Psychologists Say That Spring Cleaning Can Actually Help Manage Your Anxiety


When you think of ways to relieve stress and anxiety, what do you think of? Getting a massage? Taking a nap? Maybe exercise? Usually cleaning isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but it turns out that cleaning is actually very effective at reducing anxiety, and when we understand why, it makes a lot of sense.

First of all, let’s picture a kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter. How does that make you feel? It makes us feel a little stressed out just with the imaginary image in our head.

Now picture a clean kitchen. The counters are clean. The sink is empty. How does that make you feel? We feel relieved and happy, especially compared to the first image.

In 2010, there was a study published in the “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” that showed a link between clutter and an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. Women who lived in cluttered homes had higher levels of cortisol than women who did not live in cluttered homes.

Just living in clutter can cause stress. If we reduce or eliminate the clutter, our stress level goes down. That’s not the only reason cleaning is effective at relieving stress though.

If you’re experiencing stress or anxiety from a work, family, health or other situation, your brain wants to do something about it; to fix it. Sometimes there are things that we can’t fix, at least not right away. We have this built up extra energy from anxiety, and it can help to find a way to funnel that energy into something productive.

Cleaning gives you something to do, a way to burn off some of that anxious energy. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment. You feel like you have control over something in your life (the clutter) which can lower anxiety levels.

Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, says, “We want to be able to do something when we get anxious, and what we really want is to be in control and take action.” As far as why cleaning works to lower anxiety, she adds that “you’re taking control of something that you can, but you’re also making your environment more soothing.”

Sounds like spring cleaning is just what the doctor ordered. If you need to declutter, we’ve put together a list of our favorite Marie Kondo tips for that. If you’re going to focus on deep cleaning, don’t forget to clean these areas.

Have you noticed your stress levels decrease when you clean your home?