Behind Cleanliness, The Powerful Psychology

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

The positive psychology behind organization and cleanliness



Keeping things clean and organized is good for you, and science can prove it.

A study led by associate professor NiCole R. Keith, Ph.D., research scientist and professor at Indiana University, found that people with clean houses are healthier than people with messy houses. Keith and her colleagues tracked the physical health of 998 African Americans between the ages of 49 and 65, a demographic known to be at an increased risk for heart disease. Participants who kept their homes clean were healthier and more active than those who didn’t. In fact, house cleanliness was even more of a predictor for physical health than neighborhood walkability.

A 2010 study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin used linguistic analysis software to measure the way 60 individuals discussed their homes. Women who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” The researchers also found that women with cluttered homes expressed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In 2011, researchers at Princeton University found that clutter can actually make it more difficult to focus on a particular task. Specifically, they found that the visual cortex can be overwhelmed by task-irrelevant objects, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently.

A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who make their beds every morning are 19 percent more likely to report regularly getting a good night’s sleep. People who were surveyed also reported benefits from having clean sheets — specifically, 75 percent of people said they get a better night’s rest when their sheets are freshly cleaned because they feel more comfortable.

Maintaining an organized schedule and a list of short-term goals can help you stay in shape. A study in the Journal of Obesity found that people who carefully plan their exercise regimen, set goals and regularly record their progress are more likely to keep up an exercise program than people who show up at the gym without a clear plan in mind.

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What makes staying organized so difficult?

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