Listen to Your Mind and Body When Doing Something As Simple As Cleaning

I Heart Cleaning

Image by Valerie Morrison via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #170 – Listen to your mind and body when you do things like cleaning, even if it makes you feel better or worse.  Be a friend to yourself.

Whenever someone in the house can’t find something, I ask them to please just start cleaning and sooner or later they’ll find it.

Today my kids and I spent two hours cleaning their play room.  My daughters were amazed at all the treasures they found tucked under, over, this way and that way in their clutter.  Although there was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth along the way, in the end everyone was happy and pleased with themselves.

One of the blog-sites I enjoy reading is “Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes” by Zahara.  The other day she said,

I have a lot on my mind.  It seems when my mind is in a jumble, my house is in a jumble.  Cluttered, disorganized.  Can I unclutter my mind by cleaning my house?  Probably.

According to BBC News, cleaning improves mental health through the exercise that is inadvertently done.

And as Louise Hay once said,

Cluttered closets mean a cluttered mind. As you clean the closet, say to yourself, ‘I am cleaning the closets of my mind.’ The universe loves symbolic gestures.

But there are times when this goes awry.  In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, people may clean ritually and compulsively to avoid an egodystonic fear; a fear they know doesn’t make sense but still terrifies and overwhelms them.

Or in Major Depressive Disorder, the illness affects their brain and body so much so at times that they can’t do basic life functioning, such as cleaning their house or even showering.

So I’ll tell the mothers out there such as myself, the BBC News, Louise Hay and the rest of us that cleaning is good self-care.  The milieu around it is also a good indicator on when it is time to go get professional help.  Listen to your body and mind.

Questions:  When and how has something as simple as cleaning improved your mental state?  When has something as basic as doing your activities of daily living shown you that you or someone you love might need to see their doctor?  Please tell me your story.

26 thoughts on “Listen to Your Mind and Body When Doing Something As Simple As Cleaning

  1. Last December, my husband committed his time off to regaining control of our house. Together, we went through every closet, dresser drawer, and cupboard in the house. We threw a lot of things out, and donated a lot more. The result of this purge (aside from happy local charities) has been a house that feels easier to maintain, more welcoming, less cluttered. A great side benefit is that the kids watched us clean. They are picking up the habit of returning things to their places, and cleaning up one activity before moving to the next. It was a wonderful gift for the whole family.

    I definitely appreciate the reframe of using our reaction to cleaning as a mental health yardstick! Thank you.

  2. I adore a good cleaning session, even better if the result is clear cupboards with the added feel-good factor of a couple of bags of stuff that can go to a charity.
    Happy Wednesday, Doc. Hope you’re safe from the cyclone?

  3. I love that quote by Louise Hay…but I must confess that mine is way out of order right now—uh-oh! Anyway, the please just start cleaning line has passed my lips this week, also. Our incentive is a missing stuffed doggy…

  4. Thanks for the link and the mention, Sana!
    Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Will decluttering the house declutter the mind?
    The other day I made a major decision that had been gnawing away at me for a while. Afterwards, I began cleaning and reorganizing my neglected house with new verve. Clear the mind, clear the temple!

  5. I completely disagree. I think clean people are boring people. There is limited time in this world. Think of all the inspirational quotes we all throw around about life is short etc….. Who, pray tell me, on their death bed, says, “I am so happy I kept my house clean all those years!” No, people say I’m glad I spend time with my family, painted the Mona Lisa, sipped cafe au lait on the left bank of the Seine. We all know life is dirty and so you have to clean it up (what ad was that?), and it ‘s endless and a grind and an endless grind, and if you chase the elusive dream of a clean house, you will never write a novel, paint a masterpiece, write a blog everyday, or try out every Starbucks in California. So, I say, boring people have clean houses, interesting, accomplished, and project-type people tolerate clutter (and people with many children). Sorry but someone had to inject some reality here.

  6. On days of overwhelming depression and immobilization pressing myself to do some simple cleaning is so therapeutic. This simple silly task stimulates such a sense of validation and accomplishment it helps me rise free of the chains. It is astonishing how doing this can start to help you shake it off. There is a drawback Now I don’t clean anything unless I am depressed and knowing that, I fight depression so I don’t have to clean. I am sure this has been a great help to everyone.

  7. I have read in a few of my books, that cleaning house and spiritual cleaning can go hand in hand. The idea is to make house cleaning a spiritual thing, and visualize while you are cleaning the clutter and dirt from your house that you are also ridding yourself of any clutter and dirt you may personally be carrying around. I find it really works. When my house is clean, I always feel really good.

  8. I belive that it is not the act of cleaning but the act of doing something productive to clear your mind.
    I find that if I have had one of my “Bad” days and I pick up this here and put this there and toss this away (that should have been thrown out when it arrived) I begin to feel my mind clear slowly.
    As I continue to “pick up” I slowly feel my mind opening and the weight of the bad day lighten.
    I often wondered why it was that in my younger years, before I was treated and given a name for my disorder, whenever I would have a “disagreement” with my boyfriend/mom/sisters, or have a rough day at work I would tend to clean out the refrigerator (not by eatting everything inside mind you but really clean it) and scrub the oven spotless. The more vigorously I cleaned and the harder I scoured (and of course the louder the music played) I felt better and the “disagreement” or rough day didn’t seem so bad. Now mind you to this day my mom still asks when my husband and I are going to fight because she needs her oven cleaned! 🙂
    I have a 22 month old and believe me it is hard to keep his toys constantly picked up but before he goes “Nite Nite” we clean up the mess off the floor.
    I don’t think it is a constant spotless house and cleaning 24/7 that Dr. Q is refering to. I think it is the decluttering of the house that will in turn help to declutter your mind. We all tend to let things pile up…junk mail, containers that the lids disappeared from, tons of hot sauce/ketchup packets, broken things that “will get fixed” someday, clothes that are too small or too big, baby stuff that the lil one has out grown…eventually it all needs to be “declutterd”
    If you were to walk into my home believe me you would not see “spotless” I have dust on the baseboards, toys out of place in the “baby’s ” room, clothes still in the dryer, and a dish or two in the sink. I minimal clean so the house looks nice and to be able to live life outside. This works for awhile but then when I need that “mind declutter” I am one cleaning Mama! And when I am sitting on the couch after I am finished looking around at my spotless house and my lil one spills his sippycup of juice on the freshly mopped floor then looks at me with those wide eyes of “Uh-Oh” and all I do it say “That’s ok let’s clean it up!”…no melt down, no “OMG look at that mess!”, no tears (all on my behalf) I know I have reached that inner peace…for the next few weeks!!!!

  9. As clutter build on my desk or elsewhere in my house, so does my mind – and it creates anxiety! The cure for it all – a place for everything and everything in its place. Does wonders for me every time. Now if the kids would only understand the value!

  10. At a time in my life when my heart was broken and my spirit crushed, a strong sense of duty drove me to care for my children, go to work, clean my house, etc. These activities distracted me from my emotional pain, enabling me to recoup. Fulfilling those responsibilities also distracted me from my sorrow. Someone asked me how I was able to work and function during my agony. I confessed that I never thought for a moment that I had any other choice. My mindset of being chained to my duties actually helped me cope.

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  12. According to BBC News, cleaning improves mental health through the exercise that is inadvertently done.
    i can comment on this one i was a cleaner i use to look after carparks at lidls yer everybody thinks they clean themslelves yer alright to the point thew cleaning car parks everyday it did keep my mind free i loved it it helped me i also done chillers yer there cold well anyway i did the big shop cleans as well and the boss allways use to make me do the toilets no the best job i know but i use to actualy really enjoy cleaning toilets i got so use to it i no longer wnet into the store thinking dam im cleaning toilets i tohught i am going to go in there and they will know who done this work it was very slef satisfying now to everyday cleaning i hate it but if i do do cleaning i make a very good job you know the saying if you are going to do a job do it right it clears my mind and again i am self satifyed and you can see a diffrence

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