Why cleaning is good for your mental health

My mum used to say “tidy room, tidy mind”. I would scoff, naturally. This was when I was a teenager and a complete slob – it literally didn’t occur to me to be any other way. There were so many more interesting things to think about – like cherry Doc Marts and The Wonder Stuff to name but two.

My slobbiness didn’t end when I left home. For a good few years, probably until I had kids really, I was an utter mess. By that I mean, I was messy – and I was a bit of a mess, too, if I’m being honest – in more ways than one! I mean, it’s fine with me if you are just messy – if that suits you and it doesn’t cause you any problems, that’s great! Whatever floats your boat and all that… But today I want to promote the act of tidying and cleaning as an act of kindness – to yourself.

Stay with me…

Even as disgusting, slovenly, permanently hungover students, my best mates and I would tidy up once every 3 months or so (I’m not joking – it was BAD). Our poor little terraced house in Liverpool would get to a state that truly was abhorrent (I mean, I’m surprised we survived), and then one of us would instigate a massive tidy / clean up. We would feel amazing afterwards, and solemnly promise to keep it that way (yeah, right).

Fast forward to house sharing in my 20s and I was still pretty messy – we all were though. When you’re working in the day and partying at night, even midweek, there is little time for tidying. But, again, now and then we would do it and it would feel good. It was starting to get through to me that cleaning up kind of made me feel great. It was so pleasant and relaxing being in a space that was tidy and organised. It made me actually want to stay there and not escape to a pub or a party! More and more, I loved how it felt to be in a tidy home, even if in those days it did only last a few days at a time.

At almost 30, we began to calm down a bit. Started staying in more. And then we had a baby. All of a sudden it didn’t seem right to be such a slob. I was feathering my nest; I wanted it to be clean and hygienic – it was a way to express love for my family. To me, cooking dinner is an act of nuturing, of showing love. In the same way, I also wanted to keep a clean and tidy home that was nice to be in.

It was around this time that I began to connect the dots between my own mental health and cleaning up. At some point in my early 30s I read that in a mental health crisis – maybe when you feel very down, or very anxious about something – then one good act of self-care is to clean out a drawer. It might be all that you can manage that day. Maybe you don’t have the energy to hoover your house, or to go for a walk. But you can muster up the strength to clean a bathroom. See, that feels better right?

God, it really did.

It’s something to do with control. If I can control the crazy in this drawer / room, then I can control the crazy in my head. Does that make sense?

There is a huge rise in popularity of channels on Instagram and YouTube that are if not dedicated to cleaning, it features heavily. Check out The Organised Mum, Mrs Hinch, Emily Norris and Mrs Meldrum. It’s kind of surprising at first how popular cleaning content is. You wonder why. When I first did a speed cleaning video I mocked myself whilst recording the voice over – am I really videoing myself cleaning a toilet – but it quickly became one of my most watched videos.

So are people watching to get motivated? Or do they feel soothed when they watch me clean? A bit of both, I think. I know Mrs Hinch has spoken of how cleaning helps her anxiety – and I can completely relate.

Instead of being embarrassed to post a video about cleaning or organising, I now embrace it as part of what my blog is about, what I am about. It’s key to my love of all things ‘home’ – and I don’t apologise for that. Am I always successful in my desire for a tidy, organised, clean home? With a young baby, a large dog, two messy kids, and two farm cats… HELL, NO! But I will never stop striving for one. As for me it’s key to my mental health.

When Rug Doctor got in touch to ask if they could send me a machine, I jumped at the chance. Trust me, there is nothing more therapeutic than seeing that dirt come up off the rugs and carpets – it’s fantastic. You literally feel cleansed. I’m serious; who needs a day at the spa?!

On this particular day when I recorded, Stanley (at the time of recording 4 1/2 months old) had had a terrible night – and just doing this bit of cleaning really helped me feel better. Note: my mum had him for a few hours so I could do this video! I do of course recognise that it can be impossible to clean with a clingy baby – just today I struggled to pop him down for 5 minutes so I could tidy up. And that’s fine too. Sometimes, we cannot contain the crazy. (Go with it until you can, is my advice. And never, EVER beat yourself up for having a messy house.)

Being a stay at home mum (or dad) can be hard – mentally and physically. And people can belittle cleaning – but not only is it essential, it shows love to our family, keeps us fit – and for me, is a great way to look after my mental health.

Check out my Rug Doctor video and why not treat yourself to one? They are now available to own! *GASP!*

Do you find cleaning good for the soul? Or do you think I’m nuts to even suggest this – and that chocolate/prosecco is an infinitely better cure for any ills?! What do you do when you feel anxious?

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