Mental Health and Your Home Environment

Do you ever notice yourself feeling stressed or bummed out, then clean up an area of your house and feel like there’s been a huge weight lifted off your shoulders? That’s because there is a correlation between clutter, stress and anxiety.

The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin noted a study that showed the way people describe their homes may reflect whether their time spent at home feels restorative or stressful. If someone speaks negatively about the state of their home, describing it as messy or full of uncompleted projects, they’re more likely to be depressed or increasingly fatigued. The study also showed that women with cluttered homes experienced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. People who describe their home in more positive ways, such as restorative or peaceful, were less depressed. Think about it, a clean home gives huge bursts of satisfaction, along with the thought: Phew, no more chores to do for a while! Cleaning also burns calories and releases endorphins, which improves mood. For many people, cleaning can be a lot like exercising… not really fun in the moment, but SO worth it afterwards. Although there are some chores (and workouts) I actually enjoy doing, I can definitely resonate with that.

Our state of mind is affected when there is clutter in our spaces, which can also affect our productivity in many ways. We become visually distracted by things that need to be put away or thrown away, we are drawn to either do those things or stubbornly get frustrated that someone else hasn’t already done them, which can stay in our minds throughout the day (or for much longer). People in a tidy environment are more likely to get more done and stay motivated. When there is one mess, it can be a breeding ground for more mess, which makes motivation to take care of it hard to find. Does that sound familiar?

This is an issue I’m very sensitive to, as I grew up with one parent having a lot of things (essentially a hoarder) and the other hating things being in the way or cluttering up a space. I grew up being a somewhat messy kid who was scared to make too much of a mess for fear of being told to get my shit out of the way. There was a sense of stress related to things being in the way or the home not being clean. Now that I’m in my 20’s, with what seems to be undiagnosed mild OCD, there is a presence of anxiety or even annoyance whenever I see a mess in my home. And since I’m supremely stubborn, if I see a mess that’s not mine, I often won’t clean it up (even though it bugs the hell out of me)… though sometimes if it’s there long enough, I will take care of it and then harbor some resentment about it. Is that healthy? Definitely not! I’m working on that for sure. Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness.

As someone who works from home and spends most of her time at home (yay pandemic life), my home environment is a huge part of my daily life. As a Health Coach, I like to say it’s part of my health. For the past few years, I’ve lived with 3-5 other roommates in a large apartment. It’s always been a struggle to keep our home super clean and tidy, as we’ve generally had different schedules and varying tolerances for untidiness. Put a bunch of free spirit ladies in a beautiful apartment in the city and that’s what’s bound to happen I guess! That’s something that I’ve had to mentally work through, and still do to this day. Not everyone values cleanliness and tidiness to the same degree that I do. I have certain ways of going about my life but not everyone can or will jive with that. And that’s okay! “Messes” are only temporary. Everything is temporary. Even anxiety.

When they say communication is everything… they’re right. Communication with the Self, communication with roommates, communication with a therapist… with everyone! If I keep how I’m feeling about a certain issue bottled up, no one benefits from that. Does the way you communicate your feelings and thoughts really matter? Yes, it does. One must keep their audience in mind when choosing how to communicate what they need to get out. Stepping outside your comfort zone might be necessary for the job to get done effectively. These are thoughts that are running through my mind currently as this is definitely an issue in my household. One which must continue to be worked on until we’re no longer living with each other.

At this point, I’ve felt as if I’ve reached a plateau, or perhaps even a downgrade, in my enjoyment of my home. There’s many reasons for this that I won’t go into, but I’m craving a big evolution to occur. I’m craving less and more at the same time. I’m manifesting a sanctuary for myself where I really feel free. And that’s going to happen in the next 2 months. Then, my lease will be up and I’m moving the hell OUT. I can’t say my next home will be pristine and always what I want but I know it will be a step in the right direction. But for now, I will continue to put in the effort into making my time here at this apartment a good time.

Does any of this resonate with you? Perhaps the themes of forgiveness, communication, tolerance, stubbornness, impermanence, motivation, or manifestation ring some sort of bell of significance for you. Let that be a sign to do a deep dive into your mind and figure out why that word is ringing a bell.

Thanks for listening,

Kayla

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