When you’re feeling down, getting yourself to clean up the house can feel totally impossible—and the resulting clutter and disorganization can make you feel worse. It is a nasty cycle made nastier by the fact that the mess simply won’t go away. Not only is having a tidy, sanitary home important for your safety, but it’s good for your mental wellbeing. If you’re in a funk, you don’t have to go full Martha Stewart on your whole place—but you should try to clean something. And that something should, specifically, be your living room. Here’s why.
Cleaning actually can improve your mood
There’s a link between tidying up and feeling better. Clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn Potter explained in a Cleveland Clinic podcast in 2021 that having a clean home can make someone feel more in control. And there are benefits to doing the physical work, too. There’s no shortage of research concluding that physical activity reduces depressive symptoms and generally improves quality of life, but when you hear that, you probably think of the endorphin boost you feel after going to the gym or taking a walk. Working out and exercising are great, but you shouldn’t forget that cleaning up also requires movement and effort—and it counts toward your recommended 150 minutes of moderate weekly activity.
If you clean anything, make it your living room
When you’re feeling down, you might stress over how untidy things are, then stress more over not knowing where to start. Start in your living room, or the most highly trafficked area of your home. The goal here is to maximize your results with the minimal motivation you have. You’ll feel most accomplished if you go after an area that will benefit the most from your time, like the floor where your kids play or the coffee table where you sort your bills. Having a clean space to spend time in may actually give you the boost you need to move on to other areas—but even if you take some time to get to the rest, you’ll have a clean communal living space.
How to get started
Now you just need a plan to help keep you on track. We recommend these three:
- The “five things” method, which was created by a licensed therapist who recommends chunking each cleaning task into just five sections to avoid feeling overwhelmed: Trash, laundry, dishes, things that have a place, and things that don’t.
- The “junebug” method, by which you identify one central spot (like the coffee table) and keep returning to it over and over until it’s clean, no matter how distracted you get by other tasks.
- The “FlyLady” method, which involves scheduling your cleaning of house “zones” over a month or so. This may be better to try to once you’ve used one of the other methods to get after the living room, but the benefit of this method is that you only dedicate 15 minutes to whichever zone you’re on each day, making it much more manageable overall.
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