Messy vs. Dirty

I sit in my office, which is not exactly in the best state of repair at the moment. The clothes pile threatens to metastasize, there is an abandoned LEGO-sorting project near the bookshelves, and there is barely enough space on my desk for my laptop.

It’s a good thing I don’t have to look at it (aside from the desk) while I’m writing.

But on some level, I can still feel the chaos. It is distracting, if for no other reason than the thought “Man, I really need to do something about that” is never far from my conscious mind. When it flares into prominence, I tend to respond with a guilty “Yeah…” before surfing back to Facebook or going downstairs to power up the Xbox 360. Not the best coping mechanism, I will readily admit, especially since there’s a mess with to contend with down there as well. And that’s not saying anything about having to pass through the kitchen.

I definitely have a different tolerance for mess than my immediate family (I plan to discuss the dreaded “Mom Clean” tomorrow), that that’s not to say I never reach my limit. But one thing that makes my view of mess and disorder different than the rest of my family is that I do not see “messy” as the same as “dirty.”

Let’s go into some definitions. Messy, in this case, refers to the level of disorder in a space. It can be a random jumble of loose ends, or an organizational system based on heaps and piles. When clothes get strewn around willy-nilly (after I get home from work) or projects peter out in the middle, things end up messy. Disorder can be distracting, but I seem to be able to cope with it relatively well (up to a point, of course).

Dirty, on the other hand, refers to the level of filth in a space. A kitchen filled with half-eaten rotting food cementing plates together is dirty. A bathroom so horrendous that your friends would rather stop by the truck stop on their way home at two in the morning is dirty. Dirty is an abhorrent state, one to be avoided at all costs.

I think my differences with my family come from the fact that I don’t feel that Messiness and Dirtiness are mutually inclusive. For example: a room with piles of clothes on the floor. Messy or Dirty? For me, it depends: if the clothes are clean, then the room is merely Messy. Old, sweaty fighting undergarments that reek of the blood of your enemies? Definitely Dirty. The Messy piles should likely be cleaned up, but it’s less of a pressing issue, especially if you can find what you need in a reasonable amount of time (“The underwear’s in that pile, and the socks are over here!”).

And I will readily admit that the line between Messy and Dirty can be very fuzzy even at the best of times. In fact, it’s probably not a continuum between Clean, Messy, and Dirty. It’s probably more of a series of perpendicular axes: Ordered/Messy and Clean/Dirty. Things can be Clean and Messy, or Dirty and Messy; these two are not the same, although I’m not sure how one could be Ordered and Dirty.

I strive very hard to make sure I stay on the Messy side of things (despite whatever rotten lies my family has told you). It just means my floors don’t get vacuumed as often as they might.

But I do need to at least make room for a new pile of clean laundry.

2 thoughts on “Messy vs. Dirty

  1. Theresa J Knight

    Nice post Joshua and point well-taken. Can’t wait to read the future “Mom Clean” post, (you could also appropriately title that as the “Jason Clean” post.) Btw, you may have forgotten this, but until you were about 15 years old, you were very clean and organized… and couldn’t stand messiness of any kind in your space. And I have photos to prove it! Back then, you influenced me to be more organized and clean.

  2. Pingback: Mom Clean | Kart before the H0rs3

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