Between long work weeks and robust fitness schedules, we barely have time to keep up with our social lives let alone come home and clean the house every day. No shame. But there is one room you may want to make an extra effort to keep tidy: the kitchen.
While testing the idea that cluttered and chaotic environments stress us out, prompting us to reach for the junk food, researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab recently found that clutter in the kitchen led people to consume more calories—and, conversely, a clean kitchen environment cut calories. (P.S. Is What's On Your Kitchen Counter Causing Your Weight Gain?)
In a study of 98 women, the researchers asked half of the participants to wait for someone in either a clean, quiet kitchen and the other half to wait in a messy kitchen with newspapers scattered on the table and dirty dishes in the sink. Both kitchen environments had bowls of cookies, crackers, and carrots sitting out. They found that the women who had to wait in the chaotic environment consumed more overall, especially when it came to junk food—they had twice as many cookies as the group in the clean environment!
Interestingly, the researchers also manipulated the mood of the participants before they walked into the kitchen environments. Some of the women were first asked to write about a time in their lives when they felt particularly in control while others were asked to write about a time when they felt particularly out of control. The group that felt more in control walking into the kitchens consumed about a hundred fewer calories overall than the women who walked in feeling out of control. (Find out How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health.)
What does this mean for our cleaning routine? At the very least, we know stress leads us to consume more calories. So if you're someone who can't stand the sight of a mess or gets super agitated by clutter, keeping your eating environment clean and tidy isn't just better for your overall health, it's better for your waistline. (Here's How to Stock Your Kitchen If You Want to Lose Weight.)