It’s not something that most people equate with happiness, but scientists are finding that cleaning is really good for you.
The problem is, most of us just don’t have enough hours in the day to be able to deep clean our homes on a regular basis. And who has the energy and motivation to even empty the dishwasher after a long day at work?
A recent Gallup poll showed that the average adult works about 47 hours per week while 18% said they work up to 60 hours a week; that’s 12 hours per day! I’ve worked my fair share of those, and I know that the last thing I want to do when I get home is to clean the bathroom or pull a load of laundry out of the dryer to fold and put away.
Here’s the rub: science tells us that both overworking and having a messy home cause immense stress, but regular cleaning and staying organized has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost health.
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Does a clean house really make you happier?
The short answer: Yes. Granted, having a clean home isn’t going to solve all our problems in life or bring peace to the Middle East, but it can help you feel more at peace, balanced, and in control.
As it turns out, clutter can have a huge impact on our mood and self-esteem. A study conducted by Havas Worldwide showed that half of us don’t really need all that stuff to be happy.
Having too much clutter can damage your mental health on top of making your house more difficult to clean, which only stresses you out more. Conversely, coming home to a clean, organized home after a long day at work will put you in a more peaceful frame of mind, allowing you to relax and better handle stress.
The Psychology of Cleanliness
The University of California published a study showing that when people come home to a messy house, it interferes with the body’s production of cortisol, a hormone responsible for relieving stress.
That’s because people feel obligated to clean up the mess, even when they don’t have the energy or motivation to do it, which only causes further stress. Another study in which 3,000 people reported having stress and anxiety showed that with regular, vigorous housework, they were able to decrease those symptoms by as much as 20%.
Cleaning your house can also serve as an outlet for energy and negative emotions. Tidying up your home and creating a nicer atmosphere by clearing the clutter, dirt, and dust makes you feel more relaxed and at ease.
I don’t know about you, but when I know every item on my to-do list has been checked off, I’m much more likely to be able to sit back and chill out.
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Health Benefits of a Clean Home
Cleaning your house both improves its cleanliness and boosts your mental health. The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a study which showed that at least 20 minutes of exercise a week could ease depression symptoms. Cleaning counts as exercise, so two birds one stone.
However, while cleaning the house can be a great workout, it’s important to make sure the cleaning tasks you’re doing are more physically strenuous than gliding over the kitchen floor with a Swiffer mop and a grin on your face.
Scientists have also found that a cleaner home can inspire us to make healthier choices about the food we eat.
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One study revealed that people who worked in a clean, organized office for 10 minutes were two times as likely to opt for an apple instead of candy, whereas participants who worked in an untidy, chaotic space went for the chocolate bar.
This would appear to suggest that your brain and body crave the endorphins and dopamine we get from eating comfort food, in an attempt to deal with the stress caused by a messy environment. So, keeping the house clean could encourage us to eat a balanced diet, which would improve our mental health even further.
Why Cleaning Is Good for You
Yet another study that demonstrated the importance of cleaning to good physical and mental health was performed by the Physical Activity Department at Indiana University. They looked at the physical health of people between the ages of 49 and 65 and compared the cleanliness of their homes with their levels of physical activity.
The results of the study were that the most active and healthy participants were also the people whose homes were the cleanest. Furthermore, it appeared to researchers that the only thing impacting their physical activity was the cleanliness of their homes.
If you suffer from allergies and sinus problems or seem to get sick every time something’s going around, cleaning your house on a regular basis can also help to boost your immune system and ease allergies.
You know the symptoms: runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, wheezing, and generally just feeling like “doodie.” Well, the average person spends up to 90 percent of their time inside, and indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outdoors.
During all that time, we’re breathing in a nasty soup of dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold, bug skeletons, and toxins from sources like everyday cleaning products and even from our own clothing and bedding.
Most people assume all those symptoms are just from allergies when in fact, all those toxins in the air we’re breathing are to blame. So keeping a clean house from top to bottom, along with a good air filtration system, will prevent those allergies and protect your immune system so you feel even better.
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Why We Really Love to Clean
Personally, all that research on how cleaning can make us happier really resonates with me. I love to clean not just as a means to an end (a clean house) but for the joy in the act of cleaning itself. I like to put on a good album and just go for it, letting my mind wander wherever while I scrub.
There’s another theory behind why some of us love to clean, though. The human body is made up of tens of thousands of highly organized, integrated systems. Down to a cellular level, we operate on strict schedules, or circadian rhythms.
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We are all regulated and organized beings, even at the teensiest atomic level. Without this strict organization, our bodies would collapse and disappear into the ether.
Perhaps the reason we have such an innate need for cleanliness and order in our environment is that we’re unconsciously mirroring the organization happening in our bodies. Interesting, as organization and neatness seem to promote health and happiness.
But no matter what the reason, cleanliness and organization are proven to be just plain good for us. Keeping a clean house helps us feel better, keeps us productive, and supports our physical health.
Just try to keep that in mind the next time you need to steam clean the dining room rug or get the pet smell out of your favorite sofa. A cleaner, tidier, more organized home can do wonders for your health and happiness.
And if you need a little help getting rid of all that clutter and the big items you keep meaning to do something with, give LoadUp a call.
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Pass the clorox wipes, please!