In Defense of Being Tidy

Many are turning their thoughts to that annual rite of spring: spring cleaning. There is no shortage of online articles offering advice on how to spruce up your place, not only for spring, but any time. Maybe you’ve seen the articles: 5 Things Tidy People Don’t Do. The 9 Secrets of Tidy Families. 10 Ways to Sabotage Your Tidy Spouse Today! I made the last one up, but my family could write that article, no problem. If you read the comments following such articles, and I do, you find a few brave souls who admit to being tidy, but most comments range from slightly miffed to “how dare you!” You can also scroll down to find the inevitable meme: my house is messy because we’re busy making memories. Well, OK then.

That idea of messiness being synonymous with freedom and creativity is nothing new. The saying, “a neat desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,” is an old one. In my case, it’s true. I’m an overthinker. A muller. A worrier. My mind is a constant jumble of what ifs, what abouts and why-didn’t-I-say-thats. And clutter, well clutter spins my worried mind into overdrive. Clutter doesn’t like me. I don’t like it. No, it does not spark joy. I’m the kind of chick that cleans my kitchen before I cook. The bed is made every day. The house is cleaned before vacay.

By the way, cleaning the house before going on vacay is a thing. On a recent Facebook post, several women admitted to the same practice. Who wants to come home from vacation just to clean house? It’s exhausting. So to members of the “before vacay cleaning crew,” it just makes sense to tidy up; so when you get home, you can plop down on the couch and recover from all the fun you had. Being regularly tidy gives you more time to do what you want to do.

So, if we’re talking about keeping it simple, wouldn’t it be simpler just to give up on the whole being tidy idea? Just let it go? I suppose. Yet, it’s how some of us are built. Some of us come by our tidiness naturally. My granny, though poor, always kept a clean house. My mother, a tidier extraordinaire, had a white couch when I was a kid. Not white and covered in plastic. White. She still has it; although she did cover it a few years ago. I still feel weird sitting on it.

Visitors to our house often remark on its neatness. Perfect is usually the adjective of choice. Is there a bit of snark behind the compliment? Maybe. Yet, it’s not about being perfect or better than. I’m certainly not: I cuss often, eat too much candy, and I’m chronically late (read: optimistic).

I used to feel guilty when people would comment on our house. Like being neat was somehow wrong. It’s not. It’s not a judgment or value statement. My daughter’s room is a holy terror, but I love her no less. I have friends who don’t tidy up, but they spark joy in me every day.

Yes, with so much going on in the world, caring about whether your house is tidy is a small issue. It is an issue many seem to be concerned with, however. Google “tidy” and you get 149 million entries. Google “too much stuff,” you get over one billion entries. Hmm, maybe that’s why Marie Kondo is reportedly worth eight million bucks.