Newshub headline with Children's Wisconsin logo
mental health benefits of cleaning Children's Wisconsin

The power of the mop: Cleaning can refresh the home and the mind

Cleaning can be a daunting task. Picking up toys and clutter are probably the last thing you want to do as a parent or caregiver. But having this cluttered mess can be extremely disruptive to your child’s mental health. As a behavioral health consultant, I’ve seen firsthand how these cluttered spaces can foster feelings of anxiety and stress in children and teens.

Spring may have sprung earlier than usual this year, but you still have time to get started on those cleaning projects you have delayed in months prior.  


The mere thought of cleaning can feel overwhelming. One of the best things to do to mentally prepare is setting a goal. Sometimes, it can be easier to begin with a short-term goal. Short-term goals are more realistic for keeping children engaged.

Gathering supplies such as a timer, surface cleaners, brooms, mops, or vacuums can also help to prepare for this cleaning. 

Mental health benefits of cleaning 

Spring cleaning can greatly contribute to mental health. It can help to regain a sense of control and can act as a sort of healthy space for your mental health. Both children and adults can benefit from cleaning in many different ways: 

  • Reduces stress: Clean and organized spaces can build a comfortable space, or a space in which your child can truly relax and decompress.  

  • Boosts mood and productivity: By reducing the stress and mess of a space, your mood can be uplifted from the burdensome feelings a mess may bring on. 

  • Increases focus: By cleaning and removing distractions from a child’s workspace, it makes it easier to focus on certain tasks at hand.  

Tips for an effective clean

  • Start small. Start by dedicating five minutes a day to cleaning a small space. If you allow your child to see that result, it may inspire them to clean another space.

  • Declutter. Get rid of unnecessary items. Remember that every object should have a place. If not, you may want to consider disposing of or donating them.

  • Make it a game.
    • Set a timer and see how many toys they can pick up.
    • Give your child a bag and see how many toys they can fit into a bag.
    • Turn on music or an episode of a show they enjoy, as long as it doesn’t distract them from the task at hand.
    • For teens, encourage them to put on a podcast or perhaps a show to distract them from the cleaning itself.

  • Set realistic goals. Allow yourself time and energy to thoughtfully clean and reorganize your living space. This may mean setting smaller, more attainable goals to begin. You can absolutely adjust and broaden these goals later on. Don’t expect perfection from your children, but their best effort.

  • Use a chore chart. Some of the benefits of using a chore chart are it helps children hold themselves accountable for their chores which in turn teaches them responsibility and independence.  Also, the chore chart teaches children about working together as a team within the family unit.

  • Use lots of praise. Use praise and encouragement throughout the cleaning process to increase motivation, to keep the positive momentum going, and to boost good feelings.

Spaces to clean

Ideally, all spaces should be tidied up, but the most important spaces are bedrooms and study/work spaces.

Having a clean bedroom can encourage proper sleep hygiene for both children and teens. A cluttered bedroom can majorly impact sleep because kids are focused on the mess around them, rather than sleeping.

Study spaces should be kept clean to improve focus and eliminate distractions.

Keeping the space clean

To maintain a clean home, take 10 minutes a day to tidy up any high-traffic living spaces. By staying on top of the mess itself, it will be much easier to avoid any buildup that could occur in the time between cleans. Dusting and disinfecting surfaces, as well as sweeping once a week, can help maintain the cleanliness of the space so that there isn’t much of a mess after.

While cleaning the entire house can feel like a lofty goal, it can be done. Start with small goals and work your way up.  Don’t be afraid to ask for additional support if you are feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Enlist the help of non-judgmental family members or friends to assist with cleaning. Also, there are trained professionals to assist with de-cluttering, organizing and maintaining your home. Most importantly, remember to give yourself grace.

While a clean home may not seem like a huge deal, the mental health impacts outweigh the time and hassle of cleaning a home.