There’s a Reason You Feel Like Cleaning and Organizing Right Before Your Period

published Nov 2, 2021
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Normally, I like to spend my weekends taking it easy. This past weekend? Well, let’s just say I saw a totally different side of myself. Instead of scrolling TikTok, binging “Grey’s Anatomy,” or sitting outside with a cold glass of something, I spent nearly two full days tearing apart and re-building my kitchen storage areas. I can typically tolerate a bit of mess, but yesterday, I just couldn’t stand the clutter and disarray of my drawers and cabinets for one more second. I also just happened to be nearing my period. 

According to psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist Julie Holland, author of books like “Moody Bitches” and “Good Chemistry,” I was experiencing what many folks experience just before the end of their menstrual cycles: an insatiable urge to clean house. As with the other changes that happen throughout the monthly cycle, hormones definitely have something to do with it.

Here’s a little refresher lesson in the menstrual cycle, just in case: After a person ovulates, the hormone estrogen gradually increases — and right along with it, so does serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Practically, that means people tend to feel most content, peaceful, and agreeable right after ovulation. And then, when the pre-menstrual time hits, both estrogen and serotonin take a major dip. That steep decline of feel-good chemicals is why you may notice a significant decline in your mood right before your bleeding days.

But there’s often more to it than a bad attitude. According to Holland, this extreme drop in serotonin can also impact people’s behavior, even inciting a cleaning and organizing blitz. In “Moody Bitches,” she explains that the last part of a person’s menstrual cycle (up until the uterus sheds its lining, which causes bleeding) is like a mini-version of pregnancy. Why? For one thing, the hormones rising at that time are the same ones that increase when people are with child. 

Yvonne Chow, an endocrinologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health in Melbourne, Australia, says pregnancy indeed causes the pre-period hormones estrogen and progesterone to rise, and that pregnancy can trigger some pretty amazing behavior changes. “There’s an area of the brain that facilitates an urge to protect your young through behaviors like gathering, nesting, and sorting things out,” Chow says. “And that area has estrogen and progesterone receptors.” 

While the hormonal flow may be similar, Chow says pregnancy hormones are much higher than a normal menstrual cycle, so she’s not sure there’s enough evidence to say PMS can directly cause hormonal-driven nesting behaviors. But that people feel, and even behave, differently during different parts of their cycle is definitely plausible — cravings, she says, are one of the most common ones she sees.

According to Holland, these behaviors can be even more pronounced. While those post-ovulatory days bring agreeability in relationships, she says PMS can cause irritability toward others and a general sense of obsession and intolerance toward what’s not working. In some cases, that might mean reorganizing or deep-cleaning an entire room (even when you’d objectively rather be relaxing). 

Even if you don’t feel the same drive to organize your home, she says it’s a perfect time to take stock of what’s working in your life — you’ll definitely have a more critical eye. But since you may be low energy, it might be worth waiting until your period ends to actually implement those changes.

“When you are in PMS territory, you will naturally pay more attention to detail and be ruthless, which is why I say it’s an excellent time to clean your closets both literally and figuratively,” Holland says. “Toss what is not working for you, and rebuild when your new cycle commences.”