RSS Quickies: Cleaning

8 Secrets Why Women Love to Clean

Do I really have to say anything at all? I’m not feeling well. Can I just leave it at that?

No? I actually have to read the damn thing?

Sigh. Okay.

We went to Real Simple Facebook fans and asked them if they liked to clean. The surprising results? Nearly 90% said you either liked cleaning

I wonder if that has to do with having a magazine aimed at homemakers. You know. People who choose to run a household as a career. People who enjoy doing that sort of thing enough to pay money to learn to do it better. Big surprise there’s a love of cleaning among your readers. Totally not a biased sample guys.

Is the article over yet?

It Gives You a Sense of Accomplishment
With cleaning, we “get to have an end product. In many tasks you don’t get an end product that’s so observable,”

Tasks this weekend:

  • Work out at the gym, complete with checklist of exercises to do, complete with amount of weight and number of reps
  • Obtain, purchase, and make foodstuffs for the weekly game session
  • Create a character at said weekly game session, complete with a whole sheet that has to be filled out and a step by step process
  • Complete the laundry
  • Purchase the big list of plants for my new herb garden and plant them in better soil (postponed due to illness)
  • Work on my android app, which has a definite completion state
  • Write a week’s worth of blog posts

Obviously none of that has an end product or can be directly observed. Not like cleaning. I should have kept that chore for myself instead of letting Chaos take all the pleasure from it.

Many readers said that cleaning helped them feel more at peace, which is one of the reasons Rebecca Beaton, Ph.D., founder and director of The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, encourages her clients to use cleaning as a therapeutic task. “Cleaning up our external environment can make us feel like we’re cleaning up our psyche,” says Beaton.

While I can see that having a dirty environment makes me feel cramped and unhappy, cleaning just makes me tired and sore.

Beaton says cleaning can even help people “feel more control over their environment when they feel a lack of control in other areas of their lives.” There’s no way to force our bosses to love the job we did on that presentation at work, but we can make our home a clean and inviting space that gives us happiness.

There’s no way to force SO’s or children or guests to appreciate the work that goes into keeping a space clean, either. Why can’t the same logic apply to taking pride in doing a good job at work?

Seriously, there’s more of this drivel?

Karras, and many of our readers who responded on Facebook, also clean to take a break from the pressures of work and everyday life. “As a freelancer, when you have a deadline, you do everything else on your to-do list before doing your work,” says Karras. Some might see that as procrastination, but Neziroglu says it can be a healthy way to handle anxiety.

My short task list didn’t get completed. I’m calling that definitely procrastination. I’ve been a freelancer, too. You have to dedicate some time as “work time” and not let yourself do other things or you never make your deadline. Now, what I do find cleaning helps with is the restless “I don’t have a task to do but need to accomplish something” feeling. There’s always cleaning to be done.

It’s a Form of Meditation
In fact, in our fast-paced, work-centered lives, the mindlessness of cleaning may be one of its biggest allures. A surprising number of our readers said that cleaning is actually a relaxing activity for them—whether they crank up their iPod while they do it or just allow their brains to take a break from everyday thoughts.


Ping, whose daily cleaning to-do list includes making beds, doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, wiping down kitchen counters, and picking up endless amounts of dog hair, finds comfort in that repetitive, unchanging aspect of cleaning.

I think I’m just not cut out to be a housewife. Doing the same repetitive mindless tasks over and over drives me fucking bonkers. I have to multitask when I’m doing something boring or my brain starts going stir crazy.

Not only can cleaning burn calories and be good for our bodies, but it also “increases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals in our brain,” says Deibler. “We get a sense of reduced stress and anxiety, and an improvement of mood.”

You know, as a person who is debatably disabled, I’m really tired of hearing how awesome and perfect my life would be if only I pushed myself harder to be more active. Right now I’m so exhausted I can barely think. Cleaning the bathtub would make me burst into helpless, frustrated tears. Also you have to love how burning calories is always equated with healthy. Should underweight people not clean? And if they don’t will they be stressed out and anxious?

Also how is this not repeating “cleaning is a stress reliever”?

A messy home can also be an indicator of how you’re feeling about yourself. “People are less likely to take care of their environment when they don’t feel good about themselves,” says Deibler. “And the more chaotic their environment becomes, the worse they feel about themselves.”

That’s true enough, but I wish they’d mention the reverse: dirty apartment doesn’t necessarily mean low self esteem. It often means illness or overwork or just lack of physical ability.

With all that in mind, I give you the last reason in its entirety:

It’s a Reflection of How You Take Care of Yourself
“The state of your bed is the state of your head,” says Miller who views stacks of dirty dishes and piles of laundry as emblematic of how someone is managing their life. “If you are practicing avoiding difficult things in one area of your life, you do that everywhere.”

Miller made a radical transformation in her late 30s when she left her life as a successful PR exec to become a Zen priest. One of the pivotal changes she made on that journey was doing her own housework after paying someone else to do it for 15 years. “We wake up, we produce waste and laundry and dust and messes. They are the real stuff in our lives. So the time that we spend avoiding denigrating and demeaning these fundamental [cleaning] tasks means we are rejecting our own life,” says Miller. “By turning toward what you would rather not face, you are making a profound, radical transformation in every aspect of your life. You begin to feel much more comfortable in your life, you feel competent, you feel fulfilled.”

Now that I feel guilty as hell, there’s a dirty bathtub calling. In the meantime, have some Sarah Haskins to make the pain go away.

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4 Responses to RSS Quickies: Cleaning

  1. Jarred H says:

    What about men who like to clean? Actually, a lot of those things apply to me. When I was going through therapy for my codependency, cleaning and laundry were two of the things I learned to appreciate as “acts of self-care” and a healthy alternative to trying to play caretaker to others. (It was also great stress relief when I was upset, because I could fret and feed all that pent up frustration into the act of cleaning.) And I’m a guy.

  2. Smilodon says:

    Having lived with over a dozen roommates at various points in my life, I have rarely seen any relationship between the state of your house and the state of your mind. Most of my roommates honestly didn’t notice mess or dirt. This did not make them bad people, or unhappy people, or even bad roommates. It sometimes seems odd to me how we equate cleanliness and morality.

    Also, the the line Miller draws seems somewhat arbitrary to me. If it’s wrong to hire someone else to do your laundry, is it wrong to use a laundry machine to do it? After all, in both cases your job is to decide “laundry basket is full, let’s fix this”, and in neither case do you have to touch the tea towel covered in gross spider web that’s in the laundry basket.

  3. Gravel says:

    That’s me. I don’t see dirt until it’s completely overwhelming. I also hate hate hate cleaning. It does actually make me cry, on a regular basis. Or used to. Then I learned a secret, and now I don’t dread cleaning the way I used to. I don’t hide dirt under rugs, or pretend not to see stains on the cooktop. Now I pay someone quite a lot of money to do my cleaning. It means I live in a smaller place, and don’t eat out as much, but someone else scrubs the damn bathtub. (I am transitioning from a cleaning group, which pockets quite a bit of the money, to a single person, who gets the full quantity. This helps me feel less guilty about it.)

  4. Smilodon says:

    I “like” cleaning. Like is in quotes because obviously I would prefer to eat a slice of banana bread or to call a close friend than spend an afternoon vacuuming. But I can pretty easily achieve a state of zen where it’s just me, the vacuum and my audiobook. And unlike my school work I know that if I work a full day cleaning, something will be accomplished.
    As such, I found cleaning up after other people to be a pretty enjoyable job, compared to many other forms of minimum-wage employment. And I’m grateful that there were people in the world who were willing to pay me to do that. I do not want to drive, so I pay cabbies and bus drivers to do that for me. If it wasn’t for the sense that cleanliness is next to godliness, so therefore a moral question, I think these things would be equivalent.

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