Thursday, February 3, 2011

Housekeeping: Nature or Nurture?

Coffee Talk Thursday

In college, I had a roommate who absolutely excelled at keeping our apartment immaculate 100-percent of the time. She would get home and scrub the bathroom, even if it didn't need cleaning. When she felt stressed, she cleaned. The place was spotless, I'm telling you. That is, if she were the only one living there. I lived there too, and I was a different story!

My roommate told me her mom was just like her--or perhaps I should say, she learned to be just like her mom, always cleaning until it was perfect and then keeping it that way. I grew up differently. One time, my roommate asked if I could pick up a little since "it was getting crazy in here." I didn't think it was that bad. Clutter made her uncomfortable; it made me perfectly comfortable!

To this day, living in (and maintaining) a cluttered home comes much more naturally to me than living in (and maintaining) a spotless house. I don't have the same drive to clean, and keep cleaning, that my roommate (and other people) possess. Whether that's due to nature (the way I was born) or nurture (the way I was raised), I don't know. Regardless, I can continue to learn tips to help me maintain a more tidy home most of the time. I can continue to develop discipline to retrain myself away from bad (and sometimes just plain sloppy) habits. I shared seven habits that can really help in my guest post at Organizing Junkie. I share other tips here, as I learn and grow.

So what do you think? Does being good at cleaning depend on your personality in terms of the way you were born, or do you think it comes more from the way you were raised, or a little of both?


  1. My mother is a much better housekeeper than I am. She cleans more and just has a better system down for laundry and cleaning. My inability to keep up with it must all be nature, because I was nurtured to be a clean person.
    I am like you. I find it in my nature to be okay with clutter and find it hard to try to keep everything tidy all the time. Whenever I do that I end up being crazy and yelling at the kids for playing with toys in a messy manner. For me, I'd rather have a messy house and happy home than stress myself out about cleaning up.

  2. I think both nurture and nature must be true. I was taught good housekeeping tips from my mom, but was content to live in messiness for years. Now that I have my own home and my own children to raise, my nature has seemed to change.

    I personally feel more relaxed and less stressed without clutter so therefore, cleaning doesn't seem like a chore to me as it does a means to "happiness". I actually have learned to like cleaning and am hoping my children "catch" this preference to enjoy, rather than loathe, cleaning -- so far we've got a lot of work to do as 2 of them are quite content in their disorderly rooms :-).

    However, I agree that compulsive cleaning can become an idol, especially if it's done for appearance sake. I think the key is to be transparent/consistent so that kids don't only see a clean house when company is expected. Best way to do that is to keep it clean within reason throughout the day or....leave it cluttered and not fret about it if people stop by.

    All that being said, if cleaning is super stressful and all parties living in the same house are fine with clutter, then it works. I have learned that tidy and spotless are not the same thing. My goal is tidy, occaisionally we get spotless, but that is definitely not the norm.

  3. My Mother was always cleaning and it makes me feel like she doesn't have any fun. That having a clean bathroom is more important to her than spending time with her children etc. I know she does spend time with us (and I am 48 yrs. old) but when I phone and say "What have you been doing?" -- she is so proud to say, "I cleaned my basement" or whatever and there are only my 76 yr old Dad and herself living there, so I am sure it doesn't get really dirty anyways. This, in turn, makes me feel guilty about my messy, cluttered house, like I am not measuring up to some impossible standard. But, during childhood, other than washing and drying dishes and some cooking and cleaning our own rooms, we were not asked to clean. I suspect we wouldn't have done it to her standard and it took longer to teach than it would to do it herself. If I had the cash I would happily call a cleaning lady to come and do the daily stuff but I guess I have to sort through the clutter myself and discard things we no longer need. I HAVE been doing this, but it doesn't seem to end -- still lots of things to get rid of. And people giving us MORE stuff annoys me -- they are trying to be helpful but how many toys, for example do kids need? Or I am taking stuff to the charity shop and my Mother is at the till buying more clothes for the kids (albeit in larger sizes) but we could get by with way less if she didn't do that so much.

  4. I come from a long line of neat freaks. I am a big cleaner, but I have learned to back off a little with children. Some clutter is just going to happen, if I want to play with my kids and sleep at some point at night. I keep the clutter very contained to a little on my desk (probably not even clutter to some), so i don't get totally stressed out. Now in terms of dirt and filth, I can't stand it at all. I can work with a tiny bit of clutter, but I cannot deal with dirt and grime. I would say that being a type A personality nurtured by a neat freak is what made me how I am. My oldest is the same way. She loves things clean, neat and organized. It stresses her out to have a mess too. My second child is a free spirit. I hope she will keep a tidy home, but I am no sure that she will. It takes more discipline than she seems to naturally have, but we're working on it. :-)

  5. I guess I would have to agree with anonymous. My mom was ALWAYS cleaning, so I'm sure if that's why or what, but I'm terrible at cleaning. I also think that I'm so much of a perfectionist that I have a hard time cleaning at all, cause I feel like it will never look good enough. I think I'm lazy too.
    So, I can't really say that it's nature or nurture. I think that the way a person was brought up drastically influences how they feel about cleaning, as in I feel terrible when my house is a mess. But I think that maybe sometimes people rebel because they don't like the cleaning system they were brought up with, or maybe they are just different and want something different. I love your blog, by the way, it's so insightful! :)

  6. I think it's probably more nature than nurture. However, I think the "nurturing" part can play a big part into determining whether or not we have guilt over our housekeeping ways!:) (And I mean unnecessary guilt simply because the house is not "perfect." And by "nurturing," I mean the homes we grew up in, or even the books/people/blogs who are "nurturing" us into better adults.)And, boy don't we women often struggle with guilt that is self-inflicted, and not from God!