Under the Hood

Why Tidying Up Can Be Good For Your Health

If you have been on social media lately, you must have noticed that Marie Kondo has been the talk of the town. The Japanese organizing consultant has been promoting the importance of tidying up and decluttering, inspiring people to practice what she calls the KonMari method.

While it sounds pretty simple, it turns out that neatness can make a good difference for a lot of us — not just in terms of appearance but even when it comes to your physical and mental health. 

Darby Saxbe, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, says that the physical act of cleaning up and setting things in order can be therapeutic. By taking control of our surroundings, cleaning can be "an escape" when we are overwhelmed by things like work or technology.

"We’re typing, thinking, and living in a pretty abstract world," she told Prevention. "The idea of doing something really physical that uses your body, I think it does put your mind in a different space — just like exercise or going outside. It can give you some reframing."

You may also notice a boost in your productivity when your space is neat and organized. This has a lot to do with a part of your brain known as the visual cortex. It experiences an overload when there are too many things in your visual field, hindering your attention and ability to process information.

Now, while you decide to sort out your workstation, remember not to neglect your bedroom. In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, it was found that people who made their bed every night were 19 percent more likely to report a good night’s sleep than their counterparts.

Another study from 2013 also observed a possible association with eating habits. Participants in an orderly room were more likely to choose healthier snacks compared to participants in a disorderly room. This, much like sleep quality, may also be linked to our stress levels, says Eva Selhub, an internationally recognized resiliency expert.

"Clutter is stressful for the brain, so you’re more likely to resort to coping mechanisms such as choosing comfort foods or overeating than if you spend time in neater surroundings," she told Shape.

On the flip side, do not set unrealistic expectations for yourself when tidying up as this could become a source of stress in itself. While some individuals are highly organized by nature, some of us are prone to bouts of creative chaos and making a bit of a mess now and then, which is fine. 

Simply stay away from unnecessary hoarding and take it one step at a time while organizing your belongings. Do not compromise on good personal hygiene habits, especially as the flu season is currently nearing its peak.