Cleaning your desk, folding laundry, and watering houseplants – not everyone appreciates them. But what is it about these chores that makes them so strangely satisfying?

Puttering may be beneficial because it takes our attention away from the issues bothering us. Unlike other forms of distraction, such as playing video games or watching TV, puttering is proactive and useful, increasing our “perceived control”. When we are anxious, a sense of powerlessness may raise the level of stress hormones. This can impair the immune system’s ability to function over time. Ideally, we would deal with the distressing situation head-on. However, according to psychologist Stacey Bedwell, simply having the ability to change our surroundings can give us a sense of freedom, which could explain why cleaning and organizing our homes can be so beneficial. “It doesn’t necessarily have to align with actual control,” she continues, “as long as we believe, or feel, we have control.” But the advantages don’t stop there. If you’re fiddling with organizing and decluttering, you might discover that having a cleaner environment is a source of peace in and of itself. Organizing objects into groups (for example, by color) can aid brain navigation by offering more obvious hints.

Cleaning and organizing can all help us de-stress. During this time of the pandemic, we may now see why our productive fidgeting could remedy the restless mind.