Tidy minds: housework and mental wellbeing


modern attic

A post from our Project Manager,  @rosiehopes

It feels pretty intuitive to me that there’s a relationship between the space inside your head and the space outside it.

I know I’m happier and more productive if I spend most of my time in a tidy-ish, bright place. Maggies cancer caring centres famously use beautiful architecture, light spaces and design to foster emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s something that many mental health settings could learn from. Of course, some are great, but a Mental Welfare Commission report on wards for people with severe and enduring mental illness said:

“Too often, we saw physical environments that wouldn’t be accepted in general healthcare. It’s hard to see how such environments could promote recovery”

And our mental health problems can also manifest themselves in our homes. We all recognise the image of the “depressed person’s home” with strewn with undone dishes and empty pizza boxes. But there are also plenty of people who go the other way.  I often joke that, when I had postnatal depression, cleaning my oven was a cry for help. Even the cliche of the perfectly clean home of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder is a myth. I’ve met people whose homes were left in disarray as they obsessed over tiny details.  As with most things related to wellbeing, its’ different for everyone.

There is plenty of advice out there  for transforming your life and your wellbeing by improving your environment. We’ve all flicked through magazines or pinterest boards and yearned for clean white spaces and organised book shelves (just me?). But setting up ideas of the perfect space, just like the perfect body, can often just serve to make us feel worse about what we have. Or it just encourages us to buy stuff. There’s also a gendered element to a lot of it that doesn’t sit well with me.

So, what to do? As with most things related to wellbeing, it seems it is different for everyone and there’s a lot to be said for balance. I am a big fan of the (swearing warning)  unf**k your habitat tumblr. It has a practical and realistic approach that recognises that the reality of life and specifically addresses the challenges of keeping your home organised when you have physical of mental health problems. For example, they recommend short bursts of tidying, with lots of breaks and warn against the “marathons” that some of us recognise before or during an episode of ill health.

Of course, it won’t be right for everyone. Does anyone else have any good advice, or good websites for sorting out your home and your head? What works for you?




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