Organizing, straightening up, and cleaning

Organizing. Straightening up. Cleaning. Tidying. Arranging.

These are some of the terms that describe varying levels of what everyone who has possessions does to keep their dwellings from being messy. By their very nature, each term’s definition can vary greatly from person to person, spouse to spouse, or house mate to house mate. In the name of domestic harmony and effective un-messying, I’m opening a dialog on how we define these terms and what we expect from each. A similar conversation like this in your home can ensure everyone is on the same page when talking about establishing and maintaining order. It doesn’t matter if your terms match mine, simply that all of you agree on the definitions of the words and phrases you use.

Defining organizing

For me, organizing is to apply logical structure to an unstructured collection of items. The items can be physical, like books or LEGO bricks, but they also can be intangible, like ideas or plans.

What organizing looks like

If I were to organize something, you can expect to see a collection of items arranged in a neat, systematic order. In other words, a messy pile of [x] becomes a tidy arrangement, sorted by a system that is easily understood.

Defining straightening up

Straightening up is different from organizing in that it implies that organizing has already been done, and only some minor maintenance is needed to restore order.

What straightening up looks like

My kids’ shoes are stored in three wicker baskets near the back door of our house. Three baskets for three kids. The organizing has been done — having baskets for each kids’ shoes. To straighten them up, I’d ask the kids to put their shoes in their basket.

Defining cleaning

Cleaning implies no organizing or straightening up. For me, cleaning means simply: to bust out the window cleaner, mop, broom, vacuum or what-have-you to remove dirt, dust, and the like.

What cleaning looks like

I’ll admit it, I don’t like cleaning. It’s the most labor-intensive of the activities, and involves taking things down, moving furniture, and telling the kids, “Stay off the floors!” We can get nit-picky and differentiate between “cleaning” and “a good clean,” but that’s for another conversation.

Other words

There are even more words in the English language to discuss un-messying your home. Tidying is one that implies the least amount of effort of the bunch. If I’m going to “quickly put these things in to some semblance of order before our dinner guests arrive,” I’ll spend likely less than 10 minutes resetting order. If your home is organized and you take time each evening to straighten up before bed, tidying is usually all you need to do when you have people over to visit.

Now I turn to you, readers. How to do define these un-messying words? What do you expect of each, and, finally, are there any terms specific to your household? I once had a friend from the midwest who said, “This room needs ‘red’ up.” I think that meant cleaning up.

7 Comments for “Organizing, straightening up, and cleaning”

  1. posted by Joanne on

    Western PA. uses the term ‘red’ up too. It is more picking up and putting away. My sister in law, mother of triplets now grown up…had a ‘red up’ person and a cleaning person when the kids were little. Not being from here I was never sure if it was ‘ret’ or ‘red’ up.

  2. posted by Sarah on

    “Redd up” – sometimes rendered as “red up,” “ret up,” or even “rid up” – comes from the Middle English verb “redden” which means “to rescue, to free from, to clear.” So yes, it means to clean, to neaten, to tidy, or to “ready” an area. (redd … ready .. you can see the connection.)

    The expression is still very much in use today in the Pittsburgh area, as well as in Scotland. (And my thanks to grammarphobia.com for these details!)

  3. posted by Joanne on

    Thanks Sarah! I was pass that on to my Kids…
    Always thought it was a good additional cleaning word.
    “Okay guys time to ‘redd up’ !

  4. posted by LeeAnn on

    “Redd” up, as I always understood it was spelled, is also common in Central PA, but I never looked into the origins of the word. With all the Scots in Pittsburgh, I’m not surprised it’s common there. Great word, too little known.

  5. posted by Harry on

    I agree with your classifications, but in “organizing” you’ve melded together organizing and straightening up. Things are organized when the logical structure is applied. But the organized piles/boxes/locations don’t have to be straightened up.

    Your example of shoes in their bins is a good one: they’re organized because each bin contains only the appropriate shoes, they’re untidy because the shoes are thown in and jumbled up.

  6. posted by برامج كمبيوتر on

    I agree with your classifications, but in “organizing” you’ve melded together organizing and straightening up. Things are organized when the logical structure is applied. But the organized piles/boxes/locations don’t have to be straightened up.

    Your example of shoes in their bins is a good one: they’re organized because each bin contains only the appropriate shoes, they’re untidy because the shoes are thown in and jumbled up.

  7. posted by Henry on

    Does anyone have any hints on getting your kids to pick up their room? No how many times we nag them the never listen and clean up.

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