In Canada alone, one in five of us will experience mental health difficulties this year: looking after our minds is as important as looking after our bodies. Many of us are familiar with the importance of good nutrition and spending time outdoors to keep our mental health in good condition, but the importance of a clean home environment is often overlooked.
Minimal Clutter, Minimal Stress
A study published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women with cluttered homes displayed elevated levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. In a cluttered environment, we are more likely to be over-stimulated and plagued by worries about the things we feel we should be doing, triggered by the visual cues all around us reminding us to tidy up, finish a project or find a document that’s been misplaced in the clutter. Basic cleaning tasks become more difficult in a disorganized space, which makes us less likely to do them well, if at all, and allowing dust to build up or mold to go unnoticed can have consequences on our physical health, in turn impacting further on our mental well-being. With fewer things around us, it is easier to focus on what we value the most, quieting our minds in tandem with our physical space.
Sleep Well, Worry Less
While we may be aware that a good night’s sleep can benefit both mental and physical health, achieving it can be more of a mystery. Eating well, exercising more and reducing our screen time are common tips for achieving a better night’s sleep, but in the wrong environment, it’s harder to achieve the full benefits of any of the changes we may already be making to our lifestyles. In a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of people reported getting a better night’s sleep with freshly-changed bedding. Those who made their beds every morning were 19% more likely to achieve better quality sleep. With a good night’s rest, we have a far better chance of a more productive and less stressful day ahead.
Harmony At Home
Cluttered living space can cause friction in relationships, whether that’s arguing with a partner or snapping at the children, which in turn can take its toll on our mental health. Taking a more minimalist approach to communal living spaces helps to reduce the potential for conflict, and encourages every member of the household to do their bit in keeping the mess under control. Ensuring that someone does the dishes after dinner rather than allowing them to build up in the sink, which can lead to arguments or resentment further down the line, makes for a peaceful home environment and better quality time for the family, as well as the space every individual needs for themselves in order to feel calm and relaxed.
For those who live with mental illness, aiming for a clean, clutter-free environment can help to reduce stressors that exacerbate it, and however good our overall mental health is at the moment, keeping a clean space ensures that constant, low-level stress is kept to a minimum.