By April Brewster Smythe

As a child, Cynthia Lawford’s mother would wash the clothes for the whole family.  She would then fold the clothes and stack them neatly on the stairs that led to the bedrooms of the children.  The plan was for each child (there were five of them, four girls and the youngest, a boy), to bring up the clothes and put them away each day when they got home from school.  This was a good plan, but hardly ever followed and the mother soon developed a sore throat from screaming at the kids to ‘bring the clothes up the steps and put them away!”

In this scenario, everything started out clean.  There was an organizational plan, but no one followed the plan except the mother who tried to execute the plan, but fell ill doing so.  Thus, this family found itself in the common trap known as Clean VS. Organized.

The forgotten trap of Clean vs Organizing is the fact that often when we clean we create clutter rather than organize.  We throw our stuff and junk in closets or little hideaways and clean and de-grease.  Everything smells clean, lemony and pine-sol like, but the house continues to be chaotic.

Many of us clean tirelessly. As we do so, we believe that we are organizing our homes at the same time. We find the ‘right’ cleaning products.  We agonize over natural or conventional cleaning products.  We read articles detailing the proper methods to use in order to clean properly.  Spring cleaning is a ritual for many and there is a right and wrong way to do it…or so we’ve been told.  We are trapped in cleaning and confuse this rabid cleaning with organizing.

Betty Spaulding felt she had found the key to organizing her laundry.  She would wash the towels and then fold them and place them on top of the counters and along the bathtub.  She was halfway organized and found that she needed to find a way to not only organize her laundry, but her entire home.

First, Betty had to realize the clear definitions between cleaning and organizing.  Cleaning or clean is a verb and is defined as ‘making something free of dirt, marks, or mess, especially by wiping, or brushing.”   Organizing is a method.  Organizing takes careful thought and decisions about where to place objects and materials.  There are a wide variety of books, blogs, e-zines, and Facebook groups online that can help the individual develop their own method of organization and decluttering.

In recent times, the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has sparked a worldwide phenomenon in organizing and goes well beyond the simple concept of cleaning.

Kondo’s book has become a worldwide bestseller because she guarantees that no one will ever go back to their cluttering ways and testimonials abound from her satisfied clients.

This journal has covered the Five Secrets of the KonMari Method at length and it is one of the most effective ways to escape the trap of Clean vs. Organized.

However, for those who do not want to go all out and turn organization into a lifestyle there are four simple steps that can be taken to escape the organizational trap.


Short and Simple Escape Plan

  • Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need – This sounds simple enough until you begin to do so. It all depends on what method you are most comfortable with and your own lifestyle.  Kondo of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up recommends going by category.  Other experts cite function and room.  All state that there are three ways to clear the clutter; keep, donate, and throw it away.
  • If it is Room and Function– If you decide to go by function it is helpful to put like with like. If there is no function for an item (and you will find more of these types of items than you may think!) Toss it!
  • Store it – “A Place for everything and everything in its place.” Mom wasn’t wrong when she recited this little ditty over and over again.  It does help to store articles in those places you decide work best for you.  Don’t become a storage hoarder, though.  After awhile, those people who buy numerous storage bins, barrels, dressers and drawers end up cluttered – with no room for anything.
  • Wasted Space – Once the clutter has been cleared away and donated, tossed or kept, most people will find space opens up and devising new ways to place your things and objects will become easy peasy.



These steps will help to escape the trap of clean vs. organized.  As you can see cleaning is an action, a way to de-grime your house.   Organization, however, is a whole different ballgame.  It takes though, decision making and most of all, motivation. 


Invite someone over. Even though we should all work hard on not caring what others think of our homes, in truth, inviting someone over is still a great motivator for house cleaning. Focus on the key areas that a house guest is likely to care about. Clean the bathroom, tidy the kitchen and sweep the entry way. If you’ve still got some energy left, take care of general clutter and run the vacuum.” – From the author of the blog Cleaning up the Clutter