Which adjective best describes your housekeeping: Neat? Clean? Organized? All three? None of the above?


While I put forth a good faith effort at tackling all three, I know I'm better on some of those fronts than others on any given day. I suffer from a malady I refer to as "surface tension," as in, if the surfaces aren't clear of extraneous items, I'm likely to be tense, so I put neatness at the top of my list. It doesn't quite rise to OCD levels, but I can't imagine attempting to clean the house if I haven't cleared off the surfaces so I can get at them to clean.

To me, it's not a chicken and egg concept; one clearly has to come first. But my sister, who rightfully prides herself on her housecleaning chops, somehow manages to have an immaculate home filled with piles of stuff that need to be filed, etc. She once referred rather snottily about my housecleaning (OK, so I hadn't gotten to ALL the dust bunnies skulking in the corners before that visit) but said dismissively that I did seem to be better about "dealing with all the piles." Harumph. Neatness counts, but we know what cleanliness is a close second to.

Then there's organizing home chaos. Today's article on 20-minute projects to an organized house www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/138420359.html  raised an interesting point about the potential difference between being neat and being organized. The professional organizer posits that "neat" is getting things stacked and put away, while "organizing" is having homes for items so you can find them when you need them. She maintains that a home can be organized without always being neat. (Of course, this is from the woman who labels EVERYTHING in her refrigerator, which made me think: Trained professional organizer. Do not attempt at home.)

I do attempt organization on the home front, with varying degrees of success. My spices are alphabetized, my tax paperwork is carefully corralled and my books arranged chronologically by genre. But I've got a few closets I wouldn't want anyone else to see, places where random acts of stuff are flung "just for now" so the house looks neat when guests loom, the step just before the cleaning frenzy.

What's your style? Are you cleaner than thou? Neater than Felix Ungar? Able to teach professional organizers a thing or two? If I ever manage it all at once I'm going to take a picture and frame it.

Photo by Linda Davidson of the Washington Post