The Importance of Tidy


I don’t consider myself to be a neat freak–I’m not all that particular–but I like a tidy house. Uncluttered. I’ve never been able to abide a cluttered house. You know, the kind where there’s a path you walk through stacks and piles of life (and excess shopping) detritus. I loved the show “Clean Sweep” (which I don’t think is on anymore) and the principle demand of the show’s host to the homeowners: If you love it, honor it by getting rid of the crap around it. I do very little shopping and don’t stock up on ten of everything. Over-shopping and hoarding is a big issue in many cluttered homes that I see. Unless it has to do with self-sustainability, survival, or work, I don’t stock excess products.

Self-sustainability in and of itself is a slippery slope for many people because it leads to stocking up and/or hanging on to every scrap of wood, metal, or other material for fear one might need it someday. This is part of why many farms are loaded with piles of crap. I also like a tidy farm, and I do have a couple of piles of leftover materials–but even those are minimal, kept to what could be genuinely useful, and stored in a few non-obnoxious (meaning I can’t see them but they’re accessible) locations around the farm. Stocking up on food and other supplies is another self-sustainability danger which can become addictive and extreme. “Prepping” and minimal living have to meet somewhere in the middle with balance and reason.

I started minimizing even more seriously than usual a few years ago, which was good because it turned out that I unexpectedly moved into a much smaller house than I’ve ever lived in before in my life. In the process of moving and settling in here, I tightened the belt even further. A small house demands minimal living if you don’t want to be surrounded by crap. This house keeps me on track with simple living–and I like that.

My little house isn’t perfectly tidy all the time, but I find that I have a limit to how bad it can get before it interferes with my serenity. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been pretty busy in several different directions. I let mail stack up and spread out. I had a few different projects going on, and notes and papers for work-related things. Things got messy. Then came the power outage. Suddenly the house was strewn with cords and I was pulling out candles, flash lights, lamp oil, and so on–all of this in the midst of what I had already allowed to creep into a messy situation in the house. The first day of the power outage, when I struggled with the generator, was quite stressful. By that evening, when my neighbor Jim arrived to show me the choke and get my generator going, no sooner did I have the lights on than I was just ready to turn them back off, go to bed, and maybe cry a little bit.

I got up the next morning, in the early hours of darkness, turned the lights on and cleaned up the house. Yes, there are still power cords strewn across the floors, and there are still candles, flash lights, lamp oil bottles, and more at the ready. But the house is tidy. The clutter is gone. The power is still out, but the weight of stress is gone with the clutter, and I know that I would have been less stressed the first day if the house hadn’t been a mess at the time.

No matter what any day brings, home can be a calming force around you–a place you can walk through with ease, find what you need, and be inspired and comforted by the photographs, mementos, and cherished things you choose to keep. I work better, love better, and surmount challenge better in a tidy house because it allows me to achieve, focus, and overcome. Simplicity is so very powerful.

Is your house tidy? Do you have clutter? Are you stressed? Clean up! I promise it will make a difference.


  1. Remudamom says:

    I hear you. I can’t take clutter either.

  2. KarenAnne says:

    I would say, having a dog sleeping on a blanket in a sofa beats decluttering for destressing.

    Did you make that lovely wreath? Are those daisies(?) dried?

  3. lattelady says:

    I am beyond tidy. A life as a career military wife does that to one. Even with one cat and one dog, it is almost white glove clean. That is what makes “me” serene.
    As for stockpiling foodstuffs. I have a bedroom converted into a pantry. When Mt. St. Helen’s blew, I fed 6 neighbor families for one week. When we had an ice storm which knocked power out for over a week, I fed those families again. Ihad food, I had 3 generators, and lots of company.
    I can see others viewpoints and their homes do not make me uncomfortable. It is their lifestyle.

  4. FarmGrammy says:

    Suzanne, after being sick for three weeks, I could throw my whole house away and start over. But the first thing I did was mow the grass, which bothered me more than laundry or dishes ever did. It will take a while to get back to simple and neat, but it certainly does help. A painful thing Wednesday was cleaning out my husband’s shoe closet and getting them ready to give to a drug rehab program. Those ex-addicts may come into the program with literally no shoes on their feet. He had 18 pairs of shoes! More than I have owned in 20 years. But it is nice to know that behind that door is a very neat space, no old military boots, no hunting boots, no tennies in four different colors.

  5. piemaker7461 says:

    I love a tidy living space and strive to keep life simple. I use up, re-use or re-purpose most things. I do however have a conflicting situation. I married a pack rat! Go figure. Any ideas out ther how to best manage my own desire to keep things at a minimal while respecting my husband’s desire to pack it in!!

  6. brookdale says:

    Easier said than done, Suzanne! I do have a non-cluttered kitchen, but the rest of the house needs cleaning out. Guess that will be the winter project around here. Thanks for the reminder. “Stuff” does have a way of multiplying in the night I think!
    I remember my parents and grandparents on the farm, who lived during the Depression, saving every little scrap because “it might be useful someday”. And it often was, back then. But they had a huge barn, toolshed, cellar and attic where stuff could be put away, out of sight. That’s what I need…more sheds!

  7. MrsB says:

    I could not agree more. When I worked in an office, and my desk got out of control – I had to tell operator that I could take no calls and then would spent whatever time it too to get it straight before starting a new project.

    I am the same way in my sewing room – it gets out of control when working on a quilt – but then I HAVE to get it straight.

    I think that some of us are just more organized than others – clutter makes me crazy. But – I have come to terms with cat hair.

  8. pensiero says:

    This! Is exactly my life! So much more serene and stress-free without the clutter. I’m not a fanatic about it, but as long as my beds are made every day and junk is stowed away, I’m a happy camper. (And so is everyone around me!)

  9. mamajoseph says:

    Agree completely. When we got back home from an extended time(8 mos) away, we had to try to set up, put away food shopping, live! and then hire contractors. Who messed it all up again daily. As they sawed (inside the house?) hammered and painted we had to move things from room to room which meant lots of stuff out of place and piles everywhere. All while calling electricians to come find shortages in the line every 3 or 4 days. In the rain. Not fun. We’re having a “re-boot” now and hopefully things can get back to normal/organized. Clutter is stressful! And when you add stress (no electricity!) to an already cluttered situation, even worse.

  10. Karen Templeton says:

    I, too, am much calmer when the house is clean. Or at least, nothing is on the floor and the detritus is neatly stacked. 😆 Which means when the five boys were little, the first thing hubby and I did after we got them to bed was tidy up the living room so we could watch TV in something resembling an orderly environment! We also kept dishes washed and beds made.

    What gets me now, is how easily stuff accumulates. As if the Junk Fairly pays visits during the night and leaves crap instead of money. So I periodically cull and toss… and feel a biiiig C&T session coming on!

  11. MousE says:

    Oh gods, clutter…. I have moved, let’s see, 5 times since 2005. Which is crazy enough. Each time I would purge a little…. especially furniture. Last time I purged a LOT. But my new place is a small one bedroom apartment, and I just have too much stuff. It’s a top unit townhouse, so the entry is the stairway leading up, with no space for a closet. Everything seems to accumulate on the darned stairs. Then add the grandkid’s stuff, extra bedding…. way too many books still, even though I got rid of half… I went from 8 cubic feet of books packed in boxes to 5 cubic feet, which for a book lover is a heck of a purge…. my kitchen is a tiny galley with barely any counter space, it drives me crazy. AND NO DISHWASHER BOO. I bought one of those cheap kitchen carts from Ikea but of course it takes up room and ARGH. It’s kind of like living on a boat. I’ve put up all the shelves and bookcases I can. So today is another purge and clean day. I’m going thru the grandkid’s stuff as they haven’t touched half of it since I moved here. I purged my closets this past spring. But the clutter! So stressful! My dining table is also my computer and sewing table so I end up eating in the living room off my too-big coffee table…. ACK. I have no idea what to do with that kitchen. I can’t move again. Purge time! Suzanne, why do we feel we need all this stuff? How does one find space in a tiny galley kitchen that due to co-op rules, can’t be renovated? I did find a clever use for old trunks: fill them with stuff and use as end/bedside tables…. Anyway. Your house is lovely! I am glad you weathered the storm.

  12. lesliedgray says:

    And therein lies my problem!!! i AM untidy and my house is cluttered.. I am a bit of a hoarder.. My husband calls me Mrs. Fred Sanford… I love organizational items (shelves, slide out baskets, etc.. which turn into more clutter… I can’t bear to discard things that I have any emotional attachment to whatsoever.. I just don’t have a place to PUT all of the things I love…. Maybe there’s no hope for me?

  13. fowlers says:

    ok,,,,I guess you can call me a prepper wana be::: my family could survive for at least a year:::w/ out starving or needing to much of anything::however I try my best, my absolute best to keep my stock’s rotated, and everything is neat and filed away in my dungeon,,aka the basement,,,so if you were to come over; the chaos would not freak ya out to bad,,,, kitchen has to be clean at all times::and with all my animals that can be challenging to say the least, what is it w/ their hair:::do you have this problem,,,we have wood floors and if I don’t sweep them daily:::OMG,,,I can make a whole new animal w/ all the hair that has accumulated in the corners and in the stairwell????? very peculiar indeed:::people w/ what all that has happened up the coast line and in the surrounding states::::please get prepared,,,,you don’t have to be to fanatical to do it:::the basics::: Water, Heat, Light, & if you don’t have space for extra food:::MRE’s::::they last a long time,,& you can put up a lot in a 5 gallon bucket to put in a closet someplace:::for myself it’s just peace of mind & knowing my child will be ok:::

  14. jodiezoeller says:

    I am a child of a mom that had clutter and too much stuff. I’ve accumulated too much stuff in my 30 years of living in various apartments and houses. Moving is painful, but may be necessary to get me motivated to reduce my excess. I’m going to work on getting rid of stuff this winter. At least that’s what I’ve been telling my husband. Especially clothes and books.

  15. MMHoney says:

    Hello one and all;
    Maybe it is the Mother of Necessity.
    I am 89 yrs and I still make by bed before I go to the kitchen for coffee.One must be organized when you work and get three children off to school. It worked for me.

  16. Camille says:

    For many years I was a divorced female left “holding the financial bag”. Not fun. And for many years I had to be painfully careful, out of necessity, to hang onto anything and everything that could be reused, repurposed, etc. So having too much “stuff” hanging around became a part of my life.

    What(finally)occured to me one day was that it was time to literally start letting things go…out the door and to the local charities and/or to the DUMP. Such a relief! Clutter is no longer a part of my life – and it’s a wonderful thing. :smilerabbit:

  17. princessvanessa says:

    My house is cluttered. It didn’t help that I broke my dominate arm/shoulder last year and I’m still trying to get my range of motion back. Then I herniated a sciatic disc and will be operated on Nov. 12 and recouperating for another 6 weeks. I can hardly walk now….so the clutter will have to stay until I am physically well enough to do something about it.

    Also, I have gotten to the point where I hate my house and I don’t too much care. I think being house-bound so much of the last year and a half made me hate my four walls.

  18. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Does a 50 lb. bag of alfalfa cubes by the front door count as clutter? I hope not!

  19. rhubarbrose says:

    Oh boy – I can totally identify with this post!!! Nothing helps me be calm and clear thinking like having a tidy house (hmmmmm which isn’t too often). Time to put on my apron and mean business around here!!! Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. iamcheep says:

    I so agree with you! I get cranky and so overstressed if my house is not clean and tidy. I make my bed 99% of the time and it sets the pace for the rest of the day. It’s been a few months since I’ve started going thru closets, cabinets, etc. but I started this week in the dining room and I am headed into the bathroom tomorrow to throw out a bunch of crap under the sink and in the drawers. We have emptied our house of over half of the furniture and stuff since my parents moved into the basement apartment. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff we gave away (and we are not pack rats). I can honestly say there isn’t a single thing I wished I had kept. Not a single thing. So, when in doubt, throw it out. And to the comments above re: being prepared for emergencies, I absolutely agree. Prescription medicines, diapers, pet food, etc., are things alot of people don’t think about for long outages. Several days without power and water after a hurricane makes you rethink everything. Full tanks of gas in your cars and extra gas are very important. And don’t forget cash! No electric, no ATMs.

  21. STH says:

    Yes, I find it hard to focus when my house is messy–I’m always thinking about this thing and that thing that I have to clean. But I’m very busy with school right now, so I’m trying to balance the two; I study for a while, then take a break and do some housework, then go back to studying. We do pretty well at keeping clutter low. I always have a Goodwill box around and we put unneeded things in there as we find them. I need to take some time during the school break to organize my freezers, though; that’s a problem area for me. And I definitely need to check my emergency kit!

    Here’s something for the people who have a hard time getting rid of stuff: one idea I’ve found useful is to box some things up that you might want to get rid of. Put the box (or boxes) away in a closet and mark on your calendar to check it after a period of time (a month or two, say). If you haven’t needed that stuff within that period, you probably won’t, so go ahead and donate it. That way, you have sort of a trial period to see if you can live without it. And most of the time you can.

  22. wannabeafarmgirl says:

    I so agree…just wish I could keep up with it all!!!

  23. Diane says:

    My house is cluttered and a source of some fights between me and my husband. I clean it up and he drags things home. I have gotten to the point where its hard to keep my mind on track unless the house is all cleaned up. I’m in the process of getting rid of clutter, and hubby thankfully is on board. We have plans for the future and in order to succeed we need to get the house cleaned up. Not to mentions things like home improvements need to be done and there is no way that can happen with a crap laying around. But its hard to live with someone who has to keep things. We have a junk pile in my drive way because hubby says he is going to scrap the stuff. It just piles up. And is a nasty site. It drives me crazy. So yes I know what a clean space can make you feel better and a person can be much more productive also.

  24. FujiQ says:

    I used to be a hoarder as a kid – so I tend to associate it as a childish behavior in the most objective use of the word. I felt so FREE when I finally stopped caring about all of those THINGS. When you’re a kid with few friends it’s easy to become attached to stuff.

    It’s so sad to see the lives of people be consumed by clutter. It always appears to be steeped in the fears of providing for the day to day necessities but I think that ultimately it is a matter of psychology. The devil lays many snares. If you NEED something to be happy…he’s gotcha!

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