Tidy surroundings can tidy our minds

There are many ways in which one’s surroundings can affect one’s mental health, and tidiness is no exception. Many studies have shown the psychological benefits of tidiness.

In fact, a 2010 study conducted by Darby E. Saxbe and Rena Repetti analyzed correlations between the words people use to describe their homes and their cortisol levels. The study found that those who lived in “unfinished” or “cluttered” households were found to be more depressed or fatigued than those who lived in “restful” or “restorative” homes.

“Our environments matter, and it can help us be productive, while also working as a barrier for us to get sidetracked,” said Dr. Jennifer Costello, professor of social work. “When we don’t have to worry about the organizational pieces, it gives us more time to think creatively about things that we’re really passionate about.”

Costello pointed out some key components to the psychological benefits of tidiness, which include reduced stress, reduced depression, improved focus, improved health, improved sleep and even improved generosity.

“I have zero passion about the unread messages on my phone, the unfolded laundry or if the house is clean, but when those things are done, I don’t have to worry about those things, so that allows me a space to focus on the things that I’m really passionate about, that God has really called me to do in life instead of worrying about filing and organizing my life,” Costello said.

While living in a dorm on campus, it can be difficult to keep one’s surroundings clean.

“A tidy life is a life of balance,” said Molly Kibble, freshman business management major. “My mental health is reliant on my tidiness. An unorganized, dirty room is equivalent to a messy and cluttered mind. I know that other people can live messily and it doesn’t bother them, but for me personally, I need to be clean and organized in order to keep my sanity.”

Kibble said a dirty space can make it difficult for her to focus on her priorities such as school. She currently lives in the Cottages with nine roommates, so it can become difficult to maintain a tidy living area.

“It is nearly impossible to keep our living room and kitchen clean,” Kibble said. “This bothers me very much and is actually a huge distraction from my studies.”

Lillian Boles, senior interior design major, does not need to keep a tidy environment to preserve her mental health, but she sees a connection between tidiness and other individuals.

“I would say I’m not tidy, (but) I definitely think mental health and tidiness are connected,” Boles said. “Some people are good at cleaning when stressed and others aren’t. Personally, cleaning falls to the bottom of my list when I am not doing well. I think I would benefit from a clean space, but I have a hard time getting myself to that point.”

While tidiness has psychological benefits, it is important to be tidy in moderation. There is an important “Goldilocks” zone between enough tidiness to reap the benefits without tidiness becoming excessive.

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