5 Reasons a Clean Environment Will Improve Your Mental Health

Here's how your environment affects your mental health.

Hedy Phillips CNET Contributor
Hedy Phillips is a freelance lifestyle writer based in New York. While she's not writing on topics like living on a budget and tips for city dwelling, she can usually be found at a concert or sightseeing in a new city. Over the past 10 years, her bylines have appeared in a number of publications, including POPSUGAR, Hunker, and more.
Hedy Phillips
4 min read
Woman singing and dancing while cleaning.
LaylaBird/Getty Images

Many aspects of your daily life impact your mental health, including your living space. When your home gets cluttered and messy, it can negatively impact your mental health, just like a clean space can positively impact it. You may be surprised at how intertwined your home and your mental well-being are. Find out how these two things go hand in hand and how you can keep your mental health intact. 

For more ideas on improving your mental health, here are seven mood-altering foods for happiness and six thought exercises for a better mindset.

How can clutter negatively impact mental health?

While clutter around your home can certainly be annoying, it can also have a real impact on your mental health. Studies have linked clutter to stress and anxiety, which weighs on your mental health.

A cluttered space can:

  • Make you feel stressed: One study examined cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in women with messy homes and found them to have higher levels than those who lived in an organized environment. 
  • Increase likelihood of procrastination: You may have noticed that when you feel overwhelmed with a to-do list, it's hard to figure out where to start. The same can be said for a cluttered space that feels daunting. Research shows that there's a correlation between an overwhelming amount of clutter and procrastination. That procrastination may snowball into other aspects of your life.
  • Make it hard to focus: When you're surrounded by clutter, your brain has a hard time narrowing in on what you want it to. Studies have shown that cluttered spaces prevent your brain from focusing properly.

How a clean environment can help your mental health

Having a cluttered space can feel really overwhelming, but knowing that a clean space can positively impact your mental health is the first step toward achieving that. Taking the cleaning process one step at a time will get you there, and once you know all the positive ways a clean environment will help your mental health, you might just be more willing to try to clean.

Woman cleaning her home while smiling.
Morsa Images/Getty Images

1. Happiness boost 

Knowing that a cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind, it only makes sense to understand that a clean space can lead to a more eased and happy mind. A 2015 study on students showed that those who did dishes and focused on the cleaning aspect and soapy smells experienced a heightened mental inspiration, meaning the act of cleaning actually boosted their minds. While you're doing your own cleaning, try to focus on the fresh smells and squeaky clean area rather than the daunting task.

2. Increases productivity 

The previously mentioned study on how clutter can make you procrastinate suggests that a clean space may do the opposite: it helps you get moving and get things done. When you're not worried about messy surroundings, your mind, energy and hands are free to work on the tasks that you actually need to get done, whether it's work, taking care of yourself, or taking care of your family. Plus, the act of cleaning to reach the point of peak productivity is also super productive. The moment you start cleaning, you're increasing your productivity, and once you get going, it's easier to keep going. 

3. Heightens focus 

When you're not concentrating on the mess around you, you can focus on important tasks like work instead. A clean space can even make it easier during leisure time. If your living room isn't full of clutter, you can watch TV in peace because your eyes aren't scanning the room, worrying about the mess. The previously mentioned study that found that clutter makes it hard to focus concluded that clean spaces do the opposite. If you find yourself struggling to focus because of the mess you're surrounded by, try cleaning little patches of space at a time so the task isn't overwhelming. 

4. Decreases stress 

Having a messy space increases cortisol levels. That implies that a clean space may do the opposite. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has researched methods of reducing people's stress, and one way to do that is to engage in physical activity. What better way to be physically active than to clean your home? This gives you a double whammy: the clean space can reduce stress and physical activity can also reduce stress. The end result is a clutter-free home and hopefully lower stress levels now that everything is tidy. And because physical activity is good for decreasing stress, you can even amp up your cleaning by putting on some music and really having fun with it. This gets your heart pumping, which releases endorphins, the chemical in your brain that eases stress.

5. Better sleep 

In the same way that physical activity eases stress, it can also help you sleep better. When you clean and get your heart pumping you've got endorphins running through your body which can also lead to better sleep at night. Endorphins don't just lower stress levels but they actually help your brain rest, according to the ADAA. 

If your cluttered space is affecting your sleep, focus your energy on tidying that space first, because sleep is an incredibly important part of both your physical and mental health.

The bottom line

Though you may not realize it, the space you live in heavily impacts your mental health. Giving yourself small cleaning-related tasks each day can help you stay on top of your space and your mental health. Think of activities that make you happy and see if there's a way to turn them into cleaning activities. Or you could even reward yourself with something you love after you've completed your cleaning tasks. 

For more about mental health, check out our guide to how social media negatively impacts your mood and tips for relieving stress with simple breathing exercises.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.