Cleaning therapy


Revathi Nair

Mental Health Writer

A new way to relax?

Today, many of us are at home. Add to that the increasingly stressful circumstances and lack of ways to vent, and we have on our hands a society with people who are growing increasingly anxious day by day. In such situations, it is easy to feel unproductive and low. Sometimes, when the worries and anxieties pile up, we crave for a way to release it. I am here to tell you one simple way by which you can relax and wind down right at home.

By cleaning.

Admittedly, many people dislike carrying out household chores- cleaning being one of them. We see it as a necessity that is unavoidable, a task that cannot be done away with. However, when done right, household chores can be cathartic by providing us mental relief. Here’s how.

Advantages of cleaning the home

1. Clean home, clean mind

We know, intuitively, that a clean home gives us a greater sense of peace and well-being. When your room or your house is cluttered, you are likely to feel that your work is unfinished, and this leads to stress and anxiety. A messy house may make way to a sense of irritation and agitation. You are more prone to get distracted from the work you are meant to do. You may become less productive.

When your house is clean, you can easily invest your attention into the necessary work- it makes you more focused. Besides, cleaning your space ensures that you live in a healthy environment.

2. Sense of productivity

Cleaning and doing other household chores can give you a strong sense of productivity. As humans, being productive makes us feel useful, and that gives rise to a pleasant feeling in us. When cleaning your house, you get to mentally check off boxes from the list of tasks you are meant to complete, and this can help reduce anxiety. You may be familiar with the sense of unhappiness that stems from being unproductive. Doing your household chores can help combat that.

Little tasks, such as tidying up your workspace or washing your dishes, can give you immediate, visible results, and is therefore more effective in making us feel content than other tasks where the results are not so obvious (for example, putting in more hours of work at your job).

3. Substitute to working out

Helping with household chores can act as a substitute to going to the gym or going for a run. While most chores will not burn as many calories as a full gym workout session, it still burns more than you would expect. Besides, just as with working out, doing simple chores around the house leads to release of endorphins which are known to elevate one’s mood, and alleviate anxiety to some extent.

Often, worrying about things or being unproductive leads to a lot of pent-up, restless energy in us. You can use that energy to do these chores. It will not only give you a sense of productivity, but also make you happier and calmer.

4. Sense of control

Unlike many areas of your life, when it comes to household chores, you have nearly complete control over them. This sense of control over even little things, like where your fresh laundry should go or which curtains you should put up in the bedroom, can help ease your anxiety.

When doing these tasks, you have some degree of control over the task itself, the outcome of the task, and how they affect your environment. Besides, allotting a specific time in the day to do cleaning and other chores allows you to establish a schedule for your day and gives you some semblance of structure in life.

5. A meditative process

Doing household chores can often be meditative. They often tend to be simple, repetitive and predictable tasks that require little attention, and therefore, allow you to wind down mentally. For example, when folding the laundry, focus your attention wholly on the task, on the here-and-now. Feel the texture of the fabric against your skin, smell the homely scent of your detergent, enjoy the array of colours around you. Attend to, and appreciate the little things that form a part of that task.

Allow yourself to focus on the present, on your actions, and on your senses. This peaceful rhythm of the chore can help calm you down and ground you.

Try it for yourself

Together, the sense of productivity, the cleanliness of space around you and the endorphins released by a good cleaning session, can all contribute to lowering your anxiety and helping you relax from time to time. Try not to think of the chore as something that you have to do so that your parents or roommates stop complaining about the mess you’ve made. Try to look at the tasks and experience them for the thing that they are.

Try to get joy from the very task itself. I am not big on cleaning myself, but sometimes, when I need a break from worrying about my exams, or feel useful on a particularly unproductive day, I do a little sweeping and dusting and feel much better.

I especially enjoy cleaning out my bookcase. It’s not only a meditative and simple process, but I also enjoy reflecting on the books that I have read, and the memories associated with them. It acts as a quick pick-me-up and brightens my day.

If you still are averse to the thought of cleaning as ‘relaxing’, don’t brush it off yet. Give it a try. Allot a few hours of your day to completing the task. Wear your comfiest clothes. Play your favourite music. Get cleaning. It could be as simple a task as organising your books, cleaning out your wardrobe, dusting your shelves, or cleaning your windows. Some people enjoy vacuuming, others find washing dish satisfying. Find what works for you. The result may surprise you.

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Discussion Board

What is one chore that you do that helps you relax?

Rohit Chopra
I like to clean up my room and arrange all my books and gadgets. It helps me feel calm and gives a sense of productivity before starting work. 😀
Fatma Warsia
I maintain the cleaning but form now I will mintain it positively...
Umang Chhatrola
Just recently I watched the movie Gandhi. This is what the Mahatma said while talking to a journalist, “When you get into it, you realise that cleaning is far more important than law. “