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Why being neat and clean is good for you

Updated on August 14, 2009

Becoming neat

Neatness is not really a hard thing to achieve, even if you are secretly and naturally something of a slob. Look around you: what do you see? If your surroundings are not neat, it can be a source of stress. What, even if you do not care about the mess?

Yes - it has been discovered by teachers and parents that those who live in neat surroundings are generally calmer than those who don't. And they are generally more successful at things they try.

So achieving ordered surroundings should be a priority to those who want certain things. The simplest of these things is a calmer relationship with those you live with. Then there's the success factor in things you try. Then there's the inner peace you can achieve: this comes from getting rid of that sense of panic when you look for stuff, or simply knowing you really need to gain control over your belongings. There's also the importance of being in charge of your surroundings, and not the other way around. You also get charged by the sense of order.

How and where do you start? How do you become neat? Every journey starts with the first step, so make that step small and achievable. Start on a small space that measures about three feet long by three feet wide by three feet high. In metric terms, this is about a square metre. Choose a square metre that's yours to manage - say in your room, in your bathroom or in your study. Choose a square metre that's not too crowded with years of accumulation. Start easy.

De-clutter that space, making sure that the job does not take longer than 30 minutes. De-cluttering means getting rid of stuff that is unuseable: rubbish and expired items. It means ordering things into places where they can belong. It means starting files for loose papers. It means stacking books. It means finding homes such as drawers and boxes for similar stuff. Try not to overflow into neighbouring square metres. This will be hard: the temptation to chuck stuff into neighbouring space, or to start tidying up neighbouring space, will be high.

When you are finished, look at what you have done, and make a note to return to this very spot in about 14 days' time. Keep the temptation to start on another square metre for tomorrow.

The next day, tackle another square metre. This should be in the same room or space as yesterday. Do not take longer than 30 minutes. Throw out any rubbish you will not be needing. Give away useful stuff to a charity shop.

Keep on in this way until you have done 14 square metres. It has taken you about two weeks. And it is now time to go back to the first square metre you ever tackled. There is really not much to do: maintenance tidying is now all that's needed. Maintenance tidying is always there: it always needs doing but it is never daunting. It comes up every 14 days or so and rarely takes more than a few minutes.

You have solved your messiness in small stages, and it will stay solved if you keep up your few minutes of maintenance tidying every day.

Becoming clean

We all think we are clean enough: even those grubs among us feel they're okay! But it makes sense to occasionally examine your levels of hygiene. Why? Well - bodies change as they grow, and change as they age: so everyone needs to test if what they are doing to keep clean is still valid.

How often you shower and change your underwear is subject to a number of things. It is subject to how clean you like to feel, and how clean you like to appear to others. So the first is personal, and the other is social. Feeling clean is important for health and self-esteem, and appearing clean is important for relationships with others and how you like to be considered by others. Confidence springs from both.

Like tidiness, you are able to take control by first giving yourself a good clean-up, and then managing your cleanliness by regular maintenance. It makes perfect sense not to let yourself get very grubby and then have that huge clean-up when it's become a desperate case!

So revise how often you look after your body hygiene, and then revise how you do it. Ring the changes when it comes to products: check your soap, shower gel, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Change your toothpaste and mouthwash. Ask yourself whether you need to update their strength and flavour.

Look in the mirror and check whether your skin and hair look greasy... or well maintained. Check your fingernails, your breath, the sheen on your teeth. Check whether your general aura smells like you stepped out of a shower, or need a shower!

How often you wash your clothes is determined by how close those clothes actually get to your skin. The further away from your skin the layer of clothing is, the less washing or cleaning it needs. But this is theoretical at best, because sometimes the outermost layer gets dirty from the jobs we do. So examine your clothing regularly and ask yourself two things: is the item clean enough to feel comfortable, and clean enough to appear fresh to others.

Keeping clean should not take longer than about 5-6 hours a week. When you think that there are 168 hours in a week, it's not much, and it's absolutely necessary. You can add to those basic hours if you include cosmetic stuff such as improving your skin, manicures and pedicures, and styling your hair... but it's basic cleanliness we are talking about here. Keeping clean is as important as keeping tidy because of two very vital things: your self confidence and your mental well-being. Not to mention that hygiene promotes physical health because it keeps away the germs that bring about illness and disease.

Keeping clothing clean for one person involves a washing cycle of about an hour a week (more if you are a specky dresser), with ironing up to about 45 minutes. This is not much if you convert it to self confidence.

Those around you should not be startled into realising you are suddenly cleaner! Your level of hygiene should be slowly tweaked and improved until you are personally satisfied you are doing as much as you can to feel and appear clean. It is cheaper and time-efficient in the long run.

Case study: the benefits of cleanliness and tidiness

Paula Tippett is not foolish: she knows that a good social life adds to personal pleasure and achievement. But she was starting to feel isolated: invitations became fewer and no one called her any more.

She guessed the reason. It took in less time than it had taken her to understand why her performance at work was sagging and why her sales income was poorer than the previous year's. She was letting her standards drop.

Because her apartment was not as tidy as it once was, she was reluctant to invite friends round. Because her standard of dress had fallen, she had stopped going out after work for a drink with friends. She had taken to disappearing with a book or DVD to her flat, and now it had started to depress her.

Getting rid of depression is not easy. 'You have to do stuff,' her doctor said plainly. 'Paula - you are the only one who can actually look at your life and see what's depressing you. Look around you. It's there.'

So Paula looked at her messy apartment. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw the cause of her mental state. She looked a mess, and was living in one. 'It'll take ages to fix,' she thought. 'But it beats taking medication.'

She started on her bedroom. It took less time than she thought, and lifted her spirits enough to make her move onto the kitchen the next day. Luckily, the weekend was bright and sunny, so she undertook a bit of a spring clean on the lounge; and the bathroom (the hardest part) even felt easy when the following weekend came around. She was determined to maintain that level of freshness by regular attention. Gee, she could even ask friends round again: she was proud of her work. It was pleasant to come home again.

After all that cleaning, Paula felt refreshed rather than tired. The doctor was right: if you are depressed, do stuff. Make something. She was making a better Paula: a better place to live in. Next came her personal appearance and hygiene. Without wanting to spring a totally new look on her colleagues, she got herself a neat hair trim, and treated herself to a long soak in her newly clean bathtub, and decided to splurge on a whole new set of basic underwear. Hey, even chainstore undies feel great if they are new and clean.

The confidence and clarity this injected into Paula's spirits was almost magical. That week, her sales figures reached the level she had started to think would never happen again. She got to the rate of commissions increased and she had made new clients. 'I can't believe it was something as simple as being clean and tidy,' she said in confidence to her doctor.

'It's more complex than you think,' the GP said. 'We generally feel mentally as we are physically... let that go, and you soon start to feel miserable. It can be a vicious circle. A lot of people don't know where to start. With you, it seemed natural.'

'Thank you,' said Paula. All she had to do then was keep it up. But now, she had to work it in to available time. Almost automatically, people started asking her to parties, and she had resumed seeing people after work. She even had a date lined up.

Keeping it up: why persistence is important

They say you get your habits in adolescence, and it's not far from the truth. Teenagers can get sloppy and their rooms are often a reflection of what's going on in their heads. Teenage is when habits are set, and it's easy to think at that age that nothing really happens if you are a slob.

Some can't even see the mess. Until they see it through someone else's eyes. 'Boy - how do you find anything?' Questions like that , coming from visiting friends are an indicator of something that needs doing. If you and your surroundings are getting messy, perhaps it's time to get clean and tidy. Because you certainly can't be feeling too happy.

There are different kinds of people - those who keep their surroundings and belongings reasonably okay, and those who let them slide and slide until doing something about it all becomes absolutely imperative.

Research shows that the first type are more successful at life in general.

Persistence and regular maintenance are the two keys. The first gets us good habits and the second keeps the job from getting too big to tackle. So teach yourself the two things. Broken off into little chunks, all jobs seem easy. And easy jobs aren't hard to tackle, right?

We are all affected by our surroundings. That big word ENVIRONMENT really means the place you live. The environment has a habit of affecting those who live in it, and to a small extent, we can all manage our immediate environment: our surroundings... where we live. Keeping on top of the mess is crucial if we are to keep calm, comfortable, in control. In other words: happy.

Can being clean and neat make you happy? Yes - the answer is simple. If your mind feels it is in control, and that there is no huge job lurking there in the background somewhere, it has room for all sorts of enjoyable stuff. If your personal appearance is pleasant and people enjoy having you around, it adds dividends to your social and work life.

Conversely, if you smell, and look like you need a haircut, and if you are ashamed of and dismayed about the way your room or home have degenerated into a mess, your spirits are unlikely to be very high.

So save yourself the angst and start on your path to happiness and lightness. Do it all in small regular chunks, and be proud of the results.

Does this need improvement?

Having a messy room might be making you unhappy.
Having a messy room might be making you unhappy.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Rosewater, great article.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      so very nice for a young student like me .........!!!!!! so be clean every day

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Be clean be happy

      3 years

    • profile image

      Bob T 

      7 years ago

      So true. I feel much more confident and in control when my house is in order. You save sooo much time to when you know where your things are.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      very nice

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      great article, got me motivated to clean my room, which I keep putting off.. will read this for inspiration :)

    • J  Rosewater profile imageAUTHOR

      J Rosewater 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Camlo that is such a good idea. I'll publish an eBook just like you suggest, and let everyone know when it's up.

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 

      9 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      All this practical advice! If I found all your Hubs in a book somewhere, I'd definitely buy it. The sort of thing every household should have.

      Keep writing more!

      All the best,



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