Day 15: Daily Cleaning vs Once in a Lifetime Tidying

My current experiment has got me thinking about the idea of tidying vs cleaning.


Marie Kondo is famous for proclaiming that you only have to declutter once in your life with her method and you’ll be done forever. I think she’s mostly right about that. Since I’ve properly decluttered my house three years ago, I’ve been pretty vigilant about things that do not “spark joy” staying in my house. My mindless shopping has lowered by atleast half since its so obvious to me that most of the items I’m looking at doesn’t spark joy, and just by not having so much stuff, my house looks pretty good.

But, there’s a big aspect of cleaning that Marie Kondo doesn’t really address. The daily cleaning. The dusting, the mopping, the vacuuming. She only dedicates a couple of pages to it in her book, Spark Joy.

The words tidying and cleaning are often used synonymously, but they are two completely different things. Tidying deals with objects; cleaning deals with dirt. Both are aimed at making a room look clean, but tidying means moving objects and putting them away, while cleaning means wiping and sweeping away dirt.

The responsibility for mess and clutter lies 100 percent with the individual. Things do not multiply of their own accord, but only if you buy them or receive them from someone else. Clutter accumulates when you fail to return objects to their designated place. If a room becomes cluttered “before you know it,” it is entirely your own doing. Tidying up means confronting yourself.

In contrast, dirt does accumulate of its own accord. It is a law of nature that dust and dirt pile up. Therefore, cleaning means confronting nature. Cleaning must be done regularly to remove naturally accumulated dirt. - Spark Joy, Marie Kondo

I think when I previously read her book, I thought I found a shortcut. Declutter, and you’re done with your home! But there is no bypass to a sparkly home, you just have clean it, every single day…sigh.

Daily cleaning as she describes is it, is something I’ve never been naturally good at. I can’t remember the number of cleaning wars I got into with my dad because I was such a messy child (sorry dad!). My favorite pajama dress was a shirt with a teddy bear surrounded by all her toys and it said “It’s my mess and I love it!” Decades later, I still leave dishes in the sink and dusting and mopping feels like a boring chore (because it is!). My home looks really clean from afar because of the “minimalist look” but if you run your fingers across anything, the dirty truth is revealed. As much as I want it to be a once in a lifetime endeavor like decluttering, daily tidying unfortunately falls in the camp of continual maintenance, like flossing or working out.

So while I am deep cleaning my home this month (since I wasn’t on top of my daily maintenance), I am especially focused on learning daily cleaning routines so I can keep my home clean all the time. I really hate routines but my house looks so good and I want it like this forever! So sad to repeatedly learn that there’s no shortcuts in life.