Day-to-day responsibilities can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Cooking meals, drinking enough water, getting exercise, and doing laundry are only a few things on your daily to-do list. With only 24 hours in the day, it's hard to know where to put your energy and determine which tasks are the most important to you and your overall health. Understanding the impact of a messy home on your health may help you make effective decisions regarding where to put your time, energy, and effort when you are pulled in so many different directions daily.
Your health encompasses more than just your physical wellness — it also includes your mental health. As you probably know, many factors contribute to your overall health. Stress, physical activity, and nutrition are some of the more obvious factors. However, less obvious factors influence your health and wellness. The food you eat, the amount of exercise you engage in, and even the cleanliness of your home impact your overall health. Research has demonstrated that an organized home can have many benefits for your health and wellness.
Your Health and Your Home: What Research Says
A study that included 998 African Americans living in St. Louis found that individuals with organized and tidy homes engaged in more physical activity than those who had messier homes and, therefore, had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This study also found that the tidiness of their home was a bigger influence on physical health than the walkability of the neighborhood. What isn’t well understood is if the increase in physical activity is a result of cleaning and organizing the home or if the individuals engage in more physical activity because their environment is neat and organized. Regardless, this study had surprising results, and the correlation between physical health and clean homes is evident.
Another study conducted among women showed a connection between the home environment and depression levels. In this study, women who described their homes as cluttered and messy had increased depression scores and higher stress hormones compared to women who described their homes as restorative and uncluttered.
In 2011, a Princeton University study found that a cluttered room can make it more difficult to focus on a particular task at hand. The theory is that a cluttered room diverts attention away from what you are trying to accomplish as the brain is overly stimulated by clutter. This can contribute to poor attention and poor efficiency.
What You Can Do
Your home environment is just one element that contributes to your overall health and wellness. It is unreasonable to expect you to have a pristine home, free of dust, occasional clutter, and disorganization. However, you can do small things to help improve the organization in your home and therefore improve your overall health.
- Start Small: Pick one room and one specific behavior that you can do to help improve the organization and cleanliness of the room. For example, pick up all of the garbage in your bedroom and throw it in the trash. Then, pick another specific task, such as putting all of your dirty clothes in the hamper, then another, and so on.
- Make Your Bed and Wash Your Sheets: A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who make their beds each morning are 19% more likely to get a restful night’s sleep than those who do not. Also, 75% of individuals reported getting a better night’s sleep when their sheets were freshly washed.
- Set Time Aside Each Day: If you find it hard to carve out time each day to clean your home, set aside a very small amount of time, such as 10 minutes. You can find 10 minutes to dedicate to organizing/cleaning a room in the home. Wake up 10 minutes earlier or take 10 minutes from your lunch break if you are working from home and focus only on doing what you can in those 10 minutes. Set a timer on your phone or microwave. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes each day.
If you are struggling with making changes to help organize your home environment, there is no shame in asking for help. Talk to a mental health professional who can help you identify and implement behavioral strategies and other interventions to help you achieve your goals. If you currently see a therapist and are taking medication for your mental or physical health, ScriptSave® WellRx can help save you up to 80%* on your prescription medication.
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Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.