Happiness, Flow, and Cleaning

In part five of our spring clutter-clearing series, we’re focusing on cleaning. Now that you have removed the clutter, it’s time to create a fresh, clean space. Now some people may find this surprising, but cleaning makes us happy—and no we don’t mean just the end result, we actually mean the process! When we get into the flow and rhythm of a good cleaning session, we enjoy ourselves.

Researcher and positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Geriland, 2006)[1]. Flow is well known to “produce intense feelings of enjoyment” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988)[2].

A lot of athletes experience flow when participating in their sport of choice. Musicians experience it when playing and artists when creating. And sometimes you can experience flow at work, when you’re fully engaged in a project. I know I’ve experienced flow when I’m in a challenging vinyasa yoga class or when I’m really in a groove when writing.  But I recently realized that I also experience flow while at home doing something very simple… cleaning. Believe it not, I find I can get into the flow when washing dishes, organizing, vacuuming, clutter clearing, etc…

Now I don’t think Csikszentmihalyi was referring to housekeeping when he was talking about flow… he talks about great composers composing music and professional athletes excelling at their sport. He even says that flow usually happens when experiences transcend the everyday and I can’t think of anything more “everyday” than cleaning. Yet, how wonderful if we can bring the experience of flow, even just a taste of it, to our everyday lives. At Inspired Everyday Living we believe that the ordinary can be extraordinary. With intention, we can elevate the everyday moments.

For me there is something similar between flow and meditation. When in a meditative state or in a flow, our minds quiet and all the babble that constantly runs through our heads, disappears—at least for awhile. Our busy minds get to rest and we allow something else to takeover. When I’m doing dishes (especially by hand), making the bed, or doing laundry, I can actually zone out—especially when I play great music and just focus on the task. Now not at all tasks are fun—I’m not a fan of putting dishes away for example—but I’ve learned that many of the tasks can be enjoyable. And when you get in the flow of cleaning, you will emerge as fresh and renewed as your space.

How to get in the flow when cleaning:

Set aside/schedule time so you don’t feel you have other things you need to be doing and can focus on the task at hand.

Conventional household cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin and lungs, cause headaches, and are the leading causes of indoor air pollution. So replace chemical-laden cleaning products and get great, healthy, all natural cleaning products in a scent you love, such as lavender, lemon or orange.

Open windows and let in the fresh air. By opening your windows to ventilate your home on a regular basis. Many of the products we use to clean and the materials we use to decorate and build contain toxic chemicals that off-gas and pollute the air we breathe. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that pollution inside a home could be two to five times higher than outside the home, even in large, industrialized cities. Opening windows creates a way for chemicals released from common household items to exit and fresh air to enter. 
In addition, sunlight can uplift our spirits. It is also is an effective way to cleanse linens and blankets killing dust mites. So open curtains and blinds during the day to let sunlight into your home and hang carpets, sheets and blankets in the sun occasionally.

Play great music. A friend of ours once suggested making a clutter-clearing or cleaning soundtrack with her favorite songs—she used it as a timer as well as inspiration and would clean or clutter-clear until the music ended.

If you like this blog, you may also like:
The Joy of All Natural Cleaning Products
A Dozen Must Haves for a Healthier Home
Redefining Homemaking


[1] Geirland, John (1996). “Go With The Flow”. Wired magazine, September, Issue 4.09.

[2] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1988), “The flow experience and its significance for human psychology”, in Csikszentmihalyi, M., Optimal experience: psychological studies of flow in consciousness, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–35


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