If you’ve ever muttered the words, “This pile of dirty dishes is driving me nuts,” then you already know how a clean space can boost your sanity. You might assume only type-A folks get a kick out of a sparkling home, but the truth is, everyone’s health can benefit from a cleaner, more organized space—according to science.
Whether you keep your space tidy on a regular basis or are about to dedicate a weekend to some much-needed spring cleaning, a less cluttered home boosts your health both physically and mentally. Here’s how.
1. Cleaning burns calories.
The physical act of cleaning comes with its own perks. You can burn about 170 calories per every half 30 minutes of heavy housework (for a 155-pound person). And let’s be honest, spring cleaning takes way more than half an hour. If you’re trying to get more steps in during your daily routine, but you really, really hate the gym, housework is one way to stay on your feet. Learn more ways to burn calories without leaving the house here.
2. Staying active boosts mental health.
You already know that exercise can alleviate stress, and it can play an important role in treating depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Studies have found that patients with long-term depression who exercise tend to have higher rates of remission (and lower rates of relapse) than those who don’t, according to the American Psychological Association.
But you don’t have to hit the treadmill to ward off stress. You might find the same stress-soothing benefits from vacuuming the cat hair off your area rug or scrubbing off soy sauce spills from your refrigerator shelves (blegh).
3. Organizing (or re-organizing) your home can reduce stress.
You know that panic you feel when you’re running late and can’t remember where you placed your car keys? Yep, spring cleaning can help with that, too. If you have trouble focusing or managing time, investing time into organizing your home might save you stress later on. Clutter in your home can make you feel overwhelmed and anxious, which can affect your productivity at home and work and negatively impact your relationships. This may be especially true for adults with ADHD. Learn tips for a more organized morning routine and more organized evening routine here.
4. Cleaning can reduce indoor allergens.
Sorry to be the bearer of this news, but your home is full of dust mites. That’s unavoidable. These tiny creatures feed off the dust in your home, and they are simply a part of the natural ecosystem. However, a large population of dust mites can be bad news for someone with allergies. Allowing dust to build up in your home—including in your upholstered furniture, bed sheets, and in the carpet behind your couch—invites more and more dust mites to the party. High populations of dust mites can trigger respiratory symptoms in anyone, even without allergies. The same is true for pet dander, cockroaches, mold, and other allergens.
Allergens in your home can also trigger flare-ups of asthma and trigger eczema. If you are sensitive to allergies, you may want to consider donning a mask while you do your spring cleaning, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; cleaning can temporarily kick up dust and allergens into the air and make symptoms worse. Once you’ve dusted all your furniture and vacuumed all the carpet, learn these tips for maintaining cleaner air in your home.
5. A cleaner home may curb unhealthy cravings.
Your environment appears to affect your food choices. For example, placing healthy food front and center in your fridge can prompt you to snack on hummus and carrot sticks instead of a pudding cup (no judgment). Learn more tricks to organize your fridge for weight loss here.
Making healthy food more accessible isn’t the only way a cleaner home influences your choices, though. In a 2013 study, researchers divided two groups of participants in separate rooms with a buffet of snack choices: one inside a clean and “orderly” room, and the other in a more disorderly room. Remarkably, participants in the orderly room chose healthier snacks than the group in the more cluttered room. In other words, your environment may influence your food choices—for better or worse.
6. Decluttering can help you relax.
After spring cleaning, you might notice your home feels a bit more peaceful, calm, and welcoming—and that can do wonders for your mental health. After a long and busy day at work, the last thing you want is to go home to more chaos and stress.
A 2010 study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who described their homes as cluttered, unfinished, or “sloppy” had higher rates of stress and depression as those who described their homes as serene or inviting. The study also showed that married women who described their homes as disorderly also reported lower marital satisfaction, which can impact stress levels further.
There’s good reason to keep your home clean on the reg (um, dust mites!), but tackling your spring To-Do list is a great start.