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Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere or Cleanliness is next to Godliness

I am, by nature, a neat person.

You may call me freak if you like, but I actually enjoy sorting, organizing, tidying, and even to some degree cleaning. I'm a 'do a little as you go along and the job at hand never gets too large' sort of person.

Yes, that's true: I have the neat freak gene.

I'm sure some Freudian or Jungian psychologist would have a field day with meaning, but to be honest, I don't find it a problem because it doesn't interfere in my life. Who cares why I prefer my house uncluttered, tidy and clean? I just do. I get pleasure from making it so and pleasure from keeping it so. I feel a sense of peace and calm when I look at my nicely ordered and clean living room. Better than yoga, for me. I know my zen. I know my happy place. And it is neat and clean there.

I also can quit any time. No, seriously, I can. Days like today, when I got relatively (okay exactly) no sleep whatsoever last night and have too many other things to do like play Beauty Shop with the kids (you may or may not know but my friends...that is messy!) I simply let it go. So the dishwasher didn't get unloaded today, the floors didn't get vacuumed. Eh. The earth is still spinning.

Plus, my freakish neatness or my neatish freakness (however you prefer it) stays in my home.

Yes, that's true: I don't judge others on their level of order.

One of my really good friends is my total utter polar opposite in so many ways. For example, she is really, really not in to the tidying thing. Cleaning, eh, sure, as needed. Clutter, oh definitely. I accept that about her and her house as easily as I accept that she has better fashion that I do (or maybe that's for her to accept about me LOL). It's her house...her ways. Her styles.

We've had this discussion about a thousand times, she and I.

"I don't care that your house is as your house is," I reassure her, again.

"Messy, you mean," she tells me woefully.

"As it is," I insist, "Messy is relative. Do you think it's messy?"

"Yes," she tells me, again.

"Okay," I try a new tack, "But does it bother you?"

"Not so much. I have other things more important than tidying."

"There you go," I say, "If it's not a problem, it's not a problem."

"But...I should tidy it up. It does get to me sometimes. I ought to be better at cleaning and tidying."

Now it's a problem. My friend has a different set of priorities. She prefers to spend her time at other activities, besides cleaning. Unlike me, she doesn't need to have the house in order before leaving for the day.

So why, then, does she feel this guilt and pressure to do so?

When did tidy become the right way to be?

The other side to this coin is the backlash against clean and tidy, against people like me. I've been the brunt of teasing---usually good natured, that I usually take in stride---about neat freakness. I've had my unclutterd home and perfectionist tendencies mocked. I've laughed off the OCD jokes, and even made a few myself.

I've begun to believe that it really all goes back to this expectation that we ought to have a TV-worthy home a la June Cleaver and our guilt when we can't reach this unrealistic expectation.

So step back from the brooms, my friends, and consider why you are cleaning and tidying. Is there something you'd rather do instead? Does this cleaning need to happen? Or are you doing it out of a sense of obligation, someone else's standards that you think are imposed on you?

Obviously at some point for health and safety reasons we have to pick up the roller skate to put in a safe spot and mop up the floor that our shoes have begun to stick to.

But I propose---and let the record reflect this is coming from a neatie's mouth---that as with anything, cleaning and tidying can run on a spectrum. And the only measurement to use is your own yardstick of livability and comfort.

Let go of the guilt.

Related Note: Kyla posted a reminder about safety in the products around us. Check out her post. As someone with autoimmune and endocrine disorder, I am sensitive to this topic. If you are interested in how to make some simple cleaning and maintenance products, check out this Wild Oats article. It also suggests a great book. For what it's worth, my plumber endorses that baking soda and vinegar solution. I do use Seventh Generation and Shaklee products for convenience. Someday I will indulge in my ranty rant about the lack of US oversight of products for consumer safety.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


Kyla said…
I'm a cluttered, cluttered mess, which is why I rarely invite people over. We are clean, but not neat, if that is a reasonable distinction. But like you said, it is just differing priorities and personalities. I enjoyed this post.

The chemical stuff still has me freaking. *sigh*
Liv said…
I find myself in an odd position because I feel crappy about having a messy house---do my best to keep the kids' rooms clean and the kitchen clean, but I just don't find myself inspired to be neat. To me, nothing is better than yoga. Oh, and anyone who really studies yoga would say that it's all yoga, so there goes my argument. :)
Snoskred said…
Funny, you just caught me with this post when I returned to my desk after cleaning my bathroom. ;)

I like Trinature products. Environmentally friendly and they smell great. I'm especially keen on their dishwashing detergent because it contains no caustics or chlorinating compounds and no toxic fumes. And they last for ages and you don't need to use much.

Even though I'm a germophobe I really don't spend much time cleaning. It's only when I can't deal with something that I have to act on it. ;)

flutter said…
come clean my house?
Girlplustwo said…
do you do house calls (at my desk at work?)

and again, i am sorry to miss your hmmm day's been an incredibly hectic week and i am just gettng caught up.
Unknown said…
I'm a slob. I'm the girl in the Friend's episode where Ross is so grossed out he can't make out with her.

Now, if I could just have someone like Monica come over to clean!

Seriously, I struggle with balancing a moderate desire for less clutter and more cleanliness with mustering up the energy and caring to actually do something about it on a regular basis.

When it was just me and Paul, it would get out of hand and in a few hours we could manage it. Once Colin came along, it got harder to manage, but we could still do it. Now, we've added Marley and it is that straw that broke the proverbial cleaning camel's back.

If I could only have someone come over--not to help me clean but to keep me company. This extrovert would get more done.

I figure if we can make it another couple of years, it will get better.

I will always pick people and reading over cleaning and straightening.
S said…
I'm a neat freak only when I'm stressed. Otherwise I don't care that much. So how neat my house is is a good measure of my emotional health. ;)
Anonymous said…
Feel free to come by and sort my stuff anytime.
Gina Pintar said…
I like clean. I feel my house is clean but yes there is clutter. I feel at home with the clutter. This clutter makes it *my* space. That minimalist look, not for me. Anyone could live there it does not say "Me, I live here".

I am not bothered by the clutter and don't have a problem inviting people over. Ok, the toys, yes they are starting to take over and I need to do something, SOON.

I could write a book on the chemicals. Lemon smell, does not equal clean. Clean does not have a smell! Very frustrating.
Gina Pintar said…
Thank for that Wild Oats link! We have ants and I am resisting on spraying chemicals in the house. I am going to try that home made solution.
Her Bad Mother said…
I clean because my husband doesn't, and because I don't want my shoes to stick to the floor. But the truth of it is that the neatest person in our house is WonderBaby. Make of that what you will.
Bea said…
I know what you mean - mess only stresses me out when it's MY mess. Somebody else's messy house is no problem.

And I can walk away from the neatness anytime - except for the time when I'm depressed or overwhelmed and then somehow the tiniest bit of disorder becomes catastrophic. (I also clean less during those times, too, though - not a good cycle to get into.)
I'm not so much bothered by not cleaning -- I can leave the dishes sitting in the sink or the piano undusted.

What I can't take is clutter.

Hate it. Can't stand to have things all over thee floor or dining room table. Which is probably why I'm so annoyed by my husband's packrat tendencies. It's just more ... stuff. More stuff that will end up where it doesn't belong -- like the big, boxed power tool that has been sitting in a our dining room FOR A MONTH. Just put it away already!

mpearl said…
This is a constant battle for me. I have never been neat, but not a clutterbug. I can throw things away. Since the third child though , OMG, my family is lucky if we have clean matching socks. If I had enough money the first thing I would do is higher a cleaning service. I know that is awful, but cleaning, organizing is not my strong suit.
It is good to know , coming from a self proclaimed neat freak, that you don't care about other people's homes. Sometimes I put off inviting people over because my house is messy. One of my friends, who does have OCD, tells me she doesn't care about my house and we are still friends after 20years.
Janet said…
I keep reading your comments when I'm leaving comments. Clicked over to read something longer ...

I think I'm a reformed clean freak. Trying to keep the house both tidy and clean, with three kids and two adults living here, was making me irritable and irrational. Now I strive mostly for tidy and I clean for company. Or when I start sticking to the floors. Whichever comes first.
Lawyer Mama said…
I cannot stand dirty. The dishes are obsessively cleaned & toilets always sparkling. Except after my husband pees, but I digress.

I have a bit, OK alot, of clutter though. My dining room table is the depository for all the crap and mail we haven't put away and stuff seems to collect on my kitchen counters. My closets are a mess! Except for my shoes. Those are very orderly.

I use to always be neat and organized. Now I just don't have time to be that way. And by the time kid #2 arrived, I didn't really care who saw my clutter either. That was a HUGE step for me!
Our big challenge is how much to bust our kids' butts for their rooms. It's a losing battle and we can choose to keep harping on them, which adds stress to everybody's lives, or let it slide until it starts spilling out into the hallway.

One thing that inspires them though is when they run out of clean clothes because they're too sloppy and lazy to put them in the laundry. We always laugh when it becomes their little "emergency."
Anonymous said…
Nicely said! I'm a clean (tidy) freak too -- I wish I weren't, but I just need things put away. But I certainly reject the idea that things MUST be that way all the time for everyone!
Julie Pippert said…
I'm replying but may I say...I'm getting a little creeped out by always being comment #13? LOL


Jeff, oh YEAH the kids' rooms and the so-called Playroom aka Land of the Lost aka Junk Room.

No I shouldn't be too mean about's fairly tidy and clean, now and again LOL.

I *try* to keep in mind that that's their rooms, so although much messier and more cluttered than I can usually take, I'm pretty hands off their rooms.

Like you said, it can just add more stress harping than dealing. LOL

I do require a clear floor (so I can vacuum), no stashing under the bed, and clothes in laundry basket. No food or drink.

To reiterate my seriousness in this, occasionally the Garbage Collector comes through, followed shortly thereafter by a trip to the charity place.

My husband, now, sadly, I can't whip out the garbage bag to reiterate my seriousness to him. LOL

LM, my secret addiction is to products that promise to keep your bathroom clean for you. At least I tend to buy Method for this. But I did get sucked in by some stuff at Home Depot for the potties...waste o'money.

Kaboom if it matters.

I hear you on the lack of time and fighting upstream and all.

Oh the environmental waste of extra mailings. Kills me. And clutters me too. Not sure which is worse LOL.


Janet, Hi! Glad you came by! I think you and I are birds of a feather on the clean issue. Sounds about like here. I have more stringent standards for downstairs (where company sees) and less for upstairs. Triaging, LOL.


Mpearl why is a cleaning service awful? Oh no no no as I told Goon Squad Sarah, I am a big fan of subcontracting's good for everyone. :) I'm happy to call in the pros about twice a year. That's my Mother's Day and Birthday gift to myself LOL.

Anyway we can't all be Alice.

I think clutter is the hardest part so if you can toss you are good.

And I really don't care about other people's home. :)


Cathy, I think it's the clutter most for me too, and I am also married to a careless packrat. You know, the sterotypical guy who walks in, drops his shoes one spot (middle of the floor), drapes dress shirt on bannister, opens bag of chips to snack on before dinner and leaves them open on desk in office...

And I know he reads this...and will sputter in indignation, but will concede that all of the preceding describes last night perfectly.


B&P, I have been know to throw the weight of my anxiety, denial, or avoidance into cleaning. I don't know, at least I am accomplishing something good while gaining perspective LOL. I think I may have once upon a time confessed I get alone time through vacuuming.


HBM, I think it is awesome Wonderbaby is the neatest. I am amazed, jealous, a tad awed.


Gina, you are welcome and OMG you should work for Method Home Products. You sound like them LOL! "For some reason people equate blue with cleaning windows." freaking cracks me up.

The ant stuff works. So does the drain stuff.


Sarah, I have been known to...;)


SM, and hopefully your family knows this, right? Good lesson. :)


M-L, do you know, this is my issue wrt painting. If only someone would come over and entertain me with chatting. I'd keep you company...

See at least you are a Slob and Unashamed. WTG!


Jen, ooooohhhh office sorting. Give me one month and I am there.

No worries, Jen.


Flutter, well as to the cleaning bit....but I will help declutter and organize! I'm like the Helen Buttigieg of the US LOL.


Snos, do not know those products, maybe they are in the US, I'll check. Always good to know one more brand. No sponges, right? :)


Liv, there you have it...I do call it my yoga, sorting and organizing and tidying. Now, you need to talk to Mary-Lue, no shame. :)


Kyla, it's funny how in the comments people really varied between clean yet cluttered or tidy yet just clean enough. I'm glad you liked. You skeeves will end a little about the chemicals, trust me. And then you'll find Erma's and all will be well. :)
Julie Pippert said…
Or...if you delay long enough coming in and get to be #19 instead LOL at me.
HomeGrownLife said…
Oh my. You could have inserted my name in every spot where you said "I/me/mine/my"!!! I too keep a neat/tidy home despite (or in spite) of having three small children living in it. For example, I just had 12 children in my home for a b-day party this afternoon. They left at 4pm and by 7pm the house was spic and span... everything in it's place.
Thank you for the permission to let go and enjoy other activities and worthwhile pursuits besides sweeping!!!

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