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The Psychology of Clean

By August 29, 2018Cleaning

Walking into a nice, tidy, clean space, or walking into a messy, cluttered, dirty space; the difference is palpable. A place that has not been well maintained might spike your blood pressure, you might feel an urge to clean it, you might wonder at how it’s occupants let the space get so messy; it’s easy to feel uncomfortable in a mess. Conversely, a clean, well-kept space is like a revelation; you might marvel at great organizational techniques, efficient uses of space, or just how nice everything looks. You’ll be more inclined to notice the nice paint colour and new hardwood of a neat space. There’s powerful psychology at work here; why do we prefer clean spaces?

Clutter is problematic because it reminds us there’s work to be done, namely, the work of cleaning the space. It’s more difficult to find things in messy spaces, so it makes us anxious we won’t be able to locate something important when we need it. We may also feel guilty or embarrassed by a messy space, especially when guests or clients are visiting our space, who may see the mess as a reflection of our work ethic.

There are implications for productivity and creativity, as well. When there’s mess or clutter, our minds tend to get distracted from the work at hand; unpleasant sights and smells demand to be cleaned, and the cognitive dissonance created by deciding between cleaning and working can be extremely stressful. A cluttered area can also draw your attention to visual stimuli that have nothing to do with what you’re working on, and once distracted, it may be difficult to get back to work.

A messy area can also have drastic impacts on your mental health. A messy space that goes uncleaned may be out of sight, but it’s rarely out of mind; a study of 60 women found that those with a cluttered home environment became more stressed as the day went on, but those with clean homes saw their stress levels go down as the day went on and their work reached completion. This is likely because those with messy homes saw their work as perpetually unfinished, which adds unnecessary stress.

Our minds react negatively to mess; there are many possible reasons why, though none are considered definitive. One speculation says that we simply love order; from the circadian cycle, to the advantages of having a steady routine. Others speculate that mess and unpleasantness can signal danger to our brain; what’s hiding under that pile or causing that smell may be hazardous to our health.

The implications of cleanliness apply as much in your office as in your home. You certainly don’t want clients and visitors to question your professionalism, and you don’t want your staff to lose productivity to mess. That’s why it’s important to keep your place of work clean; professional office cleaning is a great way to get all the benefits of cleanliness without having to spend all your time tidying up.