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The 5 differences between cleaning and tidying

cleaning products


Have you ever noticed how taking care of your home can make you feel better physically and mentally?

This is because your home is an extension of your energy field. By decluttering and cleansing your external environment, you are doing the same with your whole being.

This is why, in moments of transition like moving from winter to spring, we often get the urge to clean and tidy our homes. However, although complementary, these two activities are completely separate endeavours with distinct objectives. Both contribute to a sense of wellbeing in your space, but for different reasons.

To create a living space that both looks and feels good, it is important to understand the 5 key differences between cleaning and tidying:

  1. The purpose: removing dirt v. allocating a place for each object

  2. What you address: dirt v. clutter

  3. The impact: external & short-term v. internal & long-term

  4. Who can do it: anyone v. only you

  5. How often you do it: frequently v. once

Simply put, through tidying, we create a space where energy circulates freely; with cleaning, we maintain the cleanliness and freshness of this space.

The 5 differences between tidying and cleaning

1. The purpose

  • Cleaning: The primary objective of cleaning is to eliminate dirt and dust to maintain a clean and hygienic living environment. Tasks include vacuuming, dusting, mopping, wiping and disinfecting surfaces.

  • Tidying: At its core, the objective of tidying is to create a harmonious living space by choosing the items you want to keep and, subsequently, assigning a designated place for each item.

2. What you tackle

  • Cleaning: Cleaning targets the physical removal of dirt. It is is a straightforward process focused on achieving immediate, visible results.

  • Tidying: Tidying focuses on addressing clutter and optimising storage. This involves sorting through possessions, discarding items that no longer serve a purpose, and organising the remaining items so they are visible, accessible and beautiful. The simplification that comes with tackling clutter opens up physical and mental space.

3. The impact

  • Cleaning: The effect of cleaning is immediately visible in the external environment. However, dirt comes back as you use your space and has to be tackled regularly.

  • Tidying: Decluttering and organising often results in an impressive transformation of your home, one that is effortless to maintain. However, the impact goes well beyond before and after photos. By learning to identify objects that spark tokimeki, or joy, you begin to recognise what is truly important to you. You experience a profound mindset shift and set your bar high for any new items you bring into your home. You also begin to conscientiously choose joy in other aspects of your life: relationships, career, commitments, habits, thought processes...Does it spark joy?

4. How often you do it

  • Cleaning: Cleaning is an ongoing maintenance activity that should be carried out regularly. Consistent cleaning habits prevent dirt from cumulating and contribute to the longevity of your home and belongings.

  • Tidying: According to the KonMari method, the "tidying festival" is a one-off activity, where you go through all of your belongings. There is a clear end  when you have decided on whether or not to keep each item that belongs to you. While this may sound daunting, the KonMari method is designed in a way to make it as easy as possible. For example, you tackle items by category rather than location to avoid simply moving them from one place to another; you begin with clothes because you are able to feel tokimeki most easily with them. One of the most empowering parts about completing a tidying festival is that you gain the ability to "reset" your home, i.e. put everything where it belongs, in a breeze. After all, your home is made for living in, so the objective is to have a home that is easy to tidy, not always tidy.

5. Who can do it

  • Cleaning: Unlike tidying, which is inherently personal, cleaning tasks can be performed by anyone with the necessary tools and equipment. Professional cleaning services offer a convenient option for individuals seeking assistance with routine cleaning tasks or specialised cleaning projects. Outsourcing cleaning can free up time and energy for other pursuits, making it a practical solution for busy families.

  • Tidying: Tidying is a deeply personal endeavour that requires active participation and ownership of the process from the individual. While support from a specialist is often valuable to apply the approach effectively and stay on track, the actual process of evaluating items and determining what to keep ultimately rests with the individual. Tidying is an opportunity for self-discovery and introspection, allowing you to reconnect with your values, priorities, and aspirations... with what brings you joy. No tidying consultant, no matter how experienced, can take joy-based decisions on your behalf.

3 tips to cleaning and tidying easier

Cleaning and tidying require both time and energy, and it can be difficult to find the motivation. Here are three tips to make it just that little bit easier:

  • Gratitude: think of cleaning and tidying as taking care of your home and your belongings. It is a way of showing your gratitude to the inanimate yet valued objects that accompany you every day.

  • Focus on the objective: whether it's a clean home or increased clarity in your life, reflect on your priorities and how cleaning and/or tidying can help you.

  • Get support: there's not need to do it all alone! Seek help to keep your home (and yourself) happy.


While cleaning and tidying serve distinct purposes, they are interconnected and both are needed for a happy home. Tidying makes cleaning more efficient. Less clutter means less things collecting dust or needing to be moved so the surface below can be cleaned. Imagine vacuuming without first having to clear the floor. Cleaning means taking care of your home and belongings, with which you renew your relationship through tidying.

Note that both cleaning and tidying are skills. You can learn how to tidy, just like you can learn how to clean. Cleaning products come with instructions, but everyday objects don't come with tidying instructions. All the more reason to seek support to learn to tidy.


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