Some psychologists use the word "nesting" to indicate a series of different concepts:
Nesting and the Maternal Instinct
In this case, the word "nesting" indicates some of the emotions and feelings that a future mother feels when she takes her child home, and the changes she will have to make to the home to welcome him. This psychological atmosphere is particularly strong with the birth of the first child, but is repeated, although differently, for all of the other children that follow.
These thoughts cement themselves in all the practical activities of decorating, buying the bed, preparing the baby's room, the furniture that needs to be put inside, as well as how to reorganize the house for the arrival of an extra person. The house where the couple were living is transformed into a house where a child will live as well. It is therefore logical that new things must be studied and organized so as to accommodate the needs of a child. Furniture can be moved around and the house is reorganized in general.
Many couples, as the date of birth approaches, also have regular maintenance done on the house: they paint the walls, reorganize, and eliminate useless objects. These are positive and often tender activities that prepare the environment for the acceptance of a newborn.
The future mother and father, as they do these practical activities, also create a space in their minds for the baby. Thinking about the coming child, while working on the preparations, helps change the mindset of the single person into that of a parent. Even the thought that not all of the space in the home will be at complete disposal, and that there will be hours when the TV and the stereo will have to be turned down so as not to wake the sleeping baby, that the desires and needs of the adults will have to be mediated with those of a small child, helps understand the dedication necessary to raise a human being.
Nesting in the Life of a Couple
The word "nesting" is also used to describe all of the activities done together in a couple, with or without children, to improve the household. Generally these activities are purchasing and organizing furniture, maintenance or renovations, buying new decor or furnishings.
These activities have a practical and real effect that cements itself in the work done, and also has an effect at mental level.
Psychologically, taking care of a house together with a partner means investing energy in a common project, "believing", thinking that the couple that is living together in the house has a future.
Working in the house together with a partner often favors communication between the two, that from the practical level of what is being done physically can also pass on to deeper meanings. "Hand me that hammer," can start a talk about the more important aspects of being together. Sometimes, as objects or furniture are being placed, memories of similar actions done together years before come to mind, memories of how the couple lived together in the years past. The two partners, united simply by doing something together and are not there to talk, might actually just do that.
Nesting and Space Cleaning
The psychologists that believe in a New Age concept of life, often have the words "nesting" and "space cleaning" coincide.
"Space Cleaning" is an expression used in America to indicate an activity inspired by the Chinese "Feng Shui".
In Chinese, the word "Feng shui" means "wind" and "water", therefore indicating the elements that transform the earth and that, with their influence, determine the "healthy" characteristics of a certain place or home.
It is an ancient Chinese Taoist doctrine, according to which depending on the position of places and homes, in correspondence the energy of nature, to the planets and constellations, people living there can be favored or damaged.
Houses to be built were oriented and planned based on this theory. In already existing houses, the beds and furniture were reorganized, so as to favor and harmonize the flow of cosmic energy in the household.
This theory has been recently englobed in the New Age ideology.
In the United States, "Feng Shui", modified in order to help Westerners understand it better, has been renamed "Space Cleaning", and, according to some psychologists, it can be considered an improvement to the house, much like nesting.
Nesting Syndrome (Mysophobia: Cleaning Obsession - The Fear of Dirt)
When a person is obsessed with house cleaning, dedicates more than normal amounts of time to cleaning or cleans more deeply than is necessary, we can find ourselves in front of psychological suffering, a neurosis which is becoming a phobia.
What is a phobia? Do these irrational thoughts mean something?
Phobia is part of neurosis, meaning those psychological disturbances that have no physical or organic cause, but are alterations of the functioning of thoughts.
Nobody is born phobic, rather phobia is an attempt at defense gone wrong, it has been build during a persons lifetime, a person who has grown up in a psychologically ill environment, in order to combat anxiety.
In turn, anxiety comes from a so-called "repressed psychological conflict", meaning a situation in which the subject refuses to face a contrast in his/her life; pretending it does not exist, s/he eliminates it from his/her consciousness and transfers it to something less difficult to face, for example a phobia.
Freud, in describing this psychological mechanism, used the terms "repression" (indicating the operation with which something is removed from consciousness, that is, the subject pretends a conflict never happened) and "displacement" (the psychological ability where the emotions felt when facing a certain conflicting thought are transferred to another though that is considered easier to deal with).
In the first elaboration of his theory, Freud believe that the conflict occurred between the "principle of pleasure" and the "principle of reality"; afterwards, he highlighted the contrast between "sex drive" and the "ego instinct"; he concluded by indicating the conflict between "Eros" and "Thanatos" that is the desire of living, and the will to destroy.
In modern terms, we can say that the conflict is connected to the growth of a person and the acquisition of independence from parents and the family of origin.
Healthy parents favor the independence of their children and help them acquire the necessary instruments for growth. Neurotic parents who are psychologically ill, block this process, establishing with their children a morbid relationship, too close and too intense, imposed on the principle " you're either with me or you're not; but you can't stay against me".
It is because of this extremely close relationship, that the children of these parents have difficulty reaching psychological independence. For them it is very difficult to face the conflict: obey their parents (and therefore remain children forever) or build their own independence (and therefore disobey their parents).
Not everyone is able to. Many of them, rather than face the contrast with their parents, remove it, they pretend to ignore it, and therefore start a neurotic mechanism that can develop into various forms. Phobia is one of these forms of neurosis.
Phobia impedes the person from fighting the true battle, which is that of true autonomy, and keeps the person in an infantile condition, characterized by the fear of acting.
In the life of a phobic person, novelty must be feared and avoided, feelings of guilt are always hiding around the corner, as soon as a thought about family independence comes around. Because of this way of thinking, a phobic person is insecure in facing life; the psychological barrier that should defend him/her from the outside, does not work well and s/he is afraid of being "invaded" by the world. Those who live with phobic neurosis are repressed and ignore how their body works and how emotions are developed; they are afraid of their own impulsiveness and the expression of instinct; parents are a powerful authority and it is difficult and painful to change that. Through phobias, affection and emotions, instinct and spontaneity are kept at bay; all these feelings are substituted by rigid schematics "fear/not fear" which, to the phobic person, paradoxically, seem easier to face.