Tidy vs. Clean – What’s the Difference?

Cleaning Caddy (2)

Cleaning Caddy (2)

Nearly every morning I tidy the house and vacuum or sweep.  This has been my routine for the last 30+ years.   Recently I was asked what the difference was between tidying and cleaning.  So rather than tell you, I decided to show you.

My two grandkids, 3-1/2 year-old Ivy and 2-year-old Calvin spent the night last night.  They are VERY busy and they think my sole purpose in life is to entertain them.  So when they’re here, I don’t get much done and the house usually gets trashed.

When they laid down for their naps today, I took advantage of the opportunity to tidy the house.  Here’s a room-by-room account of what I did to tidy, not clean and if you don’t have time to read the whole article, skip to the photo of the living room at the end – it’s the worst!

Family Room

Family Room Before

This room wasn’t bad at all.  All I had to do was put the blue pillow back in the living room and put the brown pillows back on the couch.

Family Room After

Dining Room

Dining Room Before

We had just finished lunch so I took all the dishes to the kitchen, cleaned off the table and moved that blue pillow to the living room.

dining room after


Kitchen Before

I really lucked out on the kitchen.  I’m not sure what happened.  Usually it has stuff all over the counters.  I put away the peanut butter and washed the Hello Kitty plate.  I also washed all the dishes from lunch.

kitchen after


Bathroom Before

Ivy is potty training now so she spends a lot of time in the bathroom.  You’d be amazed at some of the interesting things that end up in that room.  Today’s tidy included dumping the trash, putting the brushes in the closet, putting the stool back in the kitchen and putting the rag (to the right of the sink) in the laundry basket.

Bathroom after


Bedroom Before

This room wasn’t too bad.  I put the bag of dirty kid clothes in the pink bag, straightened the quilt, put the changing pad in the drawer and hung the bag on the door.

Bedroom after

Living Room (the worst room)

Living Room Before

Living Room Before 2

 This is the room where we spend the most time and it always looks the worst.  Here’s what I did in here:

  • Put away the tent and tunnel
  • Take the food to the kitchen (on the coffee table)
  • Put away the large Sponge Bob pillow
  • Put the cushions back on the couch
  • Put the toys in the toy bins and put the bins back under the tv
  • Put away the puzzle (on the coffee table)
  • Put the pillows back on the couch

Living room afterSo in case you’re still confused (or in case I was as clear as mud!), the best definition of tidy is to put things back where they go.  My tidy routine is to walk through each room and put things away.  If something is really dirty, I’ll clean it – as long as it only takes a minute.  When I’m finished, whether the house is actually clean or not, it looks clean and organized.  Tidying the house is actually extremely satisfying.  In a matter of minutes (depending on how messy it was to start with – the tidying I did in the photos took about 15 minutes), the house is transformed from a pig sty to a palace.

My cleaning routine is a completely separate operation.  I do weekly chores weekly (duh!) and other cleaning chores as I have time.  Cleaning usually involves getting out the cleaning caddy and spending some quality time with the cleaning supplies and dirt!  It takes more time, more elbow grease and isn’t usually all that noticeable.

So there you have it.  That’s the difference between tidying and cleaning.  I do both but if I had to pick, I’d rather tidy.  You know – for the instant gratification!

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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12 thoughts on “Tidy vs. Clean – What’s the Difference?

  1. This is a task everyone in my house needs to get better at doing regularly. Great post – and timely. We are on a clean and de-clutter project this week.

    1. I did a clean and de-clutter last week – prior to putting our house on the market. It feels good when it’s done but it’s a lot of work!

  2. It is amazing the difference just putting stuff away can make. Of course, it seems like around here by the time I put all the stuff away, I am out of energy/time/desire to do the cleaning. I need to get a couple of boys around here on a more steady pick up and put away your stuff program.

    1. I know what you mean. I usually try to do my tidy in the morning and my cleaning in the afternoon. That helps with the energy. But I vote for getting the boys to do the work!!!

  3. You have such a beautiful home. I feel like I am constantly tidying up around the house, and I only have one husband to follow around and clean up after! I’m sure kids (and grandkids) make it a thousand times worse.

    1. Thank you. The grandkids definitely make a lot of messes! I’m lucky, though, in that my husband is pretty tidy so I don’t have to pick up after him.

  4. I always tend to do this! I tend to keep a tidy house so the only thing we have to do daily is usually dishes from dinner and putting away toys in the toy box. It make so much sense to clean along the way and on breaks like naptime. Only for it to get messed up when they wake up again!

    1. So true! And it’s definitely easier if you stay on top of it, even though sometimes it seems like a waste of time. But it isn’t!

    1. Really? I guess I like things really tidy then. But I’m not fanatical. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t live in the house because I want it perfect. You should see my house sometimes. It can get really bad but not usually for very long. I don’t like it that way. Neither does my husband. But thanks for the kind words.

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