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Clean Your Space for Better Mental Health

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Being tidy and having a clean space is important to most of us. Cleanliness is next to godliness… right? But this is more than an old adage. There is a whole explanation for why being clean and having the space around you in order is important to your mental health.

There are two important types of space: the space around you such as your home or office (physical space) and your computer or laptop workspace (your digital space). Here are the reasons why it’s so important to keep these two areas of your life in order and how to successfully clean and maintain them.

Physical Space

A study has found that people with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses. This is because the participants who kept their houses tidy ended up having a higher rate of daily physical activity from doing chores.  “If you spend your day dusting, cleaning, doing laundry, you’re active,” says Nicole Keith Ph.D., lead researcher on the study. This is important because just a slight increase in an individual’s physical activity reduces the risk of premature death significantly. Too busy to go to the gym and have a neat home? Opt for chores.

Besides the added plus of being more physically mobile researchers from Princeton University discovered that clutter can make it more difficult to focus. The part of your brain that detects and processes what your eyes  see (i.e. visual cortex) is easily overwhelmed by irrelevant objects and having them around will take away from the attention needed for any other task. If you’ve been particularly unproductive maybe take a look around you. If your desk or home is cluttered within eyeshot when you’re trying to get work done, this could be why.

A study that was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin journal also found through linguistic analysis software that women who described their homes as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be fatigued and depressed. These women also displayed higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, compared to women who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.”

Effects Messy Spaces Have On Sleep

Sleep is an important aspect of a person’s mental health. It has been proven time and time again that sleep deprivation can negatively affect one’s cognitive performance. But what does cleaning have to do with getting a good night sleep? A survey carried out by the National Sleep Foundation found  that people who made their beds every morning achieved a  better night’s rest than those who didn’t. Moreover, 75% of the respondents reported that having clean sheets helped them sleep better at night. Making sure that your bed is a clean and tidy sanctuary will ensure that your rest is more effective.

iPad and iPhone, organize the space around you

Digital Space

According to IGI Global, the term “digital spaces” refers to what is displayed on the screen of a digital device such as a smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc. Considering how much time we spend plugged in (5.9 hours a day to be exact) our digital space is just as important as our physical one.

Similar to the physical space around us, being surrounded by clutter digitally can be overwhelming. That is why it is important for you to schedule a purge of your digital spaces for a mess-free digital life.

Desktop

Our desktop is the first thing we see the moment we turn on our computers or laptops so it makes sense to keep it as tidy as possible to avoid any stress. Delete everything you don’t need and organize your files into folders to make them easier to find. Opening your computer to a mess of files and unnecessary photos will instantly stress you out and will make finding relevant files more difficult.

Email

For most of us it doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes (sometimes even less) for our inboxes to pile up. If they’re overflowing with emails, PCMag offers a detailed guide on how to properly organize them. Here are some important things to note:

  • Sweep – If you don’t want to delete emails in the fear of getting rid of something important, then you can create new folders in your email and label them by year or month. Next, do a search to isolate all the messages from a particular period them move them to their designated folder.
  • Compartmentalize – “Sweep” takes care of messages you’ve already opened while “compartmentalize” deals with the messages that you have yet to open. You can set up filters to have them automatically sorted into folders.
  • Delete – Once you sweep and compartmentalize your emails, delete everything that is left because it’s likely that they’re not important.
  • Develop a system – Clearing out your email is not a one time job. You have to develop a system to keep it organized over time. Try to make it a weekly or even daily routine so that you don’t ever let your emails get out of hand.

Apps

Take a look at all the apps on your phone or tablet. When was the last time you honestly played Candy Crush? Or used that trendy photo editor that Kendall Jenner used once in 2015? If the answer is over a few weeks, it’s probably time to get them off your home screen.  Deleting an app from your phone doesn’t mean you’ll have to buy it again and if you find you’re missing it in the future you can always go to the App Store and simply redownload it.

Social Media

Social media platforms are also the most common digital spaces that we are constantly engaged with. It’s so easy to fall into the rabbit hole of scrolling through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, right? But how can we clean up our social media digital spaces and limit the amount of scrolls we take (A.K.A time we waste)?

Go through your friend or follower list and only keep the ones you truly want to see. Your high school boyfriend’s mom probably doesn’t (and shouldn’t) qualify. In the age of oversensitivity and overthinking you may be hesitant to blatantly unfriend or unfollow someone. Facebook and Instagram have both come out with handy tools that hide someone’s profile from your feed without needing to. On Instagram, it’s the mute feature and on Facebook it’s the unfollow feature. On both platforms the person you mute or unfollow will not receive a notification that you have but you’ll no longer see their profiles in your feed. These measures are also totally reversible if you change your mind.The best way to keep both your physical and digital spaces clean is maintenance. Do a big clean once (no better time than the present!) and then follow that by maintaining order daily. Constantly put things back where they physically and digitally belong. By staying as neat as you can and feeling organized you will eliminate a whole world of stress. Don’t take our word for it though. Viral internet sensation Marie Kondo has been spreading the “joy” of cleaning around the world and her method could be the first step to a cleaner physical space.  You may not have even been aware of the harm your messes were having on your productivity, so tidy up, and see how you feel.

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