Ideal Cleaning Vs Actual Cleaning Leave a comment

“We want this to happen organically.”

Organically is a word of this millennium. I know it existed pre-2000, but its meaning has enhanced over the past 20 years.

Without actually looking up its definition, I think that when used in reference to food, it’s supposed to mean the food has been grown without unnatural help. Without being manipulated into getting bigger or juicier any faster than it could on its own.

Really, it’s how things should be, right?

Naturally occurring. Unforced.

But I was baffled the first time a company approached me about talking about their products and used that word.

They weren’t talking about the ingredients in their product. They were talking about how I would talk about those products.

This was probably 2010, and I was new to the blogging world, but I knew enough to say: Will I be compensated?

And they went back to that word. “We really want it to be organic.”

In a la la way, they were being ambiguous and making their way sound ideal. Authentic. Without anything being forced or manipulated.

But because the question was “Money?” and the answer was “Organic!” I realized that what they were actually saying was: We want you to work for free and we’re going to use the word organic to make it sound like you getting paid (like we are) . . . would be a bad thing. As bad as a radioactive tomato.

Which is fine. I can respect their efforts and desires. And of COURSE it’s best when someone raves about their product without prompting or manipulation.

But the thing about something happening organically is that there’s no guarantee it’s going to happen.

So many times, I wished that cleaning would happen organically in my home. I don’t even mean the products I used. I mean the way it would happen.




Throughout my day, as I went.

And so I would wait. I waited for inspiration to hit. For the perfect intersection of energy and available time.

I waited for “organic” to happen.

But just like I might or might not talk about a product when I’m waiting for the thought to occur at the same time as I have nothing else more urgent or exciting to talk about, I might or might not clean my toilet when I’m waiting for it to happen organically.

It’s not a company’s ideal to have to pay someone to guarantee they’ll make room in their busy schedule and on their highly trafficked cleaning blog to mention their product.

It’s not my ideal to have to assign bathroom cleaning to Tuesdays to guarantee(ish) the bathrooms will actually get cleaned.

I find myself saying (and I’m sure they’ve found themselves saying): It shouldn’t have to be this way.

Except that I want my bathrooms cleaned. And they want their products in front of the eyeballs of people on the internet.

And if we’re all determined to not force anything and keep everything ideal, toilets get dirtier and harder to clean and someone else’s dish scrubber gets bragged about while ours waits around to be noticed.

Here’s my point: If I wait for things to happen organically, I may be waiting a very long time. If I want something done, I have to accept the reality of my situation and my brain and manipulate accordingly.

Not that there can’t be a mixing of organic with manipulation with the goal of an ideal compromise.

Organic farmers don’t just walk around their fields looking for whatever has popped up to take to market.

They work hard to make the things they want to happen . . . happen. I’m no expert, but I know they do. They research which plants or other un-manipulated stuff keeps bugs away. They find those things and use those things.

And I’m sure they talk to other organic farmers to continue learning all the time.

I have to put routines and non-negotiable tasks into place to make sure things happen.

No matter how many times I tell myself I should take every dish straight to the dishwasher the moment it’s dirty, I don’t. No matter how many times I lecture myself about the need to put something away as soon as I’m done using it, things leap from my hand to the nearest flat surface without my brain registering what’s happening. Or not happening.

So I do a five minute pickup.

And I don’t even do that ideally. Ideally, I would organically set the timer at the same time every evening and my family members would organically arise from their various chairs and tables and pick up the day’s assortment of out-of-place items. While smiling. Unforced, organic smiles.

Instead, I make a loud announcement whenever I happen to think of doing a five minute pickup. I am met with groans and/or heavy sighs every single time. I yell from the kitchen, “OK. I’m about to push start on the oven timer. Is everyone, I mean EVERYone . . . on their feet??!?”

I could moan about how this shouldn’t be so hard. How it shouldn’t feel so unnatural. How we should all see what needs to be done and just do it without having to be reminded or held accountable.

That would be easier, right? In an ideal world.

pots pans in kitchen sink 3 at

But I don’t live in an ideal world. And inwardly (or outwardly) groaning about doing the dishes again makes my house look and function a whole lot better than wishing I would have done it immediately and hoping tomorrow this will all function more organically.

Finally, after nine-hundred-and-something words, I looked up the word “organic” and honestly . . . I’m more confused now.

But that kind of proves my point. In all of these contexts (marketing, cleaning, farming) it can be a bit of an ambiguous term.

Ambiguous terms don’t help me much in my home. Doing my dishes no matter how unnatural it feels, does.


P.S. Since this might make someone who is new around here wonder, I always say clearly when a company has paid me to talk about their product, and I say no to A LOT products. I only accept sponsored work for products I love or have honestly wondered about, and assume y’all might have wondered about, too. 

P.P.S I’ve written books about how I do what needs to be done even though it doesn’t happen organically for me. How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind teaches you what to do when your home organically becomes a total disaster, again and again, and you can’t figure out why. Decluttering at the Speed of Life teaches you my step by step process to declutter the surfaces, drawers, rooms and closets that organically fill with random junk. 

P.P.P.S I wrote this post in about two-and-a-half hours (if you listened to podcast 187, you know that’s a big deal) after reading the word “organically” in a non-cleaning-related email from Jon Acuff this morning. If you’re a writer or speaker, you should follow him. He’s helpful and funny. 

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