By Hannah Slattery, LPC, NCC
What is it about a clean house that calms the mind? What is it about a messy house that hits a nerve? Human beings are made up of trillions of cells, working and functioning together in harmony, operating on strict schedules and guidelines. With this in mind, it makes sense that we flourish off synchronicity and are stressed when we cannot accomplish a clean and organized home. Without organization, our bodies and our homes can start to fall apart. Now just like all things, we need to find a balance. Constant chaos and clutter can disrupt your ability to get things done, it can wreak havoc on your internal homeostasis.
Keeping your space clean can open up opportunities to declutter your mind. Visually looking at clutter notifies our brain that we have not yet accomplished tasks, that we have more work to do which can increase stress and anxiety. Evolutionarily, humans have started to collect, save and, in extreme, cases hoard. Although we are no longer hunter-gatherers our consumer-based society ignites inside of us this desire to have more and keep it. We no longer are required to hunt or constantly move in order to survive but this attribute hasn’t changed. As humans we constantly want more, and often convince ourselves that accumulating things will ease our pain.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to feel guilt as you stare at that new espresso machine or experience shame because of the amount of Target runs you’ve done this week. What I am inviting you to do is to notice your habits, with gentle and kind curiosity. What is happening inside of you when you pick up your phone and open the Amazon app? Are you feeling empty or needing comfort when you click “add to cart”? When you look around your home, is it the material things that bring you comfort for your worries? Would buying that expensive new gadget ease your feelings of depression or anxiety?
After some grace-filled reflection on these things, you may feel ready to practice decluttering. There are some great resources and fun ways to learn how to declutter your home out there, such as Netflix’s Tidying Up or The Home Edit. However, I invite you to make this more than just a “hop on the bandwagon” behavior, but to reflect on ways to make organization a more lasting behavior. This may be done by keeping in mind the space that you live in and how it affects the health of your home and its inhabitants.
Like all good things, balance is key. Spending hours and hours ruthlessly cleaning your home everyday can be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder. Or, as emotional beings, we can have the tendency to infuse our belongings with emotion. In many ways, we perceive these items as being a part of us or an extension of ourselves. Both sides of this spectrum can be difficult and even painful to alter.
Decluttering, organizing and cleaning your home has wonderful benefits on your entire wellbeing. Here are six examples of these benefits:
1. The big one, LESS STRESS, because we all know that stress has become our parasitic friend these days.
2. Overall you’ll be more active, cleaning literally gets your body moving, with the frigid cold of Chicagoland and the ongoing pandemic, this is the time to move your body.
3. Less stress and more organization could lead to eating healthier. Taking care of your home might domino affect into taking care of your body too.
4. Restless nights are no one’s best friend, but with a clean and serene room you’re more likely to get a good night's sleep.
5. Being surrounded by things you haven’t accomplished can lead us to try and find distractions. By hunkering down and accomplishing daily cleaning tasks, we will feel an overall sense of accomplishment. The space you live or work in can have a huge impact on your productivity.
6. While you clean, you may dust, sweep, mop and remove toxins and harmful particles from your home, which may lead to less sickness. Taking care of your home is also taking care of your body.
A clean and organized home looks differently for everyone, it’s not a one size fits all experience. If you live alone, give yourself daily/weekly goals to meet. You may be donating things you don’t want or need anymore or passing things to other family members or friends. If you’ve got a full house, create a task chart so that everyone can help out, even the little ones! Your well-being is important and the home you have is a direct link to that.
If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed and need guidance and support, please contact us today to schedule a therapy appointment.