It’s True — Tidying Up Can Help Calm Your Coronavirus Stress

Your physical environment has a surprising effect on your well-being and productivity.

Africa Studio / Shutterstock
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Whether you are sheltering at home on your own, with friends, or with your family, household chores like making the bed and doing the dishes can seem, well — like chores. It’s sometimes challenging to summon the energy to tidy up, especially when you feel drained by everything else that’s on your plate.

Of course, now is not the time to put extra pressure on yourself to have a perfectly spotless home — especially if you’re not affected by a bit of a mess. But if all the clutter you’ve been ignoring is starting to get to you, there’s a scientific reason for that.

For some people, clutter can affect anxiety levels, sleep, and even their ability to concentrate on work. As Libby Sander, Ph.D., an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Bond University Business School, writes in The Harvard Business Review, “my research and that of others has shown that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”

Conversely, making an effort to keep your space clean and organized can have a remarkable impact on the way you feel and perform. As tidiness guru Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, told TIME Magazine, keeping your home ordered can be powerful and positive during the pandemic. “Taking care of how you organize things can really contribute to your overall sense of stability,” she said. Stability is something people are craving during these tough times. In a Thrive Global survey of 5,000 respondents about coronavirus pain points, over 80% of participants reported that when it comes to the health crisis, they feel like things are out of their control.

“While we can’t control the pandemic,” says Martha Ringer, a business consultant and coach who works with clients on organization and completion, “we do have control of our environment.” When things are scattered all over the desk or table, she points out, “they unconsciously pull on our attention and draw energy from us.” Her recommendation: “Take a few slow breaths to come into the present moment, then complete a small task, which can make a big dent in any worries you might have.” Picking up clothes strewn all over a room and putting them in the hamper or hanging them up gives us back a little piece of our attention and focus, she says. 

It’s important to remember that the path to more organized serenity doesn’t have to be all-consuming. This Microstep can make it easy:

Take five minutes to tidy your home.
When your environment feels chaotic, organizing your space can contribute to inner order.

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