The Psychological Reason You Find Cleaning Calming (and Even Enjoyable!), According to Experts

published Jun 4, 2024
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Young woman cleaning her house
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We’re spotlighting the link between how we feel on the inside and how our spaces look and feel in our Mind, Body & Home collection. This content is presented by DoorDash; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Have you ever sat down for work but your desk is so cluttered you procrastinate and don’t even know where to begin? Well, you’re not alone; nearly 9 in 10 Americans report feeling their best, mentally and physically, when they have a clean space, according to a 2024 study by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

While some may clean for aesthetic purposes, it turns out the impact of cleaning extends far beyond looks and reverberates through our mental well-being. ACI research also found that a clean home fosters a sense of accomplishment, enhances mood, boosts productivity, and reduces stress and anxiety. But how exactly can the act of cleaning have such a profound effect on your well-being? 

How Is Cleaning Calming? 

To understand the calming allure of cleaning, you need to delve deeper beyond the surface of mere tidiness. At its core, cleaning offers more than just a way to maintain a pristine living space; it provides a positive pathway that can help with your mental health. 

A 2017 study on young adults found that clutter was linked to procrastination, feeling overwhelmed, and a lower quality of life. Sure the aftermath of a clean space can leave you feeling calm and at peace, but the actual physical movements of it also play a part. “As we’re focusing on the task at hand, cleaning gives us a sense of control and the feeling that we’re accomplishing something,” explains Scott Lyons, a licensed holistic psychologist and author. 

What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Cleaning?

Cleaning not only transforms your physical environment but also has profound effects on your mental health. “For mental well-being, cleaning is an essential part of self-care,” says Kyler Shumway, licensed psychologist and chief clinical officer at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy. There are various factors to this: from the routine of cleaning to the repetition of movements and the satisfaction of when it’s done. “The active ingredients of cleaning are the same as those involved in meditation and other mindfulness practices,” the psychologist further elaborates.

Additionally, you reap calming and positive benefits from the physical side of things where cleaning can provide your body with endorphins (yes, those same happy hormones that come from exercise). “The organismic experience of using your body tunes your mind back into your physical experience, a process known as ‘grounding,’” Shumway adds.

How Can a Messy Home Affect Your Mood? 

Having a messy home doesn’t mean you have depression. However, the odds of having a messy home do increase with those who suffer from depression, according to Shumway. “Our physical surroundings tend to reflect our internal world,” he says. “A messy home with neglected chores often signals someone who is caught in a depressive lifestyle spiral.” Your physical surroundings hold such a powerful sway over your mood and overall well-being, and this is why it’s important to consider cleaning as part of self-care, the Texas-based psychologist adds.

Maria Fernanda Gonzalez from Mister Limpio Cleaning has also witnessed the shift in her clients’ moods firsthand following a cleaning service. “We’ve serviced a few spaces with home offices, and customers report a growing sense of productivity largely in part with feeling decluttered,” she says. “Additionally, the kitchen has been a space that we’ve also had a lot of positive feedback with some customers sharing that cooking at home was becoming more frequent.” 

America Artigas from Sweet Cleaners adds that homes with an accumulation of garbage, mold, and excess clutter have a dark and heavy vibe. “Through the tears, they share that procrastination took over them and prevented them from moving forward.” 

Tips for Maintaining a Clean and Calm Space 

While it’s all well and good to speak of the calming nature of cleaning and its benefits, putting it into action can be a completely different playing field. Here are some practical tips that make maintaining a clean and peaceful space more manageable.

Focus on Small, Quick Wins

Kelsey Gent of @lifeonstacylane encourages you to focus on the small and quick wins. “Cleaning can be overwhelming, so focus on those priority tasks, even if it’s one to two things,” she says. She also encourages others to work in timed 15-minute blocks. “You don’t have to do it all in one day — it’s always shocking (in a good way) how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes.” 

Try a Routine or Method

“Morning cleanings set your day up for success,” Gonzalez says. “It gives the mental boost that’s necessary to tackle the day’s obstacles.” She also recommends the clean-as-you-go method to make it easier when you need a deep clean. 

Differentiate Your Tasks

Artigas suggests differentiating cleaning and household chores. “Plan daily tasks like washing clothes, sweeping, vacuuming, picking up toys, etc. before the day of deep cleaning,” she says. “This will prevent your deep cleaning day from being overloaded with household chores.” 

Achieving calm and success through cleaning won’t necessarily happen overnight; it’s often a slow and steady burn. However, by welcoming the challenge and integrating small strategies, you can take the initial steps toward creating a serene and orderly home environment. That most importantly supports your mental well-being and overall happiness.