Your Sudden Urge to Clean House Is Telling You Something

Your environment has a clear effect on your mood

Rebecca Tucker
Published in
5 min readNov 13, 2020


Woman spraying cleaning product in the air, obscuring her face.
Photo: Susumu Yoshioka/Getty Images

Have you found yourself overtaken by a sudden urge to clean and reorganize every inch of your living space?

If the fresh-start feeling of the election results has you newly energized to change up your space, you’re not alone. At least according to Twitter, that mood is in the air.

If you’re stress-cleaning, you’re not alone there, either: Studies have linked “ritualized behaviors” like meticulous cleaning to periods of heightened anxiety. And, well, there’s been a fair bit of that going around lately.

And then there’s the chill in the air coinciding with the second wave of a nearly yearlong pandemic. Many of us crave security and comfort as we begin to spend more time indoors.

Whichever driving force speaks to your current state, now is the perfect time to get your house in order. Your surroundings can have concrete effects on your mental health. Research shows that poor housing quality, a lack of green space, and noise and air pollution are associated with a depressive mood — some of the perhaps less-considered, compounding mental health risks for people living in poverty. There’s also a correlation between clutter and stress, which can exacerbate a lack of focus and even difficulty sleeping. You’ve probably felt, for yourself, how a bright, neat space promotes a sense of calm while mess often induces anxiety.

So, where to begin?

Assess the stuff taking up your space

Reassess your environment, on a macro level, by looking at the objects within it. “The items we surround ourselves with carry weight,” says Anjie Cho, a New York City-based architect and feng shui practitioner. That doesn’t mean physical weight. Objects, Cho explains, are sometimes imbued with memory and purpose — a gift from an ex, or a 1,000-piece puzzle that you bought with the best intentions in March — that may no longer serve you or may be affecting your mental wellness in harmful ways.

This may have a strong whiff of Marie Kondo-ing one’s space or eliminating items and objects that don’t “spark joy.” But for all its zeitgeistiness, there’s a clear…