Cleaning, Tidying and Organizing

For the longest time I didn’t understand there was a difference between cleaning something, and tidying something. As for the word “organize” I never understood where that fit into the equation. This mystery remained unsolved for me until I read Marie Kondo’s book a few years ago. So, until then I had understood the words to be interchangeable, but that couldn’t be more incorrect.

The Methods

Clean : Free from Dirt, Marks, or Stains

Cleaning is the act of taking something dirty and making it spotless, giving it new life and making it safe to be in contact with. Cleaning is polishing your chrome, treating mildew and soap scum in your shower. It’s vacuuming your floors to lift out the dirt and debris that naturally comes with living in a space. It’s dusting to remove settled air-born particles off your surfaces, so that you don’t breathe it in. To clean is so remove the things that can harm us and make us ill from your living space.

“Cleaning out the closets” isn’t actually cleaning, but rather tidying. Cleaning a drawer typically means using organization methods to categorize items and bring order for easier access to the things you need.

Tidy : Arrange Neatly and in Order

Going through your home and discarding objects, or making sure every item has a designated location, is tidying. Tidying should happen quickly, be simple to do and completely. When my mom told me to “clean up” my toys as a kid, what she meant was to tidy up and return my belongings to their designated space, or find one for them.

Marie Kondo talks about tidying as being a special occasion that shouldn’t be done that often, but I disagree with that. What she’s referring to in this claim is a review of your belongings, which I agree should be treated as a special occasion, but “tidying” might not be the best word for it.

Tidying should be done daily to the spaces in your living space, to return your belongings neatly to their homes, and create order and structure. It makes you’re home a happy place by eliminating worry and stress over strewn about objects; tidying is a powerful tool.

Organize : Arrange into a Structured Whole; Order

Organizing is one of my favorite things to do, which may sound a little crazy. I constantly look for new ways to organize, tips and tricks, products and methods to better store goods and belongings and to maximize the efficiency of the space in my apartment.

To organize is to categorize and to give structure to your things. Organizing can sometimes be confused with tidying, and the two often do go hand-in-hand. Tidying ensures things have a space, and organizing ensures that space has structure and logic for ease of access.

In Theory

The way I understand the relationship of the methods above is to combine them together and create, in theory, the ultimate way to care for your home and your belongings. Although cleaning tidying and organizing exist separately and can be performed separately to achieve smaller goals, I truly believe that combining them eliminates clutter, keeps your home cleaner, and will achieve the overall look and finish that you are striving for.

Step One: Tidy

Go room-by-room and gather items that don’t belong in a particular space, returning them to their rightful places. I have a bin, or pile, for items that belong in the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Once I’ve gathered all the items, I take them to their places and put them away.

Step Two: Organize

I tend to only think of organization as categorizing my things. Hidden, or in plain view, I use organization to keep all my things tidy and easy to get to. Take shoes for instance, I’ve got a bin for mine and Trevor has a bin for his. This means we no longer have to root through each other’s shoes in search of that perfect pair of shoes for our outfit.

Step Three: Clean

This is where the actual cleaning comes into play. Once you’ve eliminated items that don’t belong in a space and categorized the goods that needed it, cleaning surfaces and flooring is simple to do.

In Practice

I let the living room go for a few days to bring you guys this gem of a photo. There’s just so much going on in there: presents that belong under the tree that is (literally) right next to the table, a rug that belongs on the kitchen floor, a rug that belongs on the bathroom floor, markers and tape, gift wrapping and strewn about blankets and pillows.

Following the 3-step method makes quick work of sprucing up a space. This took maybe fifteen minutes to tidy up, organize and clean the living room. Even after most of the week of not cleaning up at all.


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