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Wellness Tip: How Cleaning Can Promote Calmness

Dane Deaner

Spring cleaning is rarely a sought-after activity, but there may be more benefits to this annual ritual than meets the eye. Having an organized space has been proven to promote productivity, relieve stress, and simply help foster a more navigable home – all of which tend to get a lot of attention. From millennial TikTokers to Marie Kondo, Martha Stewart, and even newfound pop culture icon Ina Garten, spring cleaning is making headlines this year.

In addition to the on-trend and viral aesthetic benefits, cleaning itself (rather than just the outcome) can have a variety of positive impacts on our mental health, too – a side effect of spring cleaning that is seldom discussed. Cleaning and organizing are a great way to soothe feelings of overwhelm, provide a visible source of accomplishment, and in some cases, even give a little bit of a physical workout! 

Photo courtesy No Revisions

By organizing living spaces, you are managing the physical items in your areas, and you are also creating purpose within your habitat, ensuring that all items in the space have a goal (even if it is just to be nice to look at).  

Additionally, many people find the act of cleaning or organizing soothing in its own right. The repetition involved with sorting items, vacuuming, or reorganizing a utensil drawer can bring a sense of control – a component that has felt out of reach for many over the past few years. 

Martin Lang is an evolutionary anthropologist whose work has honed in on how humans’ primitive inclinations lead to our urges or reactions today. “The human mind likes to predict things,” Lang said in an interview. He continued, adding that humans “like to know what’s going to happen because it allows us to survive in and extract resources from the environment.” Thus, the sense of ownership and predictability that cleaning or organizing a living environment provides is rooted in the human brain and taps into a long-evolved path for satisfaction and peacefulness. 

Suppose you’re a thinker who tends to get a bit stuck in your head. In that case, engaging in a distracting activity like organizing versus just doom-scrolling or mindlessly watching television (or sometimes both at the same time) could be a productive way to help relieve anxiety and overthinking. Studies have proven that distraction is a meaningful way to combat overthinking and promote a healthy state of mind. Combined with the outcome of actually having a tidy home, spring cleaning offers a wide range of benefits! 

Some living arrangements may mean a heavier lift for spring cleaning – literally. If your home layout includes stairs, you may even get some strength and cardio in from carefully moving items to and from storage. 

Spring cleaning does not have to be a floor-board scrubbing frenzy. Even smaller organizational or repetitive tidiness chores can achieve that same sense of peace and connection to your home. Some of these may include: 

Vacuuming or Wet Mopping: Floors and carpets may be the most noticeable places when they’re dirty, but they also can make the biggest difference when they’re clean! Vacuuming or wet mopping is a quick, systematic and relatively easy way to make a big difference in just a few minutes. 

Organizing drawers: Start small. Think of a utensil drawer or even a small spice cabinet to make a big difference in an everyday space while keeping the project rather confined. 

Photo courtesy Sarah Brown

Preparing items for donation: When it comes to bureaus or closets, many people stray from the rule that says if you haven’t worn it in 3 months, you should donate it. Pulling out clothes one section at a time, reorganizing them, and sorting out unwanted items for donation is satisfying and calming. It doubles as an impactful act to help your community.  Changing bedding: While changing sheets is a regular routine, washing quilts, blankets, or duvet covers tend to be less frequent. It is a fulfilling way to make your sleeping space more peaceful and help you look forward to a good night’s rest!

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