Why Some Of Us Are Neat And Tidy

It’s a habit some of us have: being neat and tidy. A neat freak. That is, some of us like things to be in a certain order or place.

I’m one of these neat people, always making sure to put things away things I don’t need for a while. A few years ago I had an Asian colleague called Mandy the Magician and she is a neat person too. One day she finished all her work for the day and decided to tidy our office – sorting a plastic tub full of paperclips, a plastic tub the size of your average rectangular pillow, sorting silver paperclips from the coloured ones.

Neat lines of trees. Not one of them out of place | Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge.

Neat lines of trees. Not one of them out of place | Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge.

Being neat is a trait that transcends cultures. People all over the world are neat. Perhaps it’s a personality trait, a choice to be neat.

We’re neat and tidy because like to be organised. We like things to have their own place so that we can find them more easily when we need them. At the end of the day at work, I make time to arrange my pen next to my keyboard – it gives me peace of mind that I’ll have my pen in one second when I need it the next morning.

Some of us make the effort to be neat because we want space. An uncluttered space means less distractions for some of us. With only my laptop and notebook on my desk at home, all my attention turns to writing.

Maybe we’re neat because we have nothing better to do and want to be productive. One afternoon I walked over to Mandy’s desk where she was sitting with the paperclips and asked, “Why?”. She threw the coloured paperclips one by one into a tub on her right and the silvers into another on her left. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Dyed red hair pulled away from her forehead, eyes gazing at the growing mountains of paperclips from behind those large black glasses on her face, she said, “There’s nothing else to do”.

Sorting paperclips into neat piles isn’t something many of us do. Maybe Mandy’s neatness is due to OCD behaviour. And hyper-concern of order can be triggered by feelings of childhood routine.

Maybe Asians tend to be neater than others, others from Western culture. I grew up in a typical Chinese household in Malaysia, a very tidy Asian household. Every time I dropped a single grain of rice or cookie crumb on the floor, my mum yelled, “Pick it up! Don’t dirty the floor!”. Which I did. My mum also insisted on us taking our shoes off before we entered the house (so our footwear wouldn’t drag stones in and leave random dirt trails over the floor) unlike many Westerners.

She was also fond of arranging furniture a certain way at home back then: beds facing away from the door, potted plants in the corner. My parents are believers in feng shui, believing an airy, spacious house brings good chi to the family. I might have picked up my neat habit just by watching her.

Sometimes fear and insecurity drive us to be neat. When we’re arranging things or keeping up our appearances, we feel like we can be perfect: we feel like we’re in control and things won’t go wrong because there’s a system. As my mum swept the floor and pushed back the furniture in their usual place, she always mumbled something about getting sick from a dirty home. Outside, stacks of rubbish sat uncollected on our street corners.

It’s not easy being neat. It takes time, effort and even skill to get things into place where they “should” be. There are different kinds of neat freaks, for instance, like that person who always wipes the table with sanitiser twice or the person who is a fussy groomer – seemingly uptight people. Then there are those not-so-neat folks, the messy folks like Einstein and Mark Twain who are seen as creative geniuses.

But that’s not to say us neat people can’t be impressive, and neat people can be inspirational. That afternoon at work Mandy separated all the silver paperclips from the coloured ones. The next afternoon, the thunk of paperclips filled our ears again. One of my colleagues, blonde-haired-leaving-papers-all-over-her-desk Simone, had finished her share of work that day and wandered towards the sound, and found Mandy rummaging through the coloured paperclips.

“Sorting them by degree of colour?” Simone exclaimed, loud enough for the whole office to hear. “Amazing!” She grabbed a fistful of them and went back to her desk, divvying them up. Later that day I wandered over to the paperclips: all the coloured paperclips were now nestled in their own compartments in a plastic tub, cardboard compartments made by Mandy. Certainly none of us were sleeping on the job that afternoon.

Being neat gives us a sense of purpose. We work towards something, and we learn to get things done. And feel good while we’re at it. In small doses.

Are you a neat and tidy person?

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113 thoughts on “Why Some Of Us Are Neat And Tidy

  1. I am a neat and tidy person but in all honesty, I hate housework. I do it because I want our house to be a place we are proud of, a place where we feel comfortable, and a place where can find things easily because it is organized – it is sort of like my ‘Foreign Sanctuary.’ My husband and I usually clean together. It seems we have this unspoken rule of who does what – it is a lot faster when the both of us do it. People usually laugh at me when I tell them I hate cleaning, especially my brother-in-laws’ who say we have the cleanest house they have seen. However, I disagree with that.

    I don’t want to generalize about all Taiwanese or say everyone here is like this, but some of the houses I have visited in Taiwan feel very cluttered. Maybe it is lack of storage, but some households here seem to have a lot of things that I would thrown away long ago. It could be differences in culture though.

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    • “I hate housework”. I feel you, Constance. I am not a fan of housework either but I choose to do it because like you, I want my living quarters to be a place where it’s comfortable and proud of. It’s always nice to come home and find things neat and in order – escape the traffic, dirt and dust outside.

      I don’t actually like to do household chores with someone else. Perhaps it’s because I have my own cleaning standards and clean thoroughly. I’m the kind who would wash the plates twice until they make squeaky noises 🙂 But I always find housework time-comsuming. So maybe as you mentioned, time passes faster if someone does the chores with you. And your husband is very kind to chip in.

      I do notice some people love to collect things, regardless of culture and background. And we usually collect things because they are of sentimental value or we think we may be able to use them in the future. Though we may usually are able to find storage spaces for them, it all tends to usually pile up…


      • My husband and I do it together because our house is pretty big. If it was just me, I would spend all my free time cleaning. Plus, sometimes I have no idea what to do with his stuff. And I have come to the recent realization that I have too much Christmas decorations as some of it isn’t even put up/out yet. No wonder my husband always says ‘Constance, please don’t buy any Christmas decorations this year. There is no more room on the shelves in the storage room.’ 🙂


        • “…I would spend all my free time cleaning” You sound like a homebody! Sometimes we’re afraid of touching other people’s stuff because, well, maybe they want it there and that’s their things’ special spot.

          It is interesting to hear that you like buying decorations (for Christmas). I’ve come to realise no matter how less or how much decorations you put on a Christmas tree, it looks neat and fabulous. Tell your husband to buy more shelves or boxes to store your stuff away 😀


          • ‘You sound like a homebody!’ – Maybe to a certain extent but I love going out and exploring and traveling. I consider myself half and half. What I meant is I don’t want to be cleaning all the time when I am home. I want time to write, to relax, and to do other things besides cleaning.

            As for the shelves, they extend all the way to the ceiling already. Plus, I totally agree with him – I have too much Christmas décor.


            • So true. Cleaning and tidying IS time consuming. There is a life outside of it. Glad to hear you do make time for writing and what you love doing alongside cleaning the house. Looks like you’ve found a balance!


  2. No, I’m somewhat messy. It’s me. And I don’t even have children. Guess I better clean the bathroom..
    My partner is the opposite –he’s organized and neat. He tolerates me. Makes sure my mess doesn’t impinge in ;his neat space.

    I’m not sure I agree with Sue, because I know some Canadians, some of them my in-laws who walk around in their house with their shoes..clean shoes.
    But yes, all the Asian-Canadians I’ve known, I’ve always had to take off my shoes in their homes. I expect people to take off their shoes in our home. Who wants a dirty rug, floor?


    • I guess it’s just a part of your personality to be not-so-neat, Jean. We all have our own habits and quirks. No, no, you don’t have to clean the bathroom this instant…if we spend too much time being neat and organised on one thing, we might miss out on other things that pass us by.

      Wow. You and your partner are certainly different but no doubt get along. I suppose the two of you get used to each other’s habits and learn to accept them after all this while together.

      Interesting to hear that you and Sue have different perceptions of Canadians taking shoes off at home. Sometimes if the carpet or rug at home is dark in colour, it might be hard to notice footprints or dirt on it…


      • As a child in Canada, I used to be vaguely embarrassed that my non-Asian friends would trip over a ton of shoes inside the front door…there are 6 children in my family.

        I believe my partner’s neatness is rooted..back in childhood where he was sick often as a little boy in post-WW II Germany and with bombed out buildings and infrastructure, people were just more susceptible to germs, etc. He was never the child that liked to jump around in mud, etc. He associated as a child, messiness with illness. He was this much affected by his illnesses growing up.

        I am different from his ex-wife who probably keeps a better house ( but I’ve never been). I’m just basing that on the reality that as a parent (of 2 now adult children), parents are forced to clean up in certain areas of the house at least.

        I’m not sure why /how my partner tolerates my gentle chaos and messiness. As long as it doesn’t affect his workspace, etc. In other areas of life, I am like him: organized in planning (personal and work-related), reliable in terms of meeting times with people and friends, etc.

        My siblings each have different ranges of neatness and messiness and much of that is dependent on if they have children. It’s just harder.

        So I’m certain your parents appreciate your neatness.


        • Tripping over the piles of Asian shoes at the door…oh dear. I remember that always happened to my in Malaysia during Chinese New Year. My parents would take me to visit relatives and friends’ houses and I would take off my shoes and stumble through a pile of shoes to enter. And the shoes always got mixed up.

          “Messiness with illness”. That is a very good point, Jean, and in reality there’s a lot of truth to that when you’re talking about living in a run-down environment. I am sorry to hear he grew up with illness. It reminds me: I was sick a lot as a child and my mum would make sure she wiped my room and clean the floors of the house every week. Same trend there.

          No doubt we’re all different and have different habits, and I reckon your partner is smart enough to realise that and accept who you are. I think you are right that my parents appreciate my neatness. Not too long ago my dad remarked how smooth and shiny my desk was – I had polished it with leather wipes a week ago.


    • Hmmm. I can’t remember of a cartoon character like that. I don’t know, I’m thinking of Spongebob and his face when something goes wrong…

      From your posts, it does seem that you have a lot of treasure in your boxes in your basement – and they are stored so neatly away. Do you feel overwhelmed going through the boxes? Like do you struggle to pick which box to go through first? ^^’


      • Overwhelmed, yes. But right now I’m procrastinating. It must be “the season” — I know there are Christmas decorations still stored away, and cards. But I just gave away about a dozen strings of Christmas lights (new in the box) that I found.


        • Tis the season indeed. December is already upon us. That is so generous of you to give away those Christmas lights, Sandy – spirit of the season right there. Sounds like you have stored the decorations away all in neat boxes. I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you need come decorating time.

          I find it fascinating that no matter how many ornaments you put on a Christmas tree, it looks neat. Never one big mess 🙂


  3. I can be both messy and neat. It always depends how much time I have on my hands to do clean up and usually when something is too long messy I get annoyed by it and tidy everything up.
    My wife is only a neat person when we have guests coming over. Prior to the visit she tidies up the entire apartment so I made once the suggestion we invite people over every day….

    And now to the very extrem as my father-in-law has an OCD and cleans always several times everything. He picks up all the hairs, mobs everything and organizes the entire apartment always for about two hours after he is back from work


    • You are very funny, Crazy. Suggesting you bring visitors over so your wife will pitch in with the chores. But now that you are working, maybe she will now have no choice but to help you with the cleaning now 🙂

      It sounds like FIL is a whiz at cleaning, and at the rate he cleans, I am thinking MIL..doesn’t clean that much? She might be too busy with her other activities like dancing to tidy things up.

      Hope the job is going well. It sounds like you’re handling it very well and having no problems with it.


      • MIL is not really cleaning it is more like spreading the dirt evenly around the apartment 🙂

        The job is fine thus far but I can’t really say anything more as I am studying every day about the bank system at work so I am not”working” yet. Probably in January I will know more about it as I start my own little project also then. At least I have already planned holidays, around Christmas and new year for two weeks 😀


        • MIL has always come across as a neat person to me. After all, it seems like she is neat when it comes to presenting herself. But now that you’re saying she’s not so neat at home, I am starting to see another side of her 😉

          That’s great to hear the job has started off well. Slow and steady, as you learn up you go. I am sure Nathan will be excited for the upcoming festive season and have a face like this 😀


          • Indeed my mother-in-law is very tidy when it comes to her outward experience but at home it is the exact opposite:)
            For this Christmas we only have decorations in my parents apartment we have just too much to do right now as there are still small things for our apartment undone


            • I find it very hard to believe MIL does not want a tidy house. Sounds like she will fuss over her appearance more than she will present a tidy house 😀

              Good luck with putting together your apartment piece by piece. Especially looking forward to seeing how Nathan room will turn out 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Like Constance I do like being neat and tidy, but I also hate houseworkーor more specifically, some areas of it. I would say I’m clean, but not so tidy. I *want* everything to be in a perfect place, but I’m also chronically short on space and boxes to help tidy things up more. My dream bookcase is one of those with sliding doors so you can hide the books away when you’re not looking for one. But at the moment, there’s no space…and far too many books. (I’ll downsize and reorganize my desk, my closet and kitchenーbut I find it very, very hard to get rid of books. ^^; They’re my friiiiends T-T)

    I have a small bin on our coffee table/kotatsu because random bits of garbage really, really annoy me. I don’t want to have garbage on the table, but it’s better than a bin that takes up too much space, and I feel good about emptying it often anyway. I get stressed with a lot of clutter and can’t focus well, but have to find a balance since I’m not always able to control it… ^^; (Feel like that’s a lot of weirdness there, haha!)


    • Short on space! That makes the two of us then. I live in a small apartment and there is hardly any space for anything. Put a bag on the floor and the room immediately looks cluttered. Your dream bookcase sounds cool! I suppose it’s one of the tall ones from ceiling to floor? Now I’m thinking of the colour of your bookcase…white, pink? It’s so fun decorating!

      That is very hygienic and neat of you to have a small bin to collect rubbish in your living room. But sometimes the smaller the bin the more easy it is to knock over, I hope that doesn’t happen to you! I usually put a small plastic bag in one corner of my bedroom and that functions as a bin 😀


      • Yes!!! I can relate so well to the “put a bag on the floor and the room immediately looks cluttered”!! Same thing. T-T

        Ooooh, a floor to ceiling bookcase would absolutely be the dream option! ❤ I've seen smaller ones and that would be fine as well. I'd probably go with either white, or my favorite: light bare wood, such as birch, ash, maple or pine. Maybe I'd go as dark as cherry or cedar. (It's the Swede in meーI loooove wooden things; houses, furniture, decorations etc. ^^;

        The plastic bag idea sounds good, too! The little bin hasn't fallen over yet, so keeping it on one end of the table seems to work for now. We may have to reconsider if we get a smaller table at some point though. 😀


        • My current bookcase and shelf is a white shelf from Ikea. Nothing fancy but I like that it’s simple and plain. Light bare wood – that is a good choice, would give your shelf a bit of texture look-wise. Light colours are what I prefer for furniture as they seem to make a room look brighter.

          I didn’t know Swedes loves wood. Strangely a lot of the furniture in Ikea doesn’t showcase this. But I must say the furniture here is designed to make your house more neat. Lots of options for storage 😀

          Your little bin is standing strong. May it stand strong for a long time. When it comes to bins I’m really neat too – I absolutely have to put a plastic bag in it to collect the rubbish – even if it’s just a bin to throw scrap pieces of paper. Can’t let the rubbish touch the rubbish bin… 😀


  5. I can not work in messy environment but I am not a neat person either if judging my living room at home 🙂 My office desk usually well organised but my French colleague has the most organised, and tidiest desk ever – so when looking at his desk, I feel I am not as neat as I thought 😀

    I am not sure if Asians can be considered neater than others from Western culture. After having been living in the Netherlands for quite some time, I notice that some of our Dutch friends have very very neat and well organized homes. Yes, some have asked us to take off our shoes but some doesn’t care much as long as our shoes clean… maybe it is more personal traits?


    • I think…you are a neat person, Indah! 😀 It sounds like you need a fairly clean space to think. And I suppose your living room is messy because it’s your resting space. For some of us, when we are at home, we just want to relax and unwind – hence we don’t put in much effort to be tidy.

      I do think neatness boils down to personality and individual tastes. Never knew the people in Dutch tend to be neat. You make it sound like they are a stickler for having things in order, like not even a hair on the carpet!

      I need to visit over there to see people take their shoes off… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • I see. You are so polite to take off your shoes when visiting your Dutch friends. I am sure you do so even if they don’t ask you. Whenever I go to someone’s house and I see them wearing shoes indoors, I feel very weird! But I leave my shoes on 😀

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  6. I don’t like it too messy, but I need some creative chaos. My husband and I were both neat when we didn’t live together, but after having moved in with each other, our apartment’s almost always been a mess. I don’t know why that is, but it seems like the apartment will be messy again 5 min after tidying it. I guess I don’t need to mention that with a baby it’s even become more messier. I try not to let it get out of control, but sometimes I just don’t have the time to clean up (and other times I just don’t know where to put stuff that isn’t mine).

    The first thing my mother-in-law does when she arrives home is usually put things in order. We currently live out of suitcases, which doesn’t help.

    I don’t like having a dirty kitchen or bathroom, but I don’t mind toys and clothes lying around that much (or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it).


    • “creative chaos”. So glad you say that because sometimes that’s how I feel with writing. There will be days when I can hardly stop writing and forget to clean the house.

      Sorry to hear that you don’t have the time to clean up at home, I guess that’s make the two of us. Being neat and tidy isn’t the end of the world; there are usually more important things to do and take care of. For you, I suppose it’s feeding or entertaining the baby 🙂

      That is very helpful of your mother-in-law, pitching in to clean up your house. I hope you and your husband eventually settle down and find a stable place to live, maybe a bigger one so you have somewhere to put your things away 🙂


  7. I think I am the very opposite of a neat person. I love my inspirational chaos.
    There is a constant mess on my desk, in my hand bag, a pile of clothes next to my bed and all sorts of stuff in my “that is sort of important” box. And whenever I start to clean out one corner I get all excited about the things that were hidden underneath something else.
    But it has to be my mess! I don’t want anyone else’s chaos surrounding me.
    On the other hand, you could also see me sorting paperclips by colour but just to make funny animals and patterns out of them. 😉
    And I am so lucky to live together with a tidier person than I am…


    • “Inspirational chaos” Love how you say that. It sounds like you only know how to waddle through the piles of stuff around you. Some of us need to be surrounded by things and people to be inspired to do something or create.

      Haha, it does feel like treasure when you rummage and unearth something you’ve forgotten about especially 😀 Once I unearthed quite a bit of money in my closet while sorting through it.

      I am sure the tidy person you live with has learnt to live with your not-so-tidy habit. You get used to it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Uhm, I think I’m a mixture of neat and messy. If there is something dirty I will clean it right away, but my desk is always full of things. Clean things, but many of them, hahaha. But then one day I get up and think there are too many things on the desk and I put everything away. Then new things start piling up. It is the neverending story, hahaha. Uhm, maybe I’m tending to messy more than tidy 😛


    • Sounds like you’re messy, then tidy. Then messy again. And tidy. So the cycle continues! Never gets boring. It’s good that you clean things up right away when they are dirty so dust and germs won’t become your best friends, very efficient of you 😀

      Come to think of it, one of the few things I really don’t mind on my desk is a block of chocolate.


  9. I can’t stand a messy kitchen, even in someone else’s home. 🙂 I always tidy up and clean as I prepare a meal. I think my dad made me a neat and tidy person, and I seem to remember that “tidy’ was a word I heard a lot as a child. I was expected to help with the housework from an early age, which I think was a good preparation for when I left home and got married.


    • A messy kitchen is not only unsightly to look at, but also germy. I can’t stand the sight of a pile of dirty dishes, and they smell if you don’t wash them a few hours after a meal. That’s great you helped out with the chores as a kid. My parents never really liked me helping out – I was slow at tidying up back then!

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  10. 🙂 I love to organise things around me like put books follow alphabet order, keep all my laces, fabrics, clew in their right boxes. The chaos scares me alot, I need to control my life ^^ ❤


  11. Just a quick scan of the comments made me realize that most people will say that are neater than they probably are. I think the better indicator is to ask another person if they consider you neat or messy! It’s considered “good” to be neat and “bad” to be messy, so I think most folks will lie. But not in a mean way, just in a “I’m used to the way I live way”.

    If I’m honest, I think most people live messy, dirty and disgusting. I’m usually horrified when I visit people’s homes. I can’t stand dishes in the sink, clutter, stepping on dirt, dust, seeing a dust bunny or dirty counters, too. But I’ll allow my desk to stack up and then do a big “file everything away” when I’m ready.

    It’s funny because I organized my closet this week. I was fed up with clothes sloppily stacked up and trying to figure out where everything could go. I did some research, cleaned and moved and now it’s wonderful. Color-coordinated, too! I told my friend and she laughed, she said, “I give you 2 weeks.” And I said, “No way!”

    When I told my b/f this he said, “Yeah, for a normal person. 2 weeks, but you are not normal. You will probably keep your closet like this for a long time.” 😀

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    • A lot of us say we are neater than we actually are? I think you may be on to something here. Like you, my closet isn’t too tidy. I tend to throw my most-often worn pieces into a heap at the front. And even when we think we’re neat, there will always be that person who is neater or to put it simply, “does it better”.

      Good on you for organising your closet! I am sure you felt very productive and found pieces of clothes you’ve forgotten. Like a treasure hunt. I hope your closet is neat for a long time to come and you can prove to your boyfriend that you are the organised one 😀

      As for going into other people’s houses and finding it messy, that has happened a lot to me too. I really can’t stand a filled sink of dishes or a sticky floor or so many things everywhere that the house is actually very crammed. I keep telling myself: “It’s cosy. It’s cosy!” 😀


  12. I admire people who are neat and tidy. I do spend time to organize stuff, but I can’t say I’m neat though. I think Japanese are the neatest people 🙂


    • We all have our differences. I’m sure you’re neat in some ways as you do make time to put things in place. That is a good observation. Japanese people tend to be very neat, from the layout of houses to the way they dress.


      • Also, Japanese are into details and don’t forget aesthetic.
        I appreciate how you address this topic. Enjoyed the reading.
        Thank you for sharing your insights, as always, Mabel. Have a great weekend. 🙂


        • That is so true that Japanese are very attentive to details. Origami is one such example. One wrong turn of the paper and you’ll need to undo what you’ve folded. I used to be able to fold roses and swans.

          Thank for your reading and supporting, Amy. It means a lot to me when you drop by. You have a good weekend too.


          • Origami, you are so talented, Mabel. I really enjoy reading your posts. Your writing and topic trigger me to think a little further, so I try to find a quiet time to read and comment. I know you have a busy life, but you always find time to visit my blog and leave thoughtful comment. Thank you for that. Enjoy the weekend. 🙂


            • I don’t think I’m talented. I’m just someone who likes to put things in order and anyone can do that if they do it a few times. I always think you’re so talented at photography, especially capturing the detail in birds. You must have learnt this over the years out experimenting 🙂

              Thanks for the nice words and comments, Amy. I really appreciate it. Working full time keeps me very busy, but I love writing too much to give it up 🙂


  13. Hmmm…. we are both neat and messy! We like order and things to be organised but we hate housework!! Clutter drives us mad but yet we can’t seem to get rid of things.

    We don’t have floorboards in our place but we prefer people not walk through with shoes on!

    Is neat and tidy the same as clean?? Things could be neat but dirty, right? And things could be messy but clean??

    Man – this is too much for a Friday night!!


      • You are lucky to have floorboards! My apartment is mainly carpeted and it’s so hard to clean. Vacuuming it really isn’t cleaning it, sadly.

        I do notice many Asian households tend to have floorboards or tiles – makes a cleaner and potentially neater household.


    • Oh dear, Monkeys. Looks like you can’t decide if you’re neat or messy! With all your travels you must have collected a lot of souvenirs from different parts of the world. I hope they are stored away safely and neatly.

      Good point – neat and tidy = clean? Maybe…you could have a neat shelf but have not wiped it for a couple of months. But you could have a messy sink and it would certainly not be clean.

      Aaah! Confusing indeed for the weekend 😉


  14. You said something at the end that I thought about when I began reading the article: in small doses 😀
    I guess in some ways I consider myself a bit neat and tidy… mainly with the house – not that it is always clean – but I have a few things I like to keep in place, like my toothpaste is always on the same place, I also take my shoes off when entering the house – not something I learned in Brazil, we don’t actually have this habit – organizing the living room’s mess from the night before – sometimes with beer from my hubby – and putting all Enzzo’s teddy bears back in place hahaha.. things like that. When Im cooking for example, I keep washing my hand all the time, until everything is done and clean 😀

    When you began the text, I thought straight away that you are a neat and tidy person… I guess you show this a bit on the way you write… I like that, it is totally linked with organization! 😀

    Have a great weekend Mabel!!


    • I actually thought you are a very, very neat person because of your blog title: Packing My Suitcase, and that you are an expert at making things neat in your suitcases on travels and know how to stuff as many things into them 😀

      It is true…our house can be neat but not necessarily clean. I didn’t know you took off your shoes too, I guess many of us don’t like to make our house dirtier than it already is.

      Awww, Enzzo has teddy bears! Didn’t know he was a fan of stuffed toys…so much so he likes to mess them around. Maybe he will like my stuffed monkeys!

      You are right, I am quite a neat person. So smart! With a good story, it needs a good “flow”, so in that sense you need to have an organised mind 🙂


  15. Great idea for a post ~ I am much more neat & tidy than I was in my younger days, but that is not saying too much as I loved & thrived in chaos 🙂 Although, strangely, my work was always very organized, planned and thought out…

    And as I’ve gotten older, there has been a switch towards cleanliness that is surprising 🙂


    • Maybe being neat and tidy is something we learn and need to do as we grow older. As we get older, we tend to have more responsibilities on the work and personal front. All the more reason to be organised and juggle everything.

      I will not lie. There have been times when writing and the need to be creative has overwhelmed me and I’ve put aside chores. But I’ve always come back to them 😉


  16. Interesting as usual, Mabel. Scanning the comments I find people seem to be very neat – or like it to be neat. I guess I’m a hopeless case nowadays. My mother was – and is still, a perfectionist. When I was younger I kept everything extremely tidy…but I hate housework (many of us do…). With my work as a teacher everything has changed. My lovely handwriting is lost, and calligraphy is no longer a possibility (stress and doing everything as fast as possible). My desk is a constant mess of papers and books – students’ collecting things and leaving things. My computers at school and at home full of planned lessons, tests, mails, papers to correct – and pictures (of course!). The strange thing is that I always find my things – I know WHERE in the mess they are…
    At home, well, the biggest room is always tidy and neat, but having so many plants (171 on the latest counting…) and trying to give every plant the best conditions for it to grow – they are everywhere…
    Dogs leave sandy trails everywhere…but since I lost Mille, there is only half as much of course.

    Well, my conclusion is, that if you(or at least I) have a stressful job, family and dogs, you cannot be too tidy. Unless you want to kill yourself…or have no other hobbies than cleaning up of course . I tend to have real “tornado” fits instead. When everything is just Too Much – I work hard for some days to tidy up everything – and I’m very satisfied afterwards!


    • It does sound very stressful to be a teacher, Leya, as you said (but I’m sure the profession is a very rewarding one). As we grow older, we find that we have lots of responsibilities and a lot of the time it’s hard to make time to put everything in order. ” I know WHERE in the mess they are” sounds like you have a magic power there 😉 I can usually never find what I’m looking for on my desk if there are piles of things on it – if I do, it takes me ages. And I end up making a bigger mess because I throw all the things around to find what I’m looking for.

      I think that is a great suggestion, to have Tidying Days. That way we have time to think about what we want and what to throw out. And tidying doesn’t usually have to be done in a hurry, it really shouldn’t. Doing it slow and doing a good job, and then standing back to see things all organised, now that’s a great feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m pretty sure people of every culture place a high value on neatness.

    I don’t know if you have this phrase in Australia, but in America some people use the term “spring cleaning”, which is supposed to mean when people clean up and tidy their house in the springtime. My mother used to say that was strange because you should try to keep the house neat all the time not just one time a year.


    • My parents used the term “spring cleaning” all the time when I was growing up in Melbourne and Malaysia. There’s a part of American culture that is similar to Australian culture.

      Strangely, my mum also referred to a major clean of our house as “spring cleaning” even in the other seasons. It could be because she doesn’t understand English too well and thought it meant “major cleanup” . Maybe your mum used this term like this as well, I don’t know.

      Your mum is certainly right: we really should be tidying the house all year round. Every week, in fact. Thanks for stopping by, Domenico.


  18. This is a really lovely post, Mabel. I have to admit I admire your neatness because it’s not one of my strong points! That said, I have found that moving to Asia has motivated me to clean more often and to be neater about my own personal spaces — so I have to agree that people do tend to be neater about their apartments/personal spaces here!


    • Thanks, Jocelyn. I will be honest: sometimes when I’m having a very good writing day, I will completely forget about tidying. The next day I will usually go on a crazy cleaning spree ^^’

      It’s interesting to hear you say that you have become neater upon moving to Asia. Living quarters and apartments in Asia tend to be small, sometimes hideously squashed. Maybe that motivates many Asians to keep their personal spaces need – they will have room to move around their home!


  19. what an interesting post, Mabel!!
    it may sound crazy, but when I’m stressed out, I take to cleaning the house… it’s my stress-relief therapy… I put on some nice music and take to it… 🙂 I may be one of the few people to really don’t mind the domestic chores 🙂 cleaning lets good energy in and throwing away dirty and old things helps get rid of stress… at least this is what I think 🙂 to be completely honest, I can’t quite manage to keep things in order with the two boys at home… so I am not very pedantic… 🙂

    as for my workspace, it is chaotic while I work… but it’s not too chaotic… mess really makes me nervous and is counterproductive for my work process…

    you should write a post on feng shui, it is very interesting and I’d love to learn more about it 🙂


    • That is a very good way to de-stress, Alexandra – by cleaning and tidying the house. Love how you see this as something positive. Judging by the number of smileys you have in this comment, I am sure you are telling the truth 🙂 Yes, when we’re cleaning we throw out the old and make the house a more healthier place to live in. And I suppose when you’re bustling around doing the domestic chores, you’re getting a bit of exercise too 😉

      I suppose when you’re out doing photography, a bit of chaos doesn’t hurt…

      A post on feng shui. Thank you, Alexandra. A great idea for a post. I’ve written that down in my ideas notebook. How organised 🙂


      • except that my work is not related in any way to photography and is not even that creative… I guess I need some chaos now and then so I can take care of it lol 🙂

        will be looking forward to the feng shui post , Mabel 🙂


        • I am sure when chaos is around you, you get inspired to take photos. Inspiration hits you when you least expect it.

          Will pencil the feng shui post for next year. If there is any part of feng shui you are interested in, let me know 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  20. I love the way you connect the two. It takes a steady eye and time to plant trees in a perfect line most people would just eyeball the holes.
    I had fun when I designed my house in laying out the landscaping. From a birds eye view the paths connect from front to back, the light posts follow the path ways.
    I’m not a neat freak but I like clean symmetrical lines even if no one can see them


    • Thanks for the compliment on the photo, Leslie. It takes time to plant and grow any tree or plant. Planting them is one thing, making them sprout up is another, and getting them to grow in a straight line is a whole other ballgame altogether.

      That is so creative of you to landscape your own house. I’ve never done that before (not yet, maybe in a few years when I’ve saved up) but I’m sure it’s a lot of work. Sounds like you love seeing patterns in everything around you 🙂


  21. I thought I was a neat person (not all my life, just the last 30 years). But I am now reading the best-selling “The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing”, by Marie Kondo, who is Japanese. Boy, do I have a long way to go! But it is a goal worth achieving, if you have any interest in serenity.


    • That sounds like a very interesting book. I will out it on my to-read list. I am sure a lot of us have interest in serenity – it brings about less stress – and I know I sure am. It’s never too late to learn how to be neat. I guess it’s something we have to be dedicated to, dedicated enough until it becomes a habit. Of course, it’s always worth visualising the end goals of being neat and tidy in our heads – gives us something to work towards to 🙂


  22. Yep, I’m a neat freak too. My mom used to say I cleaned the ashtray before she finished smoking her cigarette (she was NOT a neat freak!!) I cannot go to bed if there’s a dirty dish in the house, or laundry in the basket. And there were NEVER loose papers on my desk. I was a big proponent of never looking at a piece of paper twice – review, act, file or toss. I’m sure part of it is in reaction to my mom’s NOT being neat – clutter makes me crazy. I must get the book by Marie Kondo – oh boy, my husband is NOT going to like this 🙂


    • You and Touch2Touch (comment right above you) seem to be on the same wavelength – the book by Marie Kondo. Although there are days when I am tired and throw stuff around the house without picking them up, leaving dirty dishes in the sink is never something I will ignore. Always scared something will grow out of them if they are left in the sink overnight.

      I am sure your mum wasn’t too happy you cleaned the ashtray so quickly. It must be a pet peeved, grating on her nerves 😀 I am sure she appreciated your efforts at cleaning up, though 🙂


  23. I’m neat and tidy in general, but mostly in the areas that suit me, and other parts of my life maybe less. With that said though, I have 1 place for each thing in my house and the object must be placed exactly there,… otherwise later I can’t find it! Or I run around worried that I’m sure to have lost it. xx


    • That is so organised and neat of you, that each thing has it’s own special place at home! It’s as if you treasure every single thing you have. I am sure your piano books and sheet music have their own place and folders ^^’

      I can’t imagine Sofia running around losing something. You seemed so organised, especially when it comes to telling recipes to us.


      • Haha you just need me to misplace 1 thing and I already think I’ve lost it, and run around looking everywhere! 🙂 Well I prefer buying music books (even if they cost more moeny) because they are easier to organize than the music sheets I have that are photocopied. Besides they are more beautiful and easier to study with too.. What about you? Do you misplace things and assume you’ve lost it?


        • I didn’t know you were a bit of a neat-freak perfectionist! Since you are a cook, I assume you have lots of pots and pans and ingredients in your kitchen and all of it is organised – and you know where to get it in a jiffy 😀

          So true. I always had a soft spot for music books even if it’s hard to turn their pages. I used to always misplace my printed sheet music – I keep it all in one stack and the pages get jumbled up!

          This morning I thought Iost one of my makeup brushes. Annoyed, I used another one. Then I decided to rummage around my closet and ta-dah! It was hiding under a shirt 😀


            • Sometimes I feel lost when I lose things too. Like when I can’t find my camera!

              I misplaced my Revlon flat foundation brush this morning. I had to used my newly washed Real Techniques Expert Face Brush…so now I have to wash it again! You know what, make-up is SO hard to organise. Please tell me you agree with me ^^’


  24. I wish I was neat. I super wish I was neat. Or at least that my husband was neat. But we both tend toward slobbishness. We’re not terrible but we have to make a huge effort and our house seems to slide into untidiness while we’re not even looking. Maybe I just don’t have the energy for neatness. Would you qualify yourself as more energetic than most?


    • I wouldn’t say I’m more energetic in the physical sense than others, definitely not. I come home each day from work feeling flat out tired (even on weekends I feel sleep-deprived, I really don’t sleep much). I reckon it’s my preference for seeing things in order and the habit of being neat that drives me to tidy up when I am home.

      “…make a huge effort”. Sorry to hear that 😦 Sometimes life does get in the way and we only have so much time on our hands. Do you see tidying up as a chore?


  25. I’m very neat and tidy, Mabel, and I like everything in its correct place. Fortunately for me, so does my partner. I’ve never been able to understand how anybody can relax in a house full of clutter and which is untidy. A clean and tidy house is a happy house, where as a dirty and cluttered house is an unhappy house which is craving some attention. After all, we love our homes don’t we, so shouldn’t we look after them as well?

    I’m amazed that you leave your pen by your keyboard at work when you leave for the day. If that had been in the office where I worked a few years ago, that pen would have been picked up, used, and would never have been seen by me again.


    • “we love our homes don’t we, so shouldn’t we look after them as well?” Perfectly said, Hugh. Our home is our sanctuary. I’ve always felt the more tidy my house is, the more easily I can find my things and even clean my house – which leads to less stress and frustration when we need to locate something or getting the place ready for visitors.

      You are lucky to have found a partner who shares your neatness. I bet the two of you have no problem with household chores 😛

      I HAVE to leave my pen at my keyboard at work, or I will simply feel frazzled when I come in early next morning. Trust me, I’ve failed to do so a few times and that didn’t feel good 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I so agree with you, Mabel, a clean and tidy home, workplace, etc, means you can locate things far more easier and keep everything clean far more easily as well. That means you will then have more spare time to do the things you enjoy doing. I do so hate clutter – why keep something that you have not used in years?

        You are so lucky that nobody at work picks up your pen and walks off with it while you are not there 🙂 It was always happening to me, so I would always lock everything away before I left the office.


        • I think most people at my work are neat by nature, and we like to use our own pens and notebooks. That’s not very nice of your colleagues to take your pen and not return it. Good thing you lock all your things away before you leave.

          Since your place is uncluttered, it must be very welcoming to guests. I am sure I’ll feel right at home if I pop over 🙂


  26. Mabel, I really wish I could say that I am a neat person….

    Only thing that confuses me is my wife’s frequent suggestions to be neat and tidy 😦

    I really like when my table is neat and everything is in it’s place, and no junk things scattered around.

    Now a days it’s a different story, with my daughter around, we have changed the definition of the word “neat” and “tidy” for the time being 🙂

    I do the “tidying up” (conventional meaning) at least a few times daily, and in a few minutes, it would looks like there was an explosion 🙂

    Thanks a lot for sharing another very interesting post and wish you Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year, my friend 🙂


    • There are different kinds of neat and tidy. Neat to someone might be messy to someone else. For instance, I like to arrange my books on my shelf according to height. My friend usually thinks this is messy as I didn’t sort them by author name or alphabetical order.

      With a kid, it can be harder to be tidy, I suppose. The kid will most likely grab stuff around the house, play with it and put it anywhere but where it “belongs”. And taking care of a family takes up a lot of time 🙂

      Seasons greetings to you and happy holidays. Glad to know you as a friend 🙂


  27. I don’t mind housework per se… but I don’t like excessive neatness as an outcome, so I would never let it come to that. What counts as neat or messy is a matter of threshold I think. My house is out of control chaos and I would like it to be more orderly, in relative terms. I would not like it to be pristine or spotless and would rather it remain as bad as it is than that. I prefer things to be reasonably clean and moderately cluttered. Too much departure from that annoys or depresses me. The excessive mess tends to depress me or just shut me off so I ignore it, where too much tidy neatness really annoys me and makes me want to mess it up.


    • Messy and neatness is different to each of us, so in a sense it’s a matter of perspective. Being a very, very neat and always tidying things up is time consuming. And being a very messy person, the clutter might get in your way or in the way of your health at some point. At the end of day, I suppose if we feel comfortable being very neat or very messy or simply in-between and we’re okay with that, then that’s what matters.


  28. Cleaning itself has a pacifying, calming effect on me. It doesn’t just impose environmental order. The routine also gives structure to my day. I sincerely enjoy everything about cleaning, too. Even if it isn’t “scheduled.” Theres something about the act of cleaning, itself, that makes me happy.


    • Nice to hear that cleaning gives you a sense of peace, Liz. I don’t mind cleaning myself too much, especially if I can put some music on. When you clean, in a sense you are creating a better, lighter, healthier place to live in.


  29. Perfect timing. I’m in the process of sorting out my study. This is a valuable mojo boost! I have also pinned it to my de clutter board to spread the motivation.

    With thanks



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