Cleaning and organization quirks

Before I leave on vacations, I have to clean my house. I don’t know if it’s a peace of mind issue or what the motivation is behind it, but I always do it. The benefit is that I return home to a bed with clean sheets and fresh towels in the bathroom and uncluttered surfaces throughout the whole house.

I clean when I have to make a difficult decision. If I need to mull things around in my head, I find that tedious chores are what I do first.

I also organize when there are things in my life I can’t control. When my grandmother had a stroke, I spent two days organizing my office closet.

I’ve heard of students who clean when they are procrastinating doing their homework. Is that you? Do you have quirky organization or cleaning sprees? Tell us about your cleaning and organization quirks in the comments!

62 Comments for “Cleaning and organization quirks”

  1. posted by Camilla on

    I’m exactly the same – cleaning my physical environment helps me set my head straight too. I tend to organise more when i am coming out of a bad time, and getting better. As if i’m finally strong enough to help myself clear my mind. When i’m going through a bad patch, my rooms look like a bomb hit them! 😛

  2. posted by Twitchy on

    I have to admit I do clean as a procastinatory act. But I also clean when I angry – for me getting rid of the dirt relieves the stress caused by an anger raising event. Sort of like jogging for some, except I get a nice clean apartment.

  3. posted by pauldwaite on

    Cleaning is great procrastination. I also used to do it when listening to my old flatmate’s relationship issues. Not that the issues weren’t important, but it was a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

  4. posted by Joyful Abode on

    I used to clean a LOT as procrastination, especially in college. I guess the reason it makes a good excuse is that you’re still doing something useful and necessary.

    Sometimes, if I can’t stop thinking (about whatever is going on, or worries, or whatever) turning up the music and cleaning and organizing helps to cleanse the situation…

  5. posted by Patti on

    I clean when I’m angry too. All that nervous energy that anger creates has to go somewhere! Anger-cleaning is not just ordinary cleaning though. Anger-cleaning is like clear-cutting…ruthless and total annihilation of clutter and dirt, and frequently of unessential personal possessions, which I later beat myself up for discarding. No flat surface is safe from an anger-cleaning! My apartment looks sterile and unlived-in after one of those happens. It’s oddly satisfying.

  6. posted by Donna on

    Same here! I clean when I’m mad. It helps burn up that angry energy.

    I always like to make sure that my house is neat and the dishes are done before we leave for a trip. We went on a short vacation this summer and had a 5 hour drive home…it was nice to come home to clean dishes, especially since we were hungry by the time we got home.

  7. posted by Melissa on

    I too clean when I’m angry. Cleaning is active, you can go fast or slow and when you can’t control anything else in your life- you can control dirt!

  8. posted by Julie on

    Whenever I have to write, I clean. Whenever I’m stuck on a scene, I clean. My husband always knows when I have a deadline, because the house is sparkling!

  9. posted by Melissa A. on

    I also clean, or at least tidy up before I go away. I know I don’t want to deal with clutter when I come back, especially with unpacking. I clean when I have something important to do. As a student I’d often have to really declutter and organize my room before I could study. Nowadays I’m pretty lazy with actual cleaning and more about tidying up. That’s all I can manage some days.

  10. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I find I clean when I need to think about something (make decisions, think of things to write about).
    Cleaning is kind of a “no-brainer” productive task that lets me keep my brain free for “higher level” thinking while still being productive.

    (pretty good justification of procrastination isn’t it!)

  11. posted by KathyHowe on

    Cleaning is a great stress-buster for me! During some of my most challenging times in life I have been known to get a toothbrush and a bucket of water and scrub my floors on my hands and knees.

  12. posted by Kris on

    Get out of my head! I have to clean the house before we leave on vacation. I, too, need to come home to a calm, organized and clean environment.

    When my grandfather died, I was so distraught. The only thing I could do was clean my tiny Chicago apartment. When I finished that, I organized my tool box, down to sorting nails by size. It helped me feel some sense of control over something, to counteract the complete helplessness of losing Gramps.

  13. posted by mary on

    My house is cleanest when we leave for vacation also. There is not one drop of dirty laundry in the house. (which is a feat upon itself)

    Sometimes I will throw a party b/c it makes me clean the house obnoxiously. ( a dinner party not a happy hour one….then it’s for nothing)

  14. posted by Leslie on

    When my father went into the hospital for prostate cancer, my mother, sister and I all coped by cleaning their house. We each took a floor (I took the basement) and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned like manic freaks until everything shone and sparkled. I suspect it was our way of imposing order on a world that had suddenly spun out of order. I find it soothing and cathertic, and can often get into a “zen” when doing big cleaning jobs (i.e. floors, garages, etc.). This really helps me get through the bad times.

    l

    P.S. Dad pulled through, and today is cancer-free. My parents basement has reverted to the mess it was before.

  15. posted by wren on

    What a coincidence. I’m going on a long weekend out of town this afternoon and I’m cleaning this morning. It is so nice to come home to a clean place with no dishes, freshly laundered sheets, and everything in its place. It is not only welcoming but it feels sooo much better than the alternative. I’ve left a mess before and it stresses me out when I come home. You’re always beat after a trip and to come home and see more you have to do, it’s demoralizing.

  16. posted by Leigh Ann on

    I clean like a mad woman when someone I know passes away. Strange, I know. But apparently I’m not alone.

  17. posted by Little Miss Moneybags on

    I always clean before I leave for a trip, and especially change the sheets. It’s so nice to come home to a clean house and fresh sheets after travelling.

    My roommate couldn’t understand this when we went on a roadtrip this summer–she asked why I would clean, when I wouldn’t be there to enjoy it? We came home so exhausted, do drained, I cannot imagine having to contemplate cleaning at that point. Why would you leave it till then? Who knows what’s moldering in the hamper, rotting in the fridge, or collecting dust bunnies while you’re gone? Come home tired, unpack dirty laundry, and slip in between clean, crisp sheets–THAT’s the way to plan a vacation.

  18. posted by christa on

    I always make the bed before I take a shower…regardless of what time of day it is.

    I too also like to clean before leaving on vacation.

  19. posted by Ruth on

    I’m a bit of a control freak, and I organize (not clean, except what’s required by the organization) when I’m anxious. My great decluttering this year essentially started with my anxiety about my boss leaving to take another job.

  20. posted by adora on

    I clean when…
    – something in life is beyond my control and it’s affects me negatively.
    – I want to take a new step in life.
    – I can’t come up with a design at work. Looks like procrastination, but sitting down doing nothing is even less productive.
    – people misunderstood me or my ideas, and I can’t find a way to make them understand. Cleaning/organizing clears my head. It’s passive-anger-made-productive. It is sadly responsible for 50% of my cleaning.

  21. posted by Nicole on

    Oh man, I used to scrub my apartment in college to avoid going to studio or doing homework. Especially on the weekends, I would clean before doing anything else. Although it may not have been the smartest option for me, my roommates loved it!
    I also get into cleaning modes at night, on days when I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. I always sleep better knowing I won’t be waking up to a mess the next morning.

  22. posted by Jess on

    I definitely clean before going on vacation – there is nothing like the feeling of coming home to a spotless house. My husband usually thinks I’m crazy before we leave – but he appreciates it when he comes home – and it doesn’t take a week to get the vacation laundry done.

    I also clean & especially organize when I am stressed have a big decision to make, when I feel out of control of something, or when I’m upset.

    Once when staying at my sister’s house we got in an argument and I re-organized her entire pantry, cleaned every dish in the place, and scrubbed her entire kitchen from top to bottom. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a family joke now – anytime you want your kitchen cleaned – just invite Jess for a few days – and ruffle her feathers.

    The other thing I do when I’m stressed is bake bread – breaad is not forgiving of an angry/stressed hand – if you don’t knead it properly, you end up with a hard loaf – so it always calms me down. All my roommates in college loved finals week – becasue I would get stressed out and retreat to the kitchen to bake!

  23. posted by Wesa on

    Cleaning relieves stress for me. When I do not feel in control of something (too much on my to-do list, outside stress factors, waiting), I clean. Cleaning produces instant results and gives me a sense of being in control of something.

  24. posted by Marge on

    I like to clean my house before I leave so I have nothing to do when I get back home. Usually after vacation you should be relaxed and rested, to come home and have to do work just doesn’t sound appealing to me. So it is the start of my vacation.

  25. posted by Aku on

    I never clean before I go on vacation, I clean AFTER vacation. It somehow makes sense to me to clean as I’m inspired by what I’ve been up to and can “start from a clean table” both mentally and physically.

    Sometimes I get spontaneous bursts of motivation if I see a pile of stuff I most likely don’t need and I just sort through piles and piles more than I planned. This naturally happens when I have no work to do and when I have the time, energy and empty mind to logically think about what I will throw away and what I will keep.

    When I clean out old papers and things , there are some things I’m attached to without a reason, although I know it’d be better if I got rid of them, so I need a clear and neutral mind to be able to throw out the old junk. If I try to clean out old stuff without a clear mind, I won’t be able to think logically about what I should keep and I end up keeping all the stuff that I haven’t remembered for years anyway. The logic takes down the emotion of meeting an old piece of junk and allows me to go through the questions I ask myself before I keep things.

    I probably repeated quite a few things there.

  26. posted by Kristin on

    I also like to clean before I go out of town. Coming home to a clean house is nice, coming home to a messy house SUCKS. It puts me in a bad mood.

    I am also a procrastination cleaner. I have lots of studying to do today, but what have I been doing instead? Packing for a move that is still a month away.

    Finally, when I am mad at my husband I clean the kitchen. I also try to make a lot of noise when I’m doing it. I don’t know if he’s caught on or not but the kitchen is my sanctuary and I feel better when it’s clean. It calms me down so I’m less mad at him. Also gives me a chance to work through my thoughts so I don’t say something without thinking.

  27. posted by Elena on

    Oh yeah! My apartment was never cleaner than during exams!

  28. posted by Mike Howe on

    This is totally me and my wife both. She cleans (dust / dirt) when she is stressed, and I do the whole organizing thing. The guys at work even know that when I am in a bad mood I take it one step further and start giving things away. I feel much better if I get rid of my possessions.

    My wife and I live in a 1000 sq/ft condo and we are expecting our first child in March. We have had to get rid of a lot of our current furniture in an attempt to make a nursery (even my computer desk….thank god for laptops). The process has begun to stress her out, but it actually makes me feel better – all the cleaning / purging is giving me a high!

    Mike

  29. posted by george on

    I am usually very cluttered and untidy as a person. Unless I had exams coiming up, and then the house would be spotless!

  30. posted by Mindy on

    I tend to clean when I’m mad. It helps me to keep from hurting anyone.

    After the attack on 9/11/01 I was in such shock all I could do was file papers.

  31. posted by Samantha on

    I love to clean late at night. My husband marvels at how much I get done from the hours of about 9 p.m. on. My mother was like this too. It was not uncommon for my brother and I to get up for school to find that she had not gone to bed the night before. Being angry is the ultimate uncluttering emotion though, and I can agree with previous posters on that.

  32. posted by erin on

    I always leave my house spotless if I’m going away, even if it’s just for the weekend. I cannot stand coming home to mess or clutter.

    I clean to procrastinate too. When I have papers to write or exams to study for, I concentrate better in a clean environment, but I have to set a timer for an hour because otherwise I’ll clean my entire house to avoid doing my schoolwork.

  33. posted by Nikki on

    I am that student 😡 I can’t study if my surroundings are loud, dirty, or cluttered. I’m sure part of it is procrastination though. If my house is clean, then I made sure my computer files are backed up and organized, too.

  34. posted by twosandalz on

    I hate dusting. Until I have some task I absolutely don’t want to do. Suddenly, dusting becomes monumentally important. I wonder how I’d procrastinate if my home was spotless.

  35. posted by Sandra on

    There’s a Facebook group called “Nothing Gets My Room Cleaner Than a Paper Due Tomorrow” for a reason. It has 13,553 members right now. 🙂

    When I saw it, I knew I had found my spiritual home. 😉

  36. posted by Bonnie on

    Procrastination. And insomnia. Every few months I will be there scrubbing the bathtub at 4 in the morning ;p

  37. posted by David on

    Ditto on the cleaning before hw. I can’t focus on any design projects unless my room is spotless. Glad to know I’m not the only freak of nature.

  38. posted by Lindsey on

    I’m in college now and I clean after rounds of exams. While I am studying, I let the mess just pile up. When the relief of exams being over comes on, I just have to make my space look as happy (and relieved) as I feel.

  39. posted by Sheri on

    I am so guilty of this. When I was in college if I didn’t want to study, I could find 50 things that needed cleaned and or organzied!

    Same thing now. If there is any task I don’t want to do, you will find me cleaning or organizing!

    I also start cleaning when I am really mad. Not sure why I do this, but I sure do! I will clean like a mad woman when I am mad and if I am in the middle of an argument, I actually start cleaning while we are arguing! Strange but true!!

  40. posted by Meags on

    I always go into a cleaning frenzy when I know my mom is coming to visit. That’s also when I start buying nice smelling candles and Febreeze and air fresheners because I don’t want to give her any cause for a snippy “you’re a bad housekeeper” comment. Otherwise, I just clean when the feeling strikes, which isn’t so often.

  41. posted by laure on

    I guess I’m not so different–I clean whenever I’m emotional. Cools me down when I’m mad and gets things moving if I’m depressed, overwhelmed or sad.

    ALSO I used to drive myself crazy trying to get the house perfectly clean before a vacation. Now I do it if I have time but I’ve even left dirty dishes in the sink recently for a long weekend away. It’s not ideal, but I’m not totally worn out before I leave!

  42. posted by Aimee on

    I cannot leave for vacation with my apartment dirty. Even if I’m up until 2 am, it has to be clean. It just helps to have everything clean and orderly when I come back with a suitcase of dirty clothes and a wallet bursting with receipts.

    I’m terrible about cleaning when I’m procrastinating. My dorm room was immaculate my senior year when I was wrestling with a 100 page thesis. Even now, when faced with a difficult or onorous task at work, I’ll clean my desk. It’s just easier to tackle something challenging when I can spread out my work without having to move post-its and coffee mugs out of my way.

  43. posted by Alex Shalman . com » Blog Archive on

    […] Doland of Unclutterer tells us about his little cleaning and organizing quirks. He’s also made me realize why my room is always a bit cleaner around midterms and finals. […]

  44. posted by Alex Shalman . com » Blog Archive » Sunday's Speedlinking 11-18-07 on

    […] Doland of Unclutterer tells us about his little cleaning and organizing quirks. He’s also made me realize why my room is always a bit cleaner around midterms and finals. […]

  45. posted by Melanie on

    I clean before going on vacation, but for a very different reason than others have stated (coming home to a nice, peaceful home after a tiring vacation). I clean because I have terrors about something awful happening while I’m on vacation (like, say, mysteriously disappearing from my cruise ship???) and having people come into my house and see all the mess after I’m dead and gone!

    This is also my motivation for keeping my house spotless during the last trimester of pregnancy (never know when you’ll have to rush to the hospital!). I guess I should just get over it and make arrangements for any emergency situation. I’ll give all family members an emergency checklist. #1 – call 911, #2 – call Merry Maids immediately thereafter!

  46. posted by Michele on

    I can relate. My motto is “Clear your path to reach your goals.” When I get stuck, I unclutter to get unstuck.

  47. posted by Kim on

    I clean and organize like a woman when my children or husband are in bed sick…after putting on a pot of chicken soup it all begins…..
    My husband started the clean the house before vacation thing, and I’ve followed along. It’s a gift to come home to a clean house, unload suitcases directly to the washer.

  48. posted by Kim on

    I clean and organize like a crazywoman when my children or husband are in bed sick…after putting on a pot of chicken soup it all begins…..
    My husband started the clean the house before vacation thing, and I’ve followed along. It’s a gift to come home to a clean house, unload suitcases directly to the washer.

  49. posted by Kathy on

    I clean before any vacation also. I cannot leave the house a mess. Coming home to a clean, clutter-free home is one of the best feelings in the world. Cleaning is a top priority for me as well as being extremely organized. It drives my family crazy. I have to have everything organized in what you can see as well as what you can’t – closets, drawers, cabinets, etc. When things aren’t organized I can’t think straight, I forget things, I am totally distracted. I also get a little depressed. Right now, I had to put my father in a nursing home and clean out his small apartment. I brought some things home like books, papers, mementos, etc. and they are in bags in the basement. I am in the process of spring cleaning the house so everything is up side down and I am an anxious mess! I spend alot of time with him in the nursing home as well as taking care of my two girls and working, so I don’t have the time to dig in and clean up. I am a forgetful mess. I wish I wasn’t so dependent on being organized to keep my head straight. I wish I could be like the people who can leave a paper mess on the floor for three days and not be affected by it. Oh well, there is a reason for everything. I do know it will get cleaned up soon and that is the saving grace.

  50. posted by h... on

    i dont clean but pick up after messes before i go on vacation trip. when I get upset, i do nothing!

  51. posted by Josephine on

    I notice that I organize when I’m avoiding another task. I’ve come to realize that for me organizing is a way of (symbolically) restoring order. On another note, although I always pay my bills on a timely basis, I always make sure they are all paid prior to any vacation, whether a weekend getaway or a longer one.

  52. posted by Jane on

    I’ve done everything, for all the same reasons, as all these posts! I clean before vacations and company (especially family), and I clean up piles AFTER vacation with a more ‘neutral mind,’ as one poster wrote. Pay bills before vacation, too, and take any with me that when I take longer vacations.

    But I want to add one more item to the mix, especially after reading Kathy’s post on 1/01/08: some of us are probably ADHD/ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder!) Apparently people with this dis-ease go from huge distractability (15 tasks started in 5 rooms plus the garden, all at once), to intense hyper-focusivity (new word?) – such as the 2-1/2 hours on the net last week researching the benefits of the gamma-tocopherol type of vitamin E vs. the more studied/accented alpha-tocopherol and how sesame seeds/oil/tahini help your body retain both or all 8 types of Vitamin E … I couldn’t let it go! I just kept clicking and trying to read the new articles as fast as possible … knowing I was avoiding my #1 project, working on a legal document.

    I’ll be finding out more about ADHD (adult version of ADD), as I WANT to work on my priority stuff more than have a sparkling home or encyclopedic mind. (My therapist lent me the book “Scattered” – whoa! – every page I flipped to described me in some measure.)

    Good luck to all.

  53. posted by Liss on

    Two weeks before finals week you’d find me deep cleaning all parts of the apartment that were my responsibility, doing every last bit of laundry and cooking up a storm to put in the freezer. If I didn’t do that, I’d find that there was almost a magnetic pull to do cleaning/organizing or cooking instead of study the week before finals.
    It helped that a lot of the dorms or apartments that I lived in had cleaning checks around the end of semester as people would move in and out (not just in the spring) so we all had to get stuff clean anyway. Plus, then after I took finals I could go let off steam however I wanted–my apartment check cleaning was done and I didn’t have to do any “catch up” to eat or for clothes. I thought I was the odd duck for doing this, guess I have some good company!

  54. posted by Meg from FruWiki on

    Whenever my husband leaves on a trip without me (like today), one of the first things I do is start cleaning. Partly, it’s to get my mind off missing him. But also, while he’s not the clutterbug he used to be, it’s nice to be able to get everything clean and enjoy it staying that way for a while ; )

    I’ve also tended to clean a lot before company comes or when I have something else that I should be doing and I’m procrastinating (like when I should have be studying for an exam back in college).

  55. posted by Dream Mom DBA www.dreamorganizers.com on

    I clean when my son goes into the hospital. The house is always pretty clean but when he’s in there for a week or more, I get to come home on Sunday and sleep in my own bed (I stay overnight at the hospital the rest of the week.). I always change my sheets so that whenever I come home, it’s fresh and I make certain his are changed to so it’s nice when he gets home. When he is in there for longer stays, I go a bit further, scrubbing the floors and making certain it’s pristine. I do it to make sure it’s nice when he comes home. It’s also a huge stress reliever, especially when he’s not doing well. Having routines in place relieve a ton of stress.

    When I worked full time, I always changed the sheets on my bed before I left on a business trip so I oould enjoy them when I returned home.

    One other quirk is that I won’t go to bed unless everything in the living room is perfect-the sofa pillows must be just right, etc. I’d hate to have a fire in the middle of the night or some emergency and have something out of place. I’ve actually had to call 911 quite a few times with my son’s medical issues so I always feel really good when the paramedics come and my home is sparkling.

  56. posted by Linda on

    I clean when I’m ticked off about something. Today, I channelled all that negative energy into entering 10 months of financial data into Quicken. It is something I should do weekly, but I’m quite the procrastinator. I had enough raw emotionality today to breeze through the whole ordeal in about 100 minutes.

  57. posted by Rue on

    I don’t deep clean when I’m stressed. But I do pick everything up and make sure it’s in its place. I do this mostly at night, right before I go to bed. I like everything to be in its place at night so that I can go to bed and actually rest. Then, when I wake up, everything’s still clean, and it will be that way when I come home too!

    I do pick everything up before a vacation, but as I rarely take vacations more than a couple of days, I don’t really dust, vaccuum, etc. Now when I leave for two weeks for Christmas, I probably will!

    The one weird quirk I have is that, excluding the weekends, I only make the bed right before bedtime. I can’t stand having my sheets and blankets askew – it inevitably ends up with me tangled up in them in the middle of the night, freezing my butt off! There have been times when I’ve pushed my husband out of the bed just so I could fix it (well, unless he was actually asleep – then it’s all over).

  58. posted by Minna on

    I am a school teacher. Many of the things that have been said above are also same with me. Like when I should check the students papers I start to clean and declutter the house and so on. One thing is that after the school year is over I have to pack all the school material away. I can only start the vacation when nothing reminds me of school.

  59. posted by Trish Fitzpatrick on

    Great contributions here! I’m learning a great deal. One note I wanted to add is how well working backwards is to creating serentiy. At the start of my day I imagine what the nicest ending would be. Then I set about making that happen. A clean, orderly home that smells of baking and logs burning in the fireplace; a bathroom that sparkles, a comfy bed with crisply clean linens… no matter what I’m going to accomplish that day, I want the “finish line” to look like that. It makes the day’s work more worthwhile.

  60. posted by Thomasina on

    My mother always *had* to do all the laundry the day before it snows.

  61. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    My mum always cleaned right before a holiday (vacation for North Americans). I think it was as much to do with discouraging cockroaches.

    I picked up her habits a bit but if it’s only a weekend away I just make sure the dishes are done and what’s left in the laundry won’t die before I get back (when it will be washed with the “away” clothes anyway).

    I like my workspace to be tidy to encourage me to do some work, like Aimee said, without pushing away other stuff to have room to do it!

    One of my sisters used to madly clean and tidy her room at exam time.

  62. posted by Dianne on

    My ex husband had drug and alcohol issues when he would disappear I would madly clean the house, washing walls eyc doing as much physical work as I could, unfortunately after we went our seperate ways, every time I would get into some serious cleaning I would become stressed and the old feelings which I was trying to erase by doing chores would return, so although the cleaning helped when I was under stress from the drug issues, I had to retrain myself not to become stressed when cleaning as a normal task.

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