Study Buddy (Explorer): Declutter your home and clear your mind – how a spring clean improves mental well-being

  • Each week, Study Buddy Explorer presents an interesting story that we have adjusted to be more accessible for all English learners
  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
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Doing household chores can have benefits for your mental and physical health. Photo: Shutterstock

Content provided by the British Council

Read the following text and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] For Moushumi Khara, keeping her home clean is a form of self-care that benefits her mental well-being. She organises her wardrobe, pantry and storage areas every couple of weeks and declutters regularly. She finds these tasks cathartic.

[2] “My home is my sanctuary, so I strive to make it ideal for my family to live, work, rest and play in,” shared the Hong Kong-based stylist and founder of The Lifestyle Editor, a company that offers personal and home styling solutions.

[3] “Every now and then, I review what I have, and if something no longer serves my needs, I either resell or donate it ... I truly believe that our space affects our mental well-being. After a long, tiring day outside, returning to an organised and tidy home instantly calms me. I work from home sometimes, and when my desk is neat and free of clutter, I feel creative and inspired and get more done.”

[4] With many of us stuck indoors thanks to the pandemic, there is no better time to turn our homes into a space of healing and happiness. And if you are going through an anxious time because of the pandemic, cleaning and decluttering might make you feel better.

[5] According to research, clutter can have a huge effect on our emotional well-being. A 2011 study by Princeton University in the US, for instance, found that living in a cluttered space, with piles of dirty laundry or a sink full of unwashed dishes, could overwhelm and tire the brain. Another study, published in 2010 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that those with cluttered homes also expressed higher levels of stress.

[6] Simply focusing on the chore at hand may have an emotionally calming effect. A study published in 2014 in the journal Mindfulness found that people who engaged in mindfully washing the dishes – taking the time to smell the soap and noticing the warmth of the water, for example – reported a 27 per cent decrease in nervousness.

[7] Housework can help you stay active, too. The American Heart Association equates 20 minutes of vacuuming to walking 1.6km – that is great news if you can’t exercise as often as you’d like or want some extra activity. Making your bed, moving boxes from one room to another and hanging the laundry are other ways to stay fit and burn more calories.

[8] “Another benefit of doing household chores is the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment you get when your house looks clean and organised,” added Dr Lim Boon Leng, a Singapore-based psychiatrist. “When your home is messy or cluttered, you might feel guilty and blame yourself ... Not being able to find things among the clutter may leave you feeling frustrated and irritated. And it’s not uncommon for family members living under the same roof to blame one another for the mess. The constant bickering may worsen everyone’s stress and anxiety.”
Source: South China Morning Post, March 26


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. Which of the following best describes something “cathartic”, according to how it is used in paragraph 1?
A. It causes many people to feel uncomfortable.
B. It releases strong emotions and provides relief.
C. It triggers powerful feelings of excitement that usually last only a short time.
D. It brings about sadness mixed with happiness.

2. What does Khara do, according to paragraph 2?

3. Read paragraphs 2 and 3, and decide if the following statements are True, False or Not Given. (4 marks)
(i) Khara believes a home should be a space in which people can work and live.
(ii) According to Khara, the amount of clutter we have in our home can greatly affect our well-being.
(iii) Khara gives away all the items she no longer needs to charity.
(iv) Every morning, Khara’s routine includes spending time tidying her home.

4. What can help ease anxiety, according to paragraph 4?

5. What conclusion can be drawn from the studies mentioned in paragraphs 5 and 6?
A. Messy homes can leave people feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
B. Getting rid of clutter can boost productivity at work.
C. A small amount of clutter can have a positive impact on overall well-being.
D. all of the above

6. What are two ways of being mindful while washing dishes, according to paragraph 6? (2 marks)

7. According to paragraph 7, how many calories can someone burn after using a vacuum for 20 minutes?
A. 16 calories
B. 60 calories
C. 116 calories
D. information not given

8. Apart from keeping fit, what is one other perk of doing housework, according to paragraph 8?

9. How can a cluttered home affect the relationships between the people living in it, according to paragraph 8?

A spring clean can help you stay calm and improve your mental well-being. Photo: Shutterstock


1. B

2. She provides personal and home styling solutions. / She is a stylist and founder of a styling company in Hong Kong. (any one)

3. (i) T; (ii) T; (iii) F; (iv) NG

4. cleaning and decluttering one’s home

5. A

6. taking the time to smell the soap and noticing the warmth of the water

7. D

8. It can give people a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when their house looks clean and organised.

9. Family members might blame each other for the mess, which can worsen everyone’s stress and anxiety.

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