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  • Writer's pictureJulie Rihn, LCSWA

Cleaning Away Stress…

Do cleaning and organizing appeal to you or overwhelm you? A good round of cleaning and organization helps to declutter my mind, body, and space. As a mental health professional, let me share how it can help you OVERCOME stress and how to ditch the uphill clutter battle.


Cleaning supplies on wood floor
Cleaning and decluttering to reduce stress

Our environment plays an important role in our mental and physical well-being. Aside from having a clean space to support hygiene and immunity, less dirt and clutter floating around makes it easier to maintain a sense of peace and calm. With less junk in our field of vision to process and reduced worry about bacteria and illnesses we can think with more clarity and focus, providing a balanced state of mind. When performing mundane tasks like vacuuming, washing dishes, or dusting you can free up headspace to think through important things you’ve had to put aside or focus on mindfulness.  By becoming more aware of your present moment, you can learn to practice gratitude, and emotional awareness, and hone in on bodily sensations(mindfulness in a nutshell). Less negative stress and overwhelm decreases our risk of depression and anxiety, and a positive mood does wonders for our outlook. 


We experience our environment through our senses, which send signals to our nervous system, affecting our responses ( thoughts, feelings, and behaviors). If you walk into a visually appealing room that is clutter-free, smells fresh, isn’t noisy or chaotic, and provides comfort, you are more likely to feel calm and relaxed. By controlling aspects of our environment, we create the structure and predictability necessary for feeling safe and secure. Comfort in structure and predictability provides a sense of control and when things in life feel out of control, this can help to anchor ourselves. Completing a task or two provides a sense of accomplishment and sets an Intention of motivation. My go-to tasks are making my bed in the morning and clearing my desk or workspace at the end of the day. If I complete the small task of making my bed I am more apt to complete another small task and when I re-enter my room I won’t be visually stunned by the mess of an unkempt bed. When I am done with work for the day I clear my workspace so when I return the next morning I am not met with a mess to start my day off, diminishing my motivation first thing in the morning. 


Cleaning and organizing require physical movement (think of it as a form of exercise), another natural mood booster, and an anxiety reducer. Depending on the level of intensity, each vacuuming stride, and up-down movement, as you scrub and rearrange, calories are burned and muscles are toned. At times cleaning endeavors can lead us to the outdoors to sweep a patio, porch, or garage. It can be some weeding or picking up after the pet. Either way, getting outdoors provides us with fresh air. It assists our bodies in creating the essential immunity-boosting vitamin D. Would you agree saving time and decreasing the to-do list while burning calories and gaining vitamins sound appealing? What’s that…you don’t have very much time as it is? Don’t worry, I got you!


  1. Lack of time


Problem: You have a busy weekday schedule from sunup to sundown, and with the little free time you do have you don’t want to spend it endlessly cleaning and decluttering. 


Solutions: You do not have to clean the whole house at once. Let me repeat that, you do not have to clean the whole house at once. Start with a small section within a larger area, or one room to focus on each day of the week. Cleaning for 5 to 10 minutes several times daily can reduce larger jobs.  Clean as you go by putting items away as soon as you are finished using them. Wipe down countertops or toilet seats after each use, and clean each dish as it is used (meal times are sometimes an exception, however, you could rinse and load the dishwasher as you are prepping and cooking). Create a cleaning schedule so you are performing certain tasks on a specific rotation. Keep small cleaning buckets in storage areas throughout the house so the necessary cleaning products are within arm's reach. 


Starting small by choosing one space in a larger area, will reduce overwhelm and procrastination. Focus on being detailed and thorough in that small space RATHER than how much still needs to be completed. 


If there is a period when you absolutely cannot tend to things and you have the budget to do so, hire some help. Cleaning crews can provide services on a one-time basis or quarterly, as an example. 


  1. Cost


Problem: Cleaning supplies and crews are costly.


Solutions: Top dollar cleaning solutions don't always clean better than the bargain store brand. Buying bulk cuts long-term costs while allowing you to keep supplies in multiple areas throughout the home (see above). Here is a list of natural cleaning agents, their price(s) and uses:

  1. Distilled white vinegar - Ranges from approximately $1 - $5 depending on the size of the bottle/jug. This natural antibacterial and deodorizer can be used in the laundry, kitchen, and bathroom. 

  2. Baking soda - Similarly priced to distilled white vinegar, baking soda also reduces odor and is a great abrasive to scrub with. It can be used in all the same places as vinegar.  

  3. Lemons or lemon juice - Costs approximately $2/lb. Lemon is a deodorizer, and an antibacterial stain remover, due to the high levels of acid. Lemon can be used in the kitchen and bathrooms.  It is also a deodorizer. 

  4. Rubbing alcohol - Ranges from $2 - $5 depending on the size and brand. It can be used to cut grease, kill bacteria, and reduce stains. Rubbing alcohol can be used in the kitchen and bathrooms. 


Instead of hiring help, incite help from the others living with you or ask a friend. A chore chart for children provides structure and helps build the team mentality as each of you takes part in working together for the greater good.  Make a plan to have a friend or two over for a few hours specifically to help organize and declutter, and you can provide something in return. I have a friend who is a professional organizer and I offered to babysit her children for her help with organizing. Essentially we swapped help/services. You get the idea. 


  1. Procrastination/Dread


Problem: Sometimes we already have such a mess or so much clutter we tend to avoid it. Avoiding leads to dread and overwhelm, while the mess and chaos build. This is a vicious cycle.  


Solutions: Your best bet is to just start. As mentioned earlier, start small and stick with it over time, knowing you’ll reach a calmer cleaner space if you just start. 


If you need a little motivation, start with the end in mind. Think about how you will feel, physically, emotionally, and mentally, to be in a clean, clutter-free environment. Sometimes we all need a little incentive or recognition. It is OK to be kind to yourself or give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, or at least a job well started.


Face your dread by starting with the spot or space you avoid the most. This way you get it out of the way right away. No excuses!


I hope it is starting to sound like feeling calm and relaxed versus anxious and tense is worth a small amount of time and effort to freshen things up. Which space in your environment will you tackle first?


 

Thinking we should work together? That’s a great idea! Request a consultation on the website or call directly at 910.830.8772.


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