Clean versus Tidy

I remarked on Mindy‘s blog yesterday that I was good at tidy but bad at clean. In my house, things are often where they’re supposed to be, but there tends to be dust and cat hair. In contrast to a friend’s house which is cluttered toy chaos, but everything from the bathroom fixtures to the baseboards are sanitized. The reason that it happens this way in my house is because I can’t think in clutter. I can’t. I become a dysfunctional single-celled distraction organism. Grime? I so thoroughly don’t care. (Ok, I will care eventually but it takes more than lime scale on the shower door to reduce me to a fidgeting babbler over my email.) I am content to be a mediocre Martha when it comes to clean as long as the clutter levels stay below neuro-disruptive levels.

As a service to my readers who may find themselves confused to the particular distinctions of tidy versus clean for various household circumstances, I offer the following:

Clean: Dressing the children in freshly laundered, pressed clothing.
Tidy: Knowing where the children are.

Clean: Groomed, brushed cats with trimmed claws.
Tidy: Cats with some fur and claws shorter than an average prison shank.

Clean: A bathroom with gleaming, disinfected  surfaces and clean towels.
Tidy: A bathroom where the bacterial colonies have not yet unionized.

Clean: Kitchens with wiped counters and grease-free appliances.
Tidy: Kitchens without yellow crime-scene tape or obvious smoke damage.

Clean: Streak and spot free windows.
Tidy: Windows that are glass and not plywood.

Clean: Vacuumed, stain-free carpet.
Tidy: Carpet that started out brown.

Clean: Floors that gleam and have no crumbs.
Tidy: Floors that let you have your foot back after you have stepped on them.

Clean: A desk with organizers for bills, correspondence and office supplies.
Tidy: Remembering that you have a desk.

Clean: Furniture and bookshelves that are free of dust.
Tidy: Furniture and bookshelves with dust that does not warrant a chisel.

It really all comes down to standards.

Mine are just broader than most.

Broad in the way that First Amendment protection is interpreted broad.

Perhaps next I should write my own personal Constitution. I feel that some of those amendments need special re-writing to meet my specific domestic needs.

This post is linked to the Wordup, Yo! bloghop hosted by your friendly neighborhood Nerd Mafia. Go to Don Liz, Don KLZ or Don Natalie’s domiciles for further wordage.


Filed under Humor

57 Responses to Clean versus Tidy

  1. liz

    hmmm…i’m trying to figure out which i am. i would say more of the “things are put in their place” than the other.

  2. Currently I can not lay claim to clean nor tidy. But I have plans. Do plans count? Maybe I’ll call them dreams of domestic mastery.

    • Plans count BIG TIME.

      I have lots of plans. They’re almost as good as the real thing.

      And international mailing logistic email coming at you in the next day or so.

  3. I used to be a neat freak. After 2 years of writing, I don’t even bother to make my bed (except to change the sheets of course) but my room is cluttered but clean…Clutter used to disturb me, it doesn’t any more because I am too caught up in what I am writing to even notice it.

  4. Hmm. Well, I’m definitely not tidy. I like tidy. I just don’t know how to do it. Well, that’s not totally true. Sometimes I make sure that my piles are tidy.

    I lean more towards clean. In the sense that when the toilet hair starts taking swipes at me when I’m doing my business, I scrub it. And that one time it left a scar on my butt? I put one of those blue tablet thingies in the tank. I can’t have that kind of violence in my toilet.

  5. KLZ

    I’d say I’m more tidy than clean.

    But to be sure: remind me again how long the average prison shank is these days?

  6. So, I’m tidy but not clean…

    I want to see this Personal Constitution – sounds like it could be very interesting.


  7. I am tidy…but I wish I was clean. I can NOT think in clutter either. But there is cat hair…and crumbs….and water spots…and dust….

  8. i’m never clean, occasionally tidy. I actually prefer the term organized mess. I know where EVERYTHING is, but NOTHING is in its place. For example, I have 4 piles of clothes in my room, 2 dirty, 2 clean. I know for a fact that the turquoise linen skirt that i plan to wear on Monday for my lunch date with a friend is in Clean pile #1, in the corner by my nightstand, about halfway down on the right side. The white top that goes with it is next to my spanx in dirty pile #2 on the back side, very bottom.
    So you see, my excellent memory makes cleaning a complete waste of my time.

    • LOL…ok, that is the best rationalization for not cleaning that I have ever, ever heard.

      And if I didn’t have a horribly deteriorating track record for correspondence lately (you know, the kind with checks in it) I would so use it.

  9. Tidy for most of the time.

    Clutter drives me nuts.

    And then, every one in a while?

    I will focus on uncleanliness and go berserk.

    And CLEAN.

    My family hates when this happens, as I make them help. And they?

    Are barely tidy.


  10. I am extremely tidy. At this very moment, I am arranging my dust bunnies into a perfect little row on the window sill.

  11. I think I lean more toward tidy. I like all the clutter put away but dusting is only done during the full moon during months with an R in them

  12. Ok, you know I’m a clean freak. But it comes and goes. Tidy sounds so much better to me now that you’ve got it all sorted out. Maybe I’ll try that. Think of all the free time I’d have!

  13. If I had to really choose: it’d be clean, not tidy. I clean the floors, counters, bathrooms, and dust and vacuum. The place is always a mess , though, but it’s clean.

    • Elizabeth

      You just described my home!! Have you been here before? The Health Dept hasn’t shut my kitchen down yet & no one’s died from my cooking so I batting 1,000 for now!!

    • See, my place isn’t a mess…but the floors embarrass me.

      Plus, way dark floors. BAD move.

      I’ve been meaning to post about it.

      It’s that bad.

  14. I definitely prefer clean to tidy. Though I do like tidy, I have to have a home for everything. If there’s not a home for it, it becomes clutter, and I can’t fight it because I have no solution.

    I had guy roommates before I got married which was good because I learned BH (Before Husband) that they only operate on tidy, not clean. When I moved in with my roommates, who were very tidy, I dusted the mantle and was shocked at the inch of dirt I found. (Ok, maybe inch is a bit of hyperbole.) I said in a halfway teasing manner, “Geez, when was the last time you guys dusted up here?” They looked at each other and said, “I don’t think we’ve ever dusted up there.” EVER? They’d lived there FIVE YEARS before I moved in. “Yeah, it never occurred to us that it would need to be dusted.” Important lesson learned for marriage: if the hubs can’t SEE the dirt, it does not exist, so don’t be mad at him if he doesn’t clean it.

    • Himself – believe it or not – outdoes me in clean. Truly. When he sets his mind for something to be clean, it SPARKLES.

      It makes me feel rather inadequate, in fact.

      But I’m the one who keeps the house clutter-free and that gets us by for a REALLY long time.

      Far longer than is appropriate.

  15. Elizabeth

    Well, I like things clean & tidy but it seems like an exercise in frustration because it doesn’t STAY that way. Why is that? Could it be that there is another being in my house who’d rather not bother cleaning behind himself? Hmmmm. I have not, however, had the Health Dept. shut me down.
    Clutter, on the other hand, seems to be reproducing overnight into quantities that are unfathomable. I really, really, feel bad about it. Until I saw the show about hoarding, I wasn’t really alarmed. And while I’m just the tiniest bit upset, I still haven’t done anything about the clutter. Although it doesn’t reach anywhere near the level of “clutter” on the show, I need to clean it up. My husband wants me to. My daughter wants me to. I want to. But, you know, I used to have a really clean, neat home (in another life, by another last name) & it didn’t really get me anywhere then so it seems like a useless endeavor to de-clutter now. I can keep the door shut on most all of it. Hubby really stays in one room most of the time when he’s home (listening & playing music). I’m good with the living room. It is really neat. And we both wind up in our bedroom when it is time to sleep, so maybe there’s not a problem after all.
    If anyone knows the name of the housekeeping fairy, will you pass it along to me? I’d love to give her a call for help. Just a one-time thing you know. Just straightened everything up; get rid of stuff; etc. I’d be good from there on. I promise. I promise on my grandchild’s photo. Way a minute, its around here somewhere.

    • This comment made me laugh!

      I would LOVE for the cleaning fairy to stop by my house!

      And I promise if I see said fairy, I will send her (or him) to your place by way of a left turn at Albuquerque.

      “in another life, by another last name”…*giggle!*

  16. AZLB

    I read the whole thing going am I clean or tidy….I would have to say I am in the middle….but more on the tidy side. However thanks to some helpful clean people you will never know 🙂

  17. I am a declutterer (tidy) but not a cleaner. As opposed to being a super cleaner and sanitizer, my approach is to overwhelm any dirty area with tons of toxic chemicals in the hopes that the medicinal smell confuses people.

    • I’ve been known to spray air-freshener all over the place to create the “illusion” of clean.

      Also, running the vacuum cleaner briefly over the rug to create wheel-marks. Your brain will tell you that the carpet has been vacuumed, whether any suction was applied or no.

  18. I’m tidy! I’m tidy!

    According to this list? I’m tidy!

    Hooray for me!

    I will now skip off into the sunset with my tidy badge and a bottle of Pledge in my pocket.

  19. LOL I’m definitely tidy!

  20. Before Katie came along, I was so psychotic that I used to make Craig dry the kitchen sink out with a towel every time he used it.

    Now? If he can actually get past the “soaking” dishes to get to the sink, it’s a miracle.

    Sigh. I miss clean.

    • I can’t say I miss it…I was NEVER good at it.

      I mean, I can do it if, say a mother-in-law or home appraiser is coming, but otherwise…

      (hee hee…you made Craig dry the sink with a towel??)

  21. I am clean, my husband is tidy. He has to have tidy, just as you do.

    However, he would prefer not to be the one doing the tidying. The act of tidying makes him crabby.

    The act of being the one to do the cleaning and get scolded for being untidy makes me crabby.

    And so it goes.

    • Relationships would go so much more smoothly if only the universe aligned our crabby meters up a little more functionally.

      I get crabby when too much of the tidying is not my mess.

      Because then if I get busy or distracted, the house is chaos.

      Then again, when it IS all my mess, I get crabby anyway.

      Never mind. There is no winning this game.

  22. I’m also super tidy but not terribly clean – man, if this keeps up, I’m going to have to declare us soul mates.

  23. I’m tidy but not clean, too. There’s usually a fair amount of gray cat hair floating around my apartment. I’m just glad the gray hair isn’t mind.

  24. I’ve just given up and settled for hygenic.

  25. Having just returned home from a long weekend away, I am pleased to report the place is clean *and* tidy. That won’t last long, however. We’re baaaack.

    Several years ago I read a book — or saw a woman, I forget, and for the life of me I can’t remember enough detail to yahoo! it — and the recommendation was to clean your sink before you went to bed. Make it nice and clean and shiny so that in the morning you came downstairs and voila! your day was instantly going to be better because, hey — you were starting with a clean sink. I tried it for about 4 days before I forgot about it — so clearly it didn’t revolutionize my life.

    Her other suggestion was to clear off the place in your kitchen where the clutter fire starts — that one place in your kitchen (usually a counter) that gathers all the misc mail, receipts, school forms, phone messages etc. Don’t allow that chaos to grow and you’ll find happiness.

    Don’t know about happiness, but I find that the kitchen clutter thing is a lot like black mold. You can get rid of it, but it’s never really gone. It’ll be back in a flash.

    So I am very content with piles of tidy around the house. No one should touch it but me — I know where everything is. Paws off.

    Thanks for the list, though. Am going to print it and leave it in a pile near the bathroom for the Husband to see….

  26. I am on the tidy spectrum somewhere and will never be on the clean unless someone wants to pay for someone else to do the cleaning. (The floor one was hysterical.)

    • Himself is better at it than I am, believe it or not.

      But I’m WAY better at tidy than he is.

      Although I sometimes go a little nutso and throw important things away.

      Once, a tax refund. No kidding. We had to apply to get a replacement.

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