Cleaning the house helps cleaning the mind?

Drawing by Adrian Serghie

Thanks to your comments to the Question of the Day – No. 404, I started to wonder why we tend to feel better while cleaning our surroundings if we have a bad mood. Is it cathartic? If so, why?

Let’s consider the following scenario: you sit around your house feeling neutral (or even good) and all of a sudden something happens and your mood gets down faster than your pants after holding in that sh*t all day long. Then you start to clean your house or you go outside to wash your chickens. The strange part is that these activities make you feel better. Why is this happening? It’s not like you can win an argument by cleaning.

Does it have a metaphorical effect?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the action of cleaning our surroundings have the same impact mentally. It’s like that dusty table is equal to a dusty thought and the action of cleaning the table is equal to cleaning the thought. If that’s true, I’m on my way to clean the whole neighborhood.

Is it because of the energy being consumed?

Doing chores consumes our energy, right? If we think about the moments when we get angry, what do we physically feel? Besides the desire to hit the source of our anger with a shovel, we feel energized. Doing our chores consumes a part of that energy and the result might be a smoother thought process, without all that energy being transformed into killing scenarios.

It might be because we want to seem the better person?

Think about the times you have an argument with your significant other. If there still is some anger in you after that argument/fight, then you’ll go wash the dishes so you can prove you’re better that that person. Okay, this might not be a conscious thing, but that’s how things might seem to be.

Whatever the explanation might be, at least, we’re doing something to feel better. I honestly don’t remember if doing this fixes the problem or that if it makes me feel better, but from time to time, it surely does the trick.

In your opinion, why doing the chores makes us feel better sometimes?

44 thoughts on “Cleaning the house helps cleaning the mind?

  1. I don’t know how to put it into words except I know when I get home from a stressful day at work, I will go take a shower and picture myself washing the stress off and out of my body. I def agree that it’s a way to help burn the extra energy off. I think cleaning helps me try to turn that negative energy into a positive outcome.

      1. I actually do! I’d read about it somewhere a while ago and decided I was going to try it. Now it’s my go to after work stress reliever. Cheap, easy and I smell great afterwards.

  2. YES! I love this! Any time something puts me in a bad mood during my day and later I try to relax at home, I can’t. If I see the tiniest bit of clutter or dog hair on the floor, I need to go into a deep clean mode before I can feel relaxed enough to stop thinking about my day!

  3. My mother actually taught me this method when I feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts in my head. I think it has something to do with distracting the mind from processing all the problems all at once. In my experience, when I feel stuck and/or indecisive, I’d start cleaning my room or closet. While I am slowly tidying up my space, my brain is also slowly picking apart the problems that stressed me out. Little by little, I find the solutions and I feel better. By the end of my exercise, I have a clean room and an even clearer mind.

    1. That’s awesome! So during your cleaning you don’t think about those problems? Or they mostly go away and come back one by one, in an ordered line? 🙂

      1. Not necessarily an ordered line. 😀 And I try not to consciously think about my problems when I do this.
        It’s kind of like playing a Rubik’s cube. The mind is focused on one side (cleaning), and the other sides slowly falls into place. Sometimes, I have to clean for hours before I could find the answers. And other times, I’ll start sorting my clothes then suddenly have a “Eureka!” moment. There also circumstances that I’ll finish my chores, but still no solution with my problems.
        Either way, it lets my mind relax for a short while. And I’ll have a refreshing and clean space to use afterwards. 🙂

  4. I clean when I’m upset because I usually feel boxed in and it’s a way off making room for me. Like I feel claustrophobic when I’m upset so I start making more space in the house by putting things away. It’s to gain a sense of control for me.

      1. No, I’m still upset afterwards. Lol if I’m angry, cleaning doesn’t make me feel better. If I clean when I’m upset it’s impulsive. But if I clean when I’m peaceful that feels good because I was productive and completed a task I aimed for.

  5. 1. In the hospital (I’m a doctor) no matter how well the treatment is working, when the patients get their morning wash and have clean sheets put in the bed they definitely feel more healthy – and the placebo effect has many scholarly articles and papers and studies published to prove it’s validity

    2. During the saddest, loneliest and hardest part of my life, my apartment was incredibly clean and I would get so upset if there was even the smallest thing amiss.
    That was CLEARLY not healthy or right

    3. I like Marie Kondo’s book and the philosophy of only having things that spark joy in you and respecting things and your space.
    I’m following this method a bit and even if things get messy – and they do – I don’t spiral because it’s only things I love and keeping them back in their allocated places is not a chore but a service …. to me 😊

    1. So it depends of the environment and the person for whom it is addressed. If you’re angry and you start cleaning, does that help diminishing your anger?

      1. I never do anything “virtuous” when I’m angry 😬 …. which is not very often (thank God! 😅) Sets a bad precedent that something constructive HAS to come out my anger … and who needs that kind of pressure when you’re busy howling at the moon, no?
        So I do THE WORK by Byron Katie, meditate into the anger, journal about the anger etc.
        I basically do not do anything to let me believe that anger (or any emotion) needs to be qualified to exist in me and I’m not going to distract myself from it … I’m going to go right into it
        This took a long while getting to though …. and only because I’d exhausted every method of running away from me 😊

      2. It’s great that you don’t get angry so often and I’m glad you’ve found a method that works for you. How long did it take to get here?

      3. My anger mostly came from “I’m not good enough” … my parents are extremely competitive and therefore their children needed to be better than every other parents’ child, u see 🙄
        So I never got a chance to discover who I was, why I’m here, what I love and dislike etc. because I was busy winning approval and earning the right to exist while feeling hella fake the whole time …. leading me to direct a huge deal of self-loathing and anger inwards while exhausting myself with maintaining a smiling facade.
        I thankfully had a breakdown
        Took a few months to recover
        Went on to do the same familiar things after recovery, because that’s all I’ve known
        But now, because my fragility was suddenly visible, my family backed-off and I was still competing, still being hard on me and still loathing myself
        That made me eventually accept that I’ve adopted my interpretation of my parents into my psyche and they’re in charge and I’m living on a type of self-defeating program
        So in 2014 I made a resolution to change my life (I’m SO big on resolutions 😂) and used a lot of techniques that Teal Swan teaches in her YouTube channel 😊
        Did therapy for a bit after a break-up …. because I was also dating the same guy over and over again even if they were different men (daddy issues much!) …. read a lot of books by Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Teal Swan, Eckhart Tolle, Mark Manson, Byron Katie ….. and have finally come to the inevitable conclusion that authenticity and allignment with myself is the ONLY thing that matters
        When the focus is constantly on your personal allignment, u never tend to put urself in places or with people that violate that – because you consciously develop fucking strong boundaries.
        Maybe because I listen to my gut all the time, always watching my insides and don’t particularly care about being liked anymore – 5 years later from that resolution in 2014 – I just don’t feel anger quite so much anymore 😊

        How about you? What’s your story? 😊

      4. My story begins two years ago when I lost my track and I didn’t know why I was living. What was the purpose of my life. I got so stuck in my own mind, my own story, that I thought everybody was right but me, when actually it’s all about perspective. Once I realized everybody lives his/her own story, I realized there is so much I couldn’t see or considered that I started to pay attention to what happens both inside and outside my own head. I realized that my assumptions are mostly based on my own personal opinion, not on facts. But what are “facts” actually? They are basically some situations we interpret in our own way. So that’s where this journey started; with the idea that my mind is not the only way to see things and that what’s in my mind has been deposited there along the years. Whatever is in there can be changed if I want to; if it doesn’t suit me anymore. Now, I try to be more open to whatever happens and I’m not taking my own thoughts for granted. They are just thoughts. Like the wind. I decide what should I believe and what not.

  6. Maybe it’s because, in that particular moment, we can’t clean the dirt inside our heads, so we clean the dirt outside of our heads instead. It gives us a sense of control and also helps us focus on something physical to help ignore the mental pain. The finished product also gives a wave of happiness when we realise something looks good or better than it did before.

  7. Yes, I am an emotional cleaner too (as mentioned already…No.404).
    Initially, I thought it is a kind of procrastination..but it isn`t necessarily. Cleaning can be a kick-start for bigger decisions and changes.

    As martial arts students, I am familiar with the concept of “meditation in movement”. In particular repetitive moves and patterns are relaxing and suitable to empty your mind and then to (re)focus on your prio issue later on.

    If you are cleaning, you can see progress and immediate results. If you like to have your stuff in order, your self-reward system might release a dose of your body-own happy-maker Dopamin.

    Cleaning provides you the good feeling of being in control of your environment.

    Every couple of years, I reduce my household (last time I got rid of 2/3 of my stuff). I love it. This process has got so many positive effects like:
    + giving more space to yourSelf,
    + ask yourself what you really need to run your household (thus, you start reflecting on your true lifestyle and related needs…and you need to answer if you like to continue your lifestyle),
    + of course, you enjoy positive memories if you look at your personal treasures
    + in the process of categorizing and giving stuff away (trash bin, gift, resale…) you will enter a mode of ops where it becomes increasingly easier to make decisions and to let go from my experience. The longer I muck out, the more I come to the conclusion that I don`t need any of my stuff and usually have to slow down myself because I start giving away everything.
    + I get rid of physical burden and become “easy” again. Finally, you`ve to care for all these things. First time radical muck-out was triggered by the thought that I need another, additional book shelf for DVDs, CDs, books etc. that would have covered the next wall (I need for arts too). And I thought of moving with all my giant libraries…Crazy.
    + My next idea was that I won`t read any book twice because there are so many new ones and I wondered why I keep all these massiv libraries that require expensive apartments of size, needs to be cleaned etc. I concluded that I do not need them. Neither for decoration nor for proving that I am a colorful personality who is well-educated and well-read. People who know me are aware of my strengths (& weaknesses) anyway. So I downsized drastically.
    + It was also a positive experience to be kind and generous to myself by allowing myself to keep unnecessary stuff …just because I like it. …self-care and self-love.
    + Mucking- up means also that you are loyal to pre-determined principles and that you prove yourself that you`ve got some discipline. No, you do not need it => bye or of course, I would never ever separate from my Teddy Bear (I got from my Dad the day I was born).
    + A downsized household makes you more mobile and therefore flexible. IT is like traveling with huge suitcases compared to journey with a backpacker. You will feel more independent and under control.
    + Cleaning can create a flow that can be utilize to resolve other pending issues. Some times it seems to be one process – cleaning and decision-making / implementation. Perhaps you outsmart yourself by cleaning because barriers for further actions beyond cleaning are decreased.
    + Not to forget, I feel physically and psychological better if my environment is clean and everything is easy retrievable and available.
    + cleaning is also suitable to distract yourself from stressing issues but you do not freeze or become lazy, you take action. Maybe, it is helpful to train this behavioral pattern.

    I am an emotional cleaner. I clean when I am down (more difficult to start), when I am angry or enthusiastic and ready for change etc.

    In the latter scenario, I tend to continue by visiting my hair dresser for a new cut.
    Today, I `ve made an appointment with him and told him I want a new hair cut AND some colour. Yeah!!!!

    1. Thank you for this amazing comment! It is very clear that you have lots of experience in this area and I’m glad you found a way to use the cleaning as a therapeutic technique. It’s cheaper than a psychologist and it seems to be very efficient too! Congratulations and thanks again for sharing this! <3

  8. For me, there’s the benefit of not seeing dust and dog hair everywhere, which, while I love my beastie – I do wish he wasn’t a shedder. Having that cleaned up gives me a feeling of accomplishment – even if it’s a small one. There’s also the benefit of letting the brain puzzle out whatever is bothering me while I do something that is pretty much mindless. I also don’t like being surrounded by clutter – it makes me anxious. Things have places to be!

    1. So the “dirt” itself creates anxiety and cleaning it helps cleaning the that anxiety as well. Do you think it can help cleaning other types of anxiety or mental pain?

      1. Absolutely! There’s something meditative about doing the housework, or even yard work (although I have to remain vigilant on that due to bee venom allergies). When I’m in that state, I can see and process anxieties and their sources. It also gives me the opportunity to let me guard down and be vulnerable enough to poke those sore spots and get to the root matter.

      1. Yeah… Bad energy and sleep don’t go together at all. A clear conscience is the softest pillow

  9. Movement helps to oxygenate the blood, which is best for a happy brain…it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and success, pride, and having a tidy area is less stimulating visually, which can lead to lots of thoughts and disorganized thinking

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