Experiments In Self-Care: Tidying Up

The following is Part 2 in a 4-Part Series of Self-Care experiments, conducted and reported on by the fabulous Psychology intern: Adra Brown. For more “Experiments in Self-Care“, see Part 1: Mindfulness Meditation.

Is a “Tidy Room” Really a “Tidy Mind”?

We have all heard the phrase, “tidy room/desk/home; tidy mind”, and as children we may have even rolled our eyes as our parent uttered that dreaded phrase while sending us to clean our pigsty, I mean room. However, have you ever stopped in adulthood and wondered if there is some truth to this saying? Do you feel better and more productive when your living space is tidy?

Since this is a self-care experiment series, some of you may be asking, “is tidiness a form of self-care?”

According to lifehacks.org and psychologytoday.com, having a tidy living space promotes good mental health, physical health, productivity, and motivation. It can help you save time when getting ready or looking for something, and it could promote you to be more social.

With all of these benefits I would definitely say tidiness is a form of self-care!

The experiment:

For complete transparency and as a baseline for the experiment, this is how my room typically looks as a busy college student: I make my bed about twice a week. My closet is always a mess. My rug is somehow always out of place. My hair straightener, face wash, and various hair products are almost always cluttering the area around my sink. My couch often looks like someone has been sleeping there for a week. And my desk looks like I just did makeup for an entire Broadway cast. Usually, I feel pretty neutral in my room. But I am pretty unmotivated to do any school work in my room, and I can never find what I need when getting ready.

Everyday for a week, I will do the following to test if see any differences in the way I feel with a tidy room:

  1. Make my bed.
  2. Put clothing where it goes.
  3. Clean off my desk before going to bed.  
  4. Place pillows and blankets neatly on couch.
  5. Straighten rug.
  6. Clear things from around the sink area.

Day 1: I woke up, made my bed, and felt so accomplished. Then I went and got ready, and I found everything easily (I had reorganized my closet the day before). I brushed my teeth, did my hair, makeup, and put everything away after using it. I felt so accomplished, and I was ready early enough to eat a little breakfast before class. When I came back from my classes, I felt more motivated than usual to do some coursework. As the day went on, I felt great and got a lot of assignments complete. I had a great day in my freshly tidied room. When it came time to get ready for bed, I washed my face,  brushed my teeth, and put things away as I used them. I straightened my rug, fixed the blankets and pillows on my couch, and straightened the books on my desk before getting into bed. This all sounds like a lot to do as far as cleaning in a day, but each thing only took two minutes, if that, at the most.

Day 2: I woke up and I did all the same things as the day before. I felt like my life was really together. I felt organized and ready to tackle another day. I kept my room clean as I used things and put them away, and at bedtime I straightened my rug, tidied my couch, and straightened the things on my desk. I was also feeling so motivated to organized that I deleted unnecessary apps on my phone, organized my apps by color, and got a new fresh background picture. Again, this day was really productive and I was able to focus in my room and get coursework complete, and when my friends were coming to my room I wasn’t worried about my room not being tidy enough.

Day 3: I woke up late, and frantically got ready. I was able to get ready really fast because everything was in its place. I did not feel like I had time to make my bed or put my makeup and hair brush back in their places. In hindsight, it would have taken seconds to put away my hairbrush and makeup, and it only would have taken a minute to at least straighten the blankets and pillows on my bed. When I got back to my room I made my bed and put away my makeup and hair brush, and all was back to a calm and organized atmosphere. That night I followed my routine of tidying, and went to sleep relaxed, even though I had a frantic start to the day.

Day 4: I went straight back to my routine of getting up and making my bed and tidying as I get ready. I went through my day feeling pretty organized and kind of put together, but I was not feeling great as far as my mental health. I did all the things I said I would through the day as far as tidying; however, I did not feel motivated because of my plummet in my mental health. Looking back I really think having a tidy, stress-free, and calm room helped to make my day just a little better, and it helped me feel like something was organized and okay in my life.

Day’s 5, 6, and 7 went very similar to day 4, but my tidy room helped me keep some sanity, and it also gave me small goals to meet to help me feel some accomplishment when everything else felt like a little too much.

Final Thoughts

I think there is a big misconception that self-care is always and only something really tranquil and relaxing like getting a massage and getting your nails done. However, self-care is not always initially relaxing or fun, but in the long run, acts of “self-care” like tidiness can help you care for yourself in the future. Whether you are just running late and need to get ready really fast, or maybe you are depressed and can only manage doing small things at the moment, or maybe you just need a nighttime routine to unwind that doesn’t include your phone, tidying is a productive way to care for yourself.

I highly recommend you try this!

I saw such a spike in my motivation the first few days, and when I was in that slump with my mental health it helped me feel like everything was not falling apart. The week after this experiment I had stopped tidying everyday and was still in a slump with my mental health, and I only felt worse with a disorganized room. So maybe, just maybe, our parents were not trying to torture us when trying to ingrain in us to keep our living space clean.

 

About the Author:

Adra Brown is an undergraduate Senior at Welch College studying Psychology. She has a passion for counseling and mental health. She loves her cats and trying new, exciting experiences.

 

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