A couple years ago I wrote an article on why cleaning made me happy. It’s still true and you can read those reasons below. What I’ve recently discovered in addition, though, is that cleaning our home also fosters empathy. So while doing routine cleaning, we are not only improving our home, we are becoming better people — happy and empathetic!
Cleaning strengthens empathy
The manufacturer of cleaning supplies, Clorox, commissioned a study on happiness after the alarming statistics that 79% of the US population suffer from stress, 72% feel lonely, and the U.S. has fallen to number 19 in the World Happiness ranking. The results of the Clorox study showed that cleaning results in higher levels of happiness, less stress, higher productivity, and better sleep.
Additionally, household residents enjoying a clean house experienced the same benefits. Furthermore, kids who have household cleaning responsibilities result in adults 60% more inclined to lend a helping hand to another person. As we clean, we improve our environment for ourselves and those who experience it. We also develop the key qualities of empathy, compassion, and connection, skills which are enhanced by being in a clean space and increased by the specific act of cleaning it.
Raising our happiness levels
Statistics show that American women spend over two hours per day doing housework. That’s about the same amount of time spent on “leisure,” the category that would include activities like exercise, meditation, and other specifically joy-based pursuits. So, if we must spend so much time doing something (in this case: cleaning), why wouldn’t we optimize our our experience doing it to ensure it includes joy and happiness?
The daily routine of housekeeping and caring for our home and our possessions has a transformative aspect. That’s something Marie Kondo spelled out in her KonMari Method, and something that is so easy to experience just by making your bed.
Sure, at times I’ve hired professionals to help me keep my home clean and orderly, and I treasured that help. But, overall, I like when my life affords me enough time to tackle the task myself. I like creating a fresh slate, and seeing the individual pieces of my life that are part of the whole.
Our homes are a microcosm of life. Spending time caring for our homes happens when everything else in life distracts and delay us. The only way through that is to just tackle the task anyway. I have found that by making time to sort out my house, but the other pieces of my life sort out as well.
Here are seven powerful insights I’ve gained from cleaning my house:
1. Cleaning grounds and centers me.
Cleaning is meditation. When my routine is hectic and scattered in a million directions, cleaning brings me back to focusing on my life and caring for the basic essentials.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in The Miracle of Mindfulness “the idea of doing dishes is unpleasant … only when you aren’t doing them.” When we slow down and focus mindfully on the task in front of us, we realize the act transforms our home, and that the repetitive practice works its own calming magic.
2. It alerts me to what my home needs.
Besides the obvious needs, like eradicating germs to stay physically healthy, without my weekly cleaning schedule, small repairs and updates would become major and costly.
3. It releases my creativity.
Busy hands open creative space. As I move through my familiar house, I never fail to gain creative insight for new projects. Sometimes I, out of nowhere, realize solutions to complex problems that were otherwise stumping me. Other times, I receive sudden, surprising inspiration, which is the true gift of creativity.
Perhaps it’s the principle of feng shui in operation. I just know that while I make my bed and vacuum my rug, new ideas unfold in my mind.
4. It gives me an excuse to indulge the softer side of life.
Seriously, sometimes we need a reason to just “check out” for a few hours. To step away from life’s overwhelming responsibilities and tune back into the side of life that might include other living beings. Attention is love. There is no need for a completely spotless floor, but walking in to a room with clean surfaces and fresh scent says you care.
5. It allows me to physically touch the life I’ve created.
We live so much of life on screens in a virtual world. Cleaning and straightening up is a tactile process. There’s no app for that! And, just like Marie Kondo advocates, the things I have in my home make me happy. I pick up these objects I’ve chosen and it is like touching pieces of my life, holding life moments in my hand.
Yes, some aspects of my life I’d rather not touch (I’m looking at you, toilet bowl!). But putting my beautiful clothes away that walked though my day with me, placing my children’s toys back in place, organizing work things, washing the dishes on which I ate my meals … cleaning gives me a chance to touch the world I work so hard to create, so I can relive it, and enjoy it one more time.
Notice your life! Hold it in your hands once in a while.
6. Cleaning creates beauty and order.
I like to establish an environment that supports whatever activities I have ahead of me. My home is my sanctuary — that place I return for physical and mental rejuvenation, and where I start out when tackling my objectives.
When I clean, I can set up the house in a way that anticipates the household’s needs. Perhaps domestic diva Martha Stewart did the best job of elevating ‘housecleaning, as a chore’ to ‘home keeping, as a pleasure,’ in her rise from caterer to transformative home keeping guru.
7. It allows gives me a sense of control in a world where we often have none.
The fact that I cannot stop terrorism or feed the world’s starving masses all by myself is something of which I am well aware. I can’t bring about world peace, but I can bring peace, order, joy, and pleasure to my own private little world and those I share it with.
Our homes express who we are in this life, serving as a snapshot of all the ways we grow and change along the way. I like to stop when I can and intimately care for that life … mindfully. Looking after my home with love feels nurturing to me.
Want support creating more happiness in your life? I help my clients find confidence and clarity by tuning within to their inner wisdom. For more information, my services can be found here. Or, book a Clarity Session. You’ll not only get answers to your questions, you can see if we are a good match to work together.