Can a Clutter-Free Home Really Make You Happy?

Imagine walking into your home and everything is in its place. It’s perfectly clean. There’s no clutter, no dust, no overstuffed drawers, no items laying around for you to deal with. Everything has a home and you can locate and easily access anything you need.  It smells fresh and clean.  How do you feel?  Light? Calm? Free?

Now imagine walking into your same home when it’s a mess. There are things everywhere that you don’t know what to do with or have the motivation to deal with. There are dishes piled up, bills you forgot to pay, and trash desperately needs to be taken out. Now how do you feel?  Depressed? Full of anxiety? Like you want to just give up on doing anything productive and scroll on social for the rest of the day?

clean white kitchen with plant and pitcher on wood tray
A clean home leads to a calm mind

Personally, having lived both of these lives, I know that the cleanliness and organization of my home significantly affects my mental health, productivity, and ability to tackle my to-do list. A clean home is a clean mind, ready to get shit done! In fact, the only reason I am able to focus enough to write this blog post is the clean state of my house. On the other end of the spectrum, when my house is chaotic my mind is chaotic and the only work getting done is mindless internet scrolling. 

Having a clean living space significantly contributes to my own happiness and wellbeing, but what does science say?

The Mental Benefits of Cleanliness

A 2010 study from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that women with more cluttered homes had increased depressed moods over the course of the day, whereas women with cleaner and calmer homes had decreased depressed moods over the day.

So point proven, but lets not stop there.

clean bathroom with large glass shower, and vanity with double sinks
A clean home improves mood and focus

A princeton study showed that clutter makes it more difficult to focus on a task, and that clutter is linked to negative emotions like confusion and irritability. Cluttered and messy homes also increase stress and anxiety.  A clean home, meanwhile, is linked to positive emotions like calmness and a sense of well-being. 

Why does clutter make it more difficult to focus? A 2011 study from The Journal of Neuroscience showed that clutter results in overstimulation, decreasing focus and the ability to concentrate. The absence of clutter reduces that stimuli, enabling better focus and concentration. 

In addition, the act of cleaning itself can have a calming effect caused by engaging your mind in a repetitive activity. It increases the sense of certainty and control in the environment, reducing anxiety.

A clean home has also been found to improve a person’s sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. 

The Physical Benefits of Cleanliness

If you identify more with the messy scenario from the intro, your clutter could be affecting not just your mental health but your physical health as well. 

The 2010 study from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women in cluttered living spaces were more likely to experience fatigue and depression than their cleaner counterparts. 

Women in cluttered and messy spaces also had increased cortisol, which  can wreak havoc on our bodies. High cortisol can contribute to, among other things:

  • Fatigue, Irritability, and headaches
  • Intestinal problems, such as constipation, bloating or diarrhea
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Weight gain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Low libido, erectile dysfunction or problems with regular ovulation or menstrual periods
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain or tension in the head, neck, jaw, or back
bedroom with lots of blankets, plants, and artwork
A clean home is a predictor of better physical health

A 2000 study in St. Louis showed that people with cleaner homes had greater levels of health. 

“The data demonstrated that the interior condition of the home was an instrumental factor affecting the physical health of the study subjects. That is, those with cleaner houses reported greater levels of health compared to those with more cluttered homes”

In this study, cleanliness was a predictor of good health. Those two things might seem unrelated but it makes perfect sense to me – when my home is uncluttered my mind is uncluttered, and when my mind is uncluttered I’m more likely to plan healthy meals and exercise.

So can having a clean home make you happy?

There are plenty of resources out there that will tell you that a clean, organized, uncluttered home will change your entire life.  If you’ve read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up or watched the accompanying Netflix series, you might know what I mean. These peoples lives are seemingly completely changed. They went from sad lazy bums to slaying at life! They are now limitless!

These depictions aren’t entirely real. People can go through hard times in spite of having a clean home. Being the most organized person on the block isn’t going to solve all of your problems in life. 

HOWEVER, going from a messy, cluttered home to something calm and organized can have a profound effect on both your mental and physical health. 

2 women looking happy on made bed with 2 dogs
A clean, uncluttered home can have a profound impact on your mental health

Having a clean home reduces stress, anxiety and depression while elevating mood. A clean home reduces harmful cortisol levels as well as fatigue. A clean home won’t solve your problems, but you’ll be more able to take on those problems and successfully resolve them.

A clean home is a predictor of good physical health.

A clean home isn’t going to make you happy, exactly, but it can have an enormous impact on the quality of your life. If you are someone who wants to join the clean & uncluttered home club but don’t know how or where to start, you’re in the right place!

Start here:

Sources: 

Author(s). “Title of the Article.” Journal Name, vol. volume number, no. issue number, publication year, pp. page range. URL.

Saxbe DE, Repetti R. No place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010 Jan;36(1):71-81. doi:10.1177/0146167209352864. PMID: 19934011.

https://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/2/587 

https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167209352864

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Investigating-the-Link-between-Cleaning-and-Mental-Health.aspx#:~:text=Research%20has%20demonstrated%20that%20cleaning,activity%20is%20the%20most%20notable.

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