Cleaning for Stress Relief?

At what point in my life did cleaning become cathartic?

I have always hated cleaning – still do. So why is it when I get stressed out or really angry my first instinct is to clean? Yup, when I am having a stressful day, you can find me armed and ready with Windex and 409 in hand.

I have even had days where I have been so upset that I have cleaned my baseboards. You know how often I normally do that? When I move, which happens about every 3-4 years.

Today, the subject of my assault was the back patio. With the nice weather, my kids wanted to play outside. It was a perfect opportunity for me to work off some aggression. I cleaned off the patio and every outdoor chair we own.

I didn’t stop there. Once inside, I proceeded to clean the kitchen from top to bottom – a feat that hadn’t been performed in our house since Christmas Eve (guess who hosted Christmas dinner last year).

From what I gather, I’m not the only one. Apparently, moms across the country use cleaning as a stress relief technique. I think it has to do with immediate gratification. We can see that our hard work has made a difference, so we like it. In parenting, we won’t know if our hard work will pay off until we survive the high school years, and even then it can be touch and go.

Could you imagine if we had a women president? We would be in the midst of a world crisis and she would be scrubbing toilets. Then the VP would go to find her, only to get scolded about missing the toilet and leaving the seat up. But I digress…

Cleaning gives us a sense of control. If moms are nothing else, we are usually control freaks. Cleaning lets us show the dirt whose boss, with out talking back, whining or a stint in time out. We can be as physical as we want to and all we have to show for it is better results.

Cleaning also helps to pass the time – it serves as a good distraction while waiting for a late husband. My husband can actually tell how upset I am by the amount of cleaning I have done. If all I’ve done is sweep and mop the floor, everything’s pretty ok. If I have reorganized and alphabetized the pantry – he’s should just sleep on the couch.

This is completely opposite from what happens when we go out. When moms go out for the evening, we usually return to a house that looks like it was shaken like a snow globe. When dads go out, they return to organized clothes and sparkling floors. How is that fair?

The key to the “stress = cleaning” equation is to not let our husbands in on the secret. Otherwise they will go out to poker night and to play golf all the time just to get us to clean the house regularly.

Alana Morales taught high school English for six years before staying home with her two children and becoming a freelance writer. She is a co-host on the online radio show Mom Writer’s Talk Radio ( Her first book, Domestically Challenged, is due out in May. You can order her book at, and If you are looking for something to do in the meantime, you can read her blog at

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