Mental Health Month

How Cleaning Can Help Some People Cope With Depression

"A disorganized and cluttered home often implies there are things not being addressed inside ourselves."

May is Mental Health Month. Throughout the month we will bring you stories about mental health and the importance of breaking surrounding stigmas, as well as highlighting those who live with related conditions and are advocating awareness.

In Marie Kondo's best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese organizing consultant advocates the idea of eliminating material goods that don't spark joy. "Keep only those things that speak to your heart," she writes. "Then take the plunge and discard all the rest." For some, her advice might sound extreme, but as experts indicate, Kondo's recommendations might truly induce happiness, as cleaning can sometimes help people cope with depression.

Depression is the most common mental illnesses in the United States and it affects an estimated 15.7 million Americans. People experience mental illness in all different ways, and New York-based therapist Nicole Reiner notes that it is common to feel stressed and have trouble staying organized when you're depressed. "People who feel depressed often have a hard time caring for themselves and letting things go, and one's room can often reflect that," Reiner told HelloGiggles

"The combination of lethargy, lack of motivation, and negative thinking can make something like cleaning one's home feel like an insurmountable task," she added, noting that those who live with depression typically have to work harder to accomplish basic tasks that seem simple to everyone else.

Sara Radin, who wrote the HelloGiggles article, referenced her own recent experience with depression. Having gone through this exact situation herself, she emphasized that "It makes sense that the state of your personal space is directly connected to the state of your mind: a disorganized and cluttered home often implies there are things not being addressed inside ourselves."

Courtesy of Volha Flaxeco I Unsplash
Courtesy of Volha Flaxeco I Unsplash

However, if a person is able, cleaning can be a cathartic exercise, as going through the motions can be meditative. "Cleaning your home is a way to show up for yourself, and a reminder that you care about the quality of your life," Reiner told Radin. "Decluttering can show us that we can face what seems unmanageable and get past it (and let go of what doesn't serve us anymore)."

Lili Pettit, a professional organizer based in Los Angeles, also told Radin that she believes "showing up in a mindful, loving way and honoring your home is not only a form of self-care, but it's an active expression of gratitude. With gratitude as a foundation, it's almost impossible to not feel good inside and out."

Kondo shares a similar sentiment in her book: "The place we live should be for the person we are becoming now – not for the person we have been in the past."

And, considering May is Mental Health Month, it's important that we acknowledge both the struggles and the stigma that often accompany depressions and similar disorders. In this case, Radin writes that "living in a tidy and clean environment has been proven to elevate your mood; getting organized can help you feel a sense of accomplishment, allowing you to move through feelings of hopelessness that are linked with depression, while also inspiring you to tackle other basic tasks, such as doing your laundry, paying bills, and preparing meals for yourself." Such therapeutic tasks, at their core, are acts of self-care.

While cleaning might seem rote, these mundane household chores offer an opportunity to practice the art of letting go. And, of course, this method might not work for everyone living with depression, but there are many other resources for people seeking help and other coping mechanisms

Cover image via Volha Flaxeco / Unsplash

(H/T: HelloGiggles)

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