn impair the brain’s ability to process information to the best of its ability and leave you feeling disconcerted. This means that not only does it matter to keep your home clean and tidy, but also keeping your workspace – whether this is a desk, van, classroom or anything in between – clean and tidy as you can be more productive and develop healthy habits at work if you pay more attention to the cleanliness and organisation of your environment. By implementing techniques and habits that will help you to be tidier, you may feel better about yourself and the space in which you work, without having any anxiety about misplacing or losing documents or creating mounds of unfinished business.

A 2010 study[1] on how people described their homes and how this affected mental well-being showed that people who describe their home as “cluttered” or crowded with “unfinished projects” were more likely to be fatigued and depressed. In comparison, those who defined their home as “restful” and “restorative” had higher levels of happiness and mental well-being.

These findings highlight the way in which cluttered and messy environments can make it difficult for us to focus on particular tasks and achieve goals throughout the day and week. But by engaging in a regular cleaning routine, research shows[2] that we feel more optimistic after a failure, as being clean and tidy can help to boost self-esteem and confidence.

So, what can we easily do to make our living and working environments cleaner, so that we can positively affect our mental well-being? We’d recommend the following:

  • Setting a time each day that is dedicated to cleaning, for example arrive ten minutes early to work or leave ten minutes later so that you can ensure that your work space is tidy, ready for the day ahead. You may not want to stay at work longer than you need to, but the mental and productive benefits would be great.
  • Do the same for at home, so that not every job you need to do in the week needs doing all at once on a Sunday afternoon when you should be relaxing!
  • Have organisational office items – stationary holders, letter trays, filing cabinets – to help you file your work more effectively, reducing the amount of tidying that you will need to do when things start to pile up.
  • Split up the jobs that you don’t like doing! Hate doing the vacuuming or the ironing? Then make sure these jobs are on separate days, so you don’t feel down about doing it all at once. Also, if you live with someone, try and make it so that you do the jobs that the other person doesn’t like and vice-versa, meaning that you won’t see your cleaning tasks as as much of a chore.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make cleaning fun! Now this might not be easy to do, but you can listen to music or an audio book as you clean to get you through it, or even reward yourself with your favourite treat when you reach cleaning milestones.

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19934011

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2476507/How-washing-hands-makes-HAPPIER-Cleaning-boosts-confidence-washes-away-feelings-failure.html