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March 22, 2017

The benefits of a clean room

Collegian file photo

If you look at my dorm room right now, it looks like a hurricane came through. Clothes are everywhere and books are strewn about, but if you looked at my room a week ago, it was extremely clean with the books and clothes put away and my bed neatly made. I like to keep my room clean so that I can have peace of mind every time I come back from a long day of classes or extracurricular activities. Coming back to a clean room reduces my anxiety as well as improves my mood, but why should I keep it extremely clean even if I do not study there?

When I first started writing this piece, I thought I would find a lot of information about why messy rooms were bad and clean rooms were good. I feel strongly a clean room allows me to think more openly about my work, and allows me to feel less cramped and anxious.

A recent study by the Association for Psychological Science showed that messiness and cleanliness have different benefits in terms of education and productivity. Participants who worked in messy rooms were more likely to have more creative and interesting ideas compared to their clean-room counterparts. On the other hand, participants in clean rooms were more likely “to do what was expected of them.” I find this research to be particularly interesting and it shows that messy rooms can be good, but a clean room does have long-term benefits.

But just because you enjoy a mess when you work doesn’t mean you can’t make choices to combat the messiness after your creative time. Putting things away after you take them out can give you a sense of completion and fulfillment as you clean up your study space.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, de-cluttering your room and creating a dark, clean space allows you to sleep better. Papers and clutter can make you feel restless and affect your sleep. Also, people who make their bed every morning are “19 percent more likely to get a good night’s sleep every night.” If you are prone to allergies, consider picking up your room and dusting. Allergens, such as dust, can affect your sleep and comfort in your room. Sleep, a college student’s best friend, is impacted by the state of your dorm room, so if you’re having issues sleeping, try tidying up before you sleep.

Clean rooms can also have physical benefits. A study found that people with the cleanest homes were the healthiest and most active. Things such as walkability of a neighborhood do not have as significant of an effect on health as much as cleanliness does. This applies far past college and into adult life.

Most of all, as college students, mental health is extremely important. As you probably could guess, a messy and cluttered room contributes to anxiety and stress. Clutter makes you feel like your work is never done and makes you anxious when thinking about all of the things around you. You are unable to focus and it is harder to process information.

There is a link between the stress hormone cortisol in the brain and living environment in women. When your room is messy, you have more cortisol. Women are also more likely to be depressed if living in a cluttered space.

Many people have heard the advice to not study in your room because it is your place to rest and relax, not the place to work. I know some people enjoy the comfort of their room for studying, and that is perfectly fine too. I believe maintaining a clean room is to benefit relaxation, not to benefit studying. Your living environment, even if you do not study there, is an essential part of your life and health, especially while at school.

But if you’re going to be messy when studying, be sure to pick up your clutter and papers later. Do your homework, try to clean up afterward (even if it is stacking papers) and take care of yourself, because a clean room doesn’t just impact your studying and learning, but it also impacts your health and wellness.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

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