Anxiety & Cleaning: How Tidying Up Can Be Therapeutic

Ashley Lynne

When I was a child, my mother would do this thing where she cleaned the house whenever she was upset. I always thought it was a weird way to handle your emotions. Until I started to do it too. It was very calming and relaxing to freshen up the bed and mop the floors. At the end I would light a scented candle for that extra touch.

One day I was in a particularly sour mood. I went through my closet and cleaned out all of my outdated clothes, shoes, and bags. It felt nice and I could see all my clothes organized and neat. A cluttered home leaves a cluttered mind.

Meditation may be a useful tool to reduce stress and relax the mind. But you don’t always have to sit still with your legs crossed for 30 minutes. Cleaning and organizing your home is also a great way to put your mind at ease.

It’s a way of practicing mindfulness while doing something productive. I call it “active zen.”

On the other hand if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, then anxiety may make you clean more until overkill. But for many people doing some chores can actually relieve stress and release endorphins.

In this article by Vice, Darby Saxbe, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, says cleaning gives people a sense of control over their environment. Which is how I feel when I clean. Especially when I have a depressive episode.

The article also states that it could just be a personality trait. People who are detailed-oriented tend to want everything in its place. They feel less mentally strained when they clean.

It does feel good to sit down after a day of cleaning and have a sense of pride. The fresh smells and clutter free home just lifts my mood.

Many people call this stress-cleaning and it is a legit coping mechanism for those burdened by all the clutter in their lives. With the pandemic and the tension concerning the presidency, it’s becoming more common.

Here are a few things I do when stress cleaning:

  1. Make and freshen up the bed. I clean my sheets every two weeks. In between that time I like to spray the bed down with some Freebreeze and straighten up the sheets. Just making the bed gives me incentive to keep going and transforms the bedroom into something from HTV...almost.
  2. Clean out the litter box. Every three days, I clean the litter box and sweep/mop the surrounding floor. Anyone who has cats knows this is a must for a clean home. And the cats enjoy a clean box too.
  3. Wipe down the kitchen. I like to move objects off of the countertop and wipe it down with cleaner and a little bleach. After that I clean off the stove. Then, I go through the fridge and throw away any food that’s overstayed its welcome. Then mop for a glistening finnish.
  4. Toilet time! Then I head to the bathroom and begin pouring gel bleach around the inside of the toilet. I let it settle a bit while I clean off the sink and the bathtub. Then I put on my gloves and scrub the toilet clean. Replace the toilet paper and we’re done!
  5. Living room and hallway. These are the two biggest areas with the highest traffic. I usually do this last and when my boyfriend is at work, before he tracks dirt. I would move furniture around and sweep everything in every corner. Then refill the bucket with fresh clean water and mop like crazy. I wipe down the coffee table and find a scented candle from my collection and light it up.

There’s more but it would be boring going over everything on my list. As you can see dirty floors are a pet peeve of mine. I don’t know why but clean floors seem more reassuring to me.

The point is cleaning can be beneficial for anyone who wants to relieve stress and want to feel productive at the same time. I still suggest meditation at night or in the mornings but some people can’t see anything relaxing about sitting still while deep breathing.

If you just want to tidy up because your messy closet or garage is due for a clean up make it fun. Put on your favorite music and give yourself a reward at the end. Like a hot bubble bath or maybe some takeout at your favorite restaurant.

If you have any extra clothes, look for a place to donate them. At Goodwill they actually give you a receipt so you can write it off of your taxes. I plan on using my receipt this year when filing. However, I heard tax season is being pushed back due to people not getting their stimulus on time. But that’s another article.

We all have ways to cope with stress and anxiety and cleaning is just one of those things that’s not only good for the mind but it’s just nice for anyone else living with you.

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A writer, artist, and spiritualist just making a way for myself.

Atlanta, GA

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