I was recently listening to the gorgeous Fearne Cotton on Russell Brand’s podcast ‘Under the skin’. Fearne happened to talk about how important it is to her, that her house is kept in an order that makes sense to her. AKA tidy.
Fearne went on to say that when her ‘environment doesn’t look how she expects it to’, it makes her feel anxious and weird. This spoke to me on so. many. levels. because I am exactly the same. If my house, my desk, or even my car isn’t in some kind of order, my anxious mind can feel even more chaotic and disorientated. Not a particularly nice addition if your mental health has already taken a dip.
For me, this is especially the case when it comes to my house and keeping it in order. Though as I’m sure you can appreciate, it can be quite the challenge if you live with somebody who doesn’t mind a floordrobe, isn’t too fussed on the draining board collapsing from the weight of yesterday’s pans drying, or a bin that is overflowing. #emotionallabour (Side note: Gemma Hartley’s book unpicking emotional labour is truly great).
If like me, you haven’t met your match in your ‘l̶o̶v̶e̶ cleaning language’ and let’s face it, it’s more common than it’s not – you’re not alone! Some time ago, I read in this article that a study carried out by the University of California measured the stress hormone cortisol in 30 couples. Interestingly, the women who described their home as ‘chaotic’ or ‘messy’ had higher levels of cortisol throughout the day. Men, on the other hand, were far less affected by a messy, untidy home.
Call me neurotic, but when my house is clean and tidy when things are put back in their place and there’s no outstanding washing or dusting or hoovering to do – I feel as though I don’t have as much to think about other than tackle whatever it is that’s making me anxious.
By nature, I’m more of a neat freak than I’m not, so I haven’t felt the overpowering need to follow the KonMarie method, devised by Marie Kondo which has become super popular in recent years. However, for some people, this method really helps you get into the mindset that a tidy house can equal a more tidy mind, so to speak. And as Marie, herself told stylist.co.uk: “It is difficult to confront your mental health issues directly, but tidying allows you to confront the things immediately in front of you.” – Cheers to that Marie!
On the whole, my mind is much easier to navigate when I can find the things I need for the day, I’m not laid in bedding that’s perhaps been on longer than it should have. And with that in mind, I can certainly see why the likes of Mrs Hinch’s cleaning videos have become so bloody popular. Cleaning and tidying can make you feel really purposeful and productive, even if you just spend 5 minutes doing it. I know that when I feel like I have a purpose or a task to complete such as tidying my space, my mind immediately starts to de-fog.
I’ve previously written about the way cleaning makes me feel, as well as the other ways I help manage my anxiety in this post: ‘4 small ways I’ve been helping my mind and managing my anxiety‘. Keeping your home tidy can feel overwhelming and difficult to prioritise, especially if you’re on your own, take on most of the household cleaning yourself, or are too busy with work, kids and life.
I try to dedicate 10 minutes per evening to ‘reset’ my house before I go to bed. Nothing crazy, just making sure the dishwasher is emptied, pots are put away etc. And I’ll do a ‘big clean’ every Sunday which involves the bathrooms, hoovering, dusting – that kind of thing. I’ll put my favourite songs of the moment on the Sonos, (Playlist here if you’re interested), open all the windows (weather permitting obvs) and get to it. The routine of it helps me to keep my environment tidy…which in turn definitely helps my mental health.