I’ve had a hectic month. I’ve been traveling a lot and I’ve been helping my eldest son move out of town to start his first “real” job… and I’ve been neglecting my work and my home.

So when things finally settled down last week, I found myself facing some tight deadlines. But when I sat down to get to work on some of my writing assignments, I found I was having a hard time focusing. I was not accomplishing anything.

A woman in a messy living room

As I sat in front of my keyboard, I would look around and see nothing but MESS: piles of unread newspapers and mail on the kitchen counters, rumpled clothes (my own!) thrown into heaps on the bedroom floor, loads of clean laundry that needed to be put away, dirty dishes in the sink, and, heck—Lent had begun, and our boxes of Christmas decorations were still stacked at the bottom of the basement steps, waiting to be put into storage.

I hadn’t wanted to take the time to clean any of this stuff up because I had real WORK to do, darn it! But the truth was, just being surrounded by the mess was causing me to waste my valuable time. It was stressing me out and it was making it hard for me to concentrate. That’s when the old cliché popped into my brain: “Messy house, messy mind!” It suddenly made perfect sense to me.

Deepak Chopra once wrote: “Unhappy people with messy emotions live in messy houses; happy, contented people live in orderly houses.” I believe there is something to this, but I don’t believe that being unhappy necessarily leads to mess or that being happy leads to order — I think it works the other way around, at least in my case. Being surrounded by chaos can lead to stress and unhappiness, for lots of reasons.

It’s stressful to see mess and feel that you really should be cleaning it up instead of doing whatever it is you’re currently doing, whether that be working or trying to relax in front of the TV. It’s stressful to have to worry about being embarrassed by the state of your home if your friends or neighbor unexpectedly drop by.

When my kids were young, I felt like I had an excuse for not cleaning my house. I was a big proponent of the “Pardon my mess, my kids are making memories” school of thought. But deep down I think I realized—that is utter BULL CRAP. Studies have shown that children are negatively affected by an environment of mess and chaos, too, which can lead to trouble concentrating on homework and even depression and anxiety.

The importance of keeping a house clean goes far beyond clutter, of course. A dirty, dusty home can affect our families’ physical health as well as our mental health, for obvious reasons. Germs on surfaces cause the spread of illnesses, and a build-up of dust and mold can cause asthma and other chronic allergic reactions.

If you are like me and you are not a naturally neat and tidy person, you don’t want to hear any of this. Maybe you think I am being all judgy, and you, like me, feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to be constantly cleaning, and you have better things to do. Listen—I agree with you. But cleaning doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Just taking a few extra minutes each day to clear off a surface or put away some clothes can help a lot.

Getting a cleaning service like Immaculate Clean to come in on a regular basis can make a world of difference, too. I know it costs money, and I know it takes some effort—we all do the “clean before the cleaning person” thing. But I have come to think of it as a form of self-care. Most of us go to great lengths to make our home look clean(er) when we know guests are coming. Why do we respect our guests more than we respect ourselves?  

You deserve the peace that comes from a clean house, and your family does, too.