What is clean fanatic?Is it a personality disorder?

In Defense of Clean Fanatics Everywhere

I am a fanatic about cleanliness, and it is not, in any way, a personality disorder. There are, of course, people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is a disorder that affects their ability to live their life normally; but being a fanatic about cleanliness is not, in itself, a disorder.

People who have more relaxed standards for cleanliness often view the clean fanatic as someone who has a disorder, but that is usually because the more relaxed person is either less aware of contamination, or simply isn't bothered by dirt. Since people often use themselves as the measure of how clean everyone should be, they judge the clean fanatic as "compulsive" and "not normal".

Another problem for the less clean-conscious is they often don't realize that a person can be a clean fanatic while living life quite fully, happily, and effortlessly. Practicing good hygiene and housekeeping isn't a lot of extra work for clean fanatics. In fact, clean fanatics tend to be very organized people who simply prefer to keep things clean, rather than letting them get disgustingly dirty.

There are a number of things that contribute to my own attitude about clean:

1. I am very aware of germs and cross-contamination. If someone picks up a cat, I really don't want them putting their "cat hands" on my refrigerator door handle. I don't want pocketbooks that have been on a car floor being put on my clean tablecloth. My general rule is, "If it's been on the floor then it should never be put on anything other than floor again (unless, perhaps, it is something that can be thoroughly washed).

Handwashing in the Number 1 to prevent getting sick, and making some effort to keep from spreading the same dirt, particles, or contamination from one place to another is good sense.

2. I have particularly sensitive hands. If I touch something (like a pet's head or a surface that isn't super clean) I can actually feel it on my hands. It feels as if there is something on them, and washing them makes them feel clean again. Library books and DVD cases have that invisible film of dirt on them. If they are damp-wiped that film is gone, and I don't feel it if I touch them.

3. I won't pick up papers that have fallen on the floor with my bare hands because sometimes fingernails can scrape the floor. I can feel if small bits of dirt have gotten under my nails, and it's just easier to put a baggie over my hand, or pick things up with a paper towel, than to try to get tiny, tiny, bits of dirt cleaned out once they've gotten under my nails.

4. Another reason I am a clean fanatic is that mess creates too much "visual overload". A neat pile temporarily left somewhere doesn't bother me. Big, cluttery, messes of miscellanous stuff do. It makes me feel as if I can't think clearly and can't breathe. Piled up stuff collects dust, making the situation go beyond clutter and into dirty. Piled up stuff also makes cleaning difficult.

5. I keep dishes that can't be in closed cabinets in plastic wrap, and I rinse all dishes before using them. Dishes must be left out for a little while to fully dry (so bacteria won't grow when they're stacked). Because of that, invisible amounts of dust that floats through any air can land on them. Also, one never knows if a spider or ant has walked over the dishes at any point. Rinsing dishes lets me know that there is no dust and not even a small amount of "ant-tracking" contamination on them.

6. Having a clean home makes it warmer and more alive to me. I know there are people who think a dirty, "lived in", home is "friendlier". I find less than sparkling depressing. "Lived in" can be another word for disorganized, cluttery, or even dirty. Some people are fine with a certain amount of clutter, but - believe me - a family can happily and freely live in an inviting, sparkling clean, neat, home. It's all a matter of being organized, having a cleaning system, and getting on top of small things before they turn into big messes.

It's nice to drink from sparkling clean glasses or use sparkling flatware. Sinks that sparkle are just nicer to use (not to mention more germ-free). A stack of folder, straight-from-the-dryer towels is just nicer than a bag load of unfolded ones.

The right degree of organization and efficiency mean that some people can keep things super clean almost effortlessly.

7. When it comes to clothing, pillow covers, and blankets (etc), if I'm going to put my face on it I want to know it has been nowhere but the washer, dryer, and a clean drawer. People can get skin infections from bacteria on things. Besides, it's just nicer to put your face on a super-clean pillow than on an "iffy" one.

8. I don't ask people to remove shoes when they come into the house (because I, personally, won't walk on floors, no matter how clean they appear; my feet feel that same kind of thing that my hands do). I do, however, think it is reasonable to expect people to keep their shoes (and socks and bare feet that have been on the floor) off furniture.

9. I use disinfectant and/or alcohol on things like doorknobs and phones often. If things like salt shakers aren't squeaky clean I need them to feel that way. The computer mouse just gets a feel to it after it has been used for a while (even by super clean hands).

Every year people in hospitals get serious infections and often die because healthcare workers don't wash their hands well, or else they cross contaminate. One hospital tried putting in a real effort to make people aware of contamination, and the rate of infection dropped way, way, down. When one person in my household gets sick, more often than not nobody else gets it.

There is no personality disorder when it comes to being aware of preventing contamination. There is also no personality disorder involved when a person happens to have sensitive skin that does feel dirt. Maybe other people feel it and ignore. Maybe they have calluses and don't feel. When you are someone who actually feels the presence of even small amounts of dirt on your hands there's no disorder in needing to wash your hands right away.

With regard to living in a way that keeps the house clean and neat, that's like learning to ride a bike. When you first learn to ride a two-wheeler you're always thinking about balancing and swirving the handle bars. Once you learn you're no longer thinking about it when you ride. You think about other things, talk, and generally enjoy yourself. Clean is the same way. Once you're in the habit of doing things a certain way nobody has to give up living in order to have things clean.

There is no disorder involved in the belief that a sparkling clean and neat home is warm and inviting. Decorating magazines don't use "lived in" homes to show how warm and inviting a house can be. Real Estate agents don't advise people who are selling their home to make it "lived in" so it will look more appealing. They advise making sure it is clean, adding some flowers, and adding a nice scent.

There's no disorder in liking the way faucet handles feel when they're super clean.

Even animals (cats, for example) have their own version of clean. They clean themselves all through the day. They head for the cleanest thing to sleep on. They bury the dirt in their litter box, and they won't use a litterbox that isn't clean.

One psychological element for me is that I'm someone who enjoys a clean, clear, head. People often prefer an environment that is an expression of who they are and/or that feels as if it matches who they are. If I'm not clean and don't have clean around me, I feel as if I'm in someone else's world. It conflicts with what I am on the inside.

Contrary to what so many people think (and that includes those less clean people who eye my clean-conscious ways with disapproval), I simply believe that there are good reasons for being clean. They can be health reasons, aesthetic reasons, or even just preferences. Wanting a clean, warm, welcoming, home is (at least for some people) a sign of being very caring, loving, and sociable.

The world is full of dirty. If I can at least have the luxury and indulgence of my own little world being sparkling clean and contamination-reduced, that gives me the strength to go out into that world (and use my forearm to open doors used by the public).

I'm an adult. I'm a mature woman. I'm a mother. I have no trouble having clean and order in my life. I'm a person with a sense of contamination prevention, aesthetics, and organization. I'm Mary - not Rhoda. I'm Shirley - not Laverne. I'm Monica - not Phoebe. I will even admit to being Felix - not Oscar. Snow White kept things clean. Cinderella was always cleaning. Belle even cleaned up the Beast's dirty, dusty, castle (and the the teapot and cups thought it was the greatest thing).

Clean is a nice thing to be - not a personality disorder to have.

Comments 36 comments

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Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Deirdra, thanks for commenting. I think you missed the point that this is a Hub I wrote a few years ago; and that, as a "Hubber", the general practice is to "address" any questions, criticisms, etc. brought up in comments (not to "defend" myself).

Again, the whole point of this Hub is to point out that there is such a thing in this world as people who are neat and clean effortlessly and happily, as well as without any OCD. The "HW" in my name stands for "Hunt Warren" (Lisa Hunt Warren).

Your comments here are a great example that readers can see, with regard to the amazing degree of misunderstanding that people who are effortlessly and naturally neat and clean face in this world. This is one reason I wrote the Hub. It's one reason I continue to address some comments that keep showing up on it.

In any case, thank you for taking the time. Opposing and skeptical views are, of course, welcome.

The aim of this Hub has been from a psychology perspective - not a house-cleaning perspective. I imagine Women's Circle or Women's Day (or some other home-centered type of publication/site would address house-cleaning matters. (Just a note: I post my comments first draft out - generally, no editing or cleaning up involved. I've been typing since around 1965. English has always been my "thing". Coming up with some reasonably well written/well typed comments on here is easy and quick for me.

Life just isn't the same kind of struggle for some people that is apparently is for others. It's that simple.

Deirdra 5 years ago

I found the most fascinating there was not the hours - days, weeks, months, two years ... of writing to defend or prove she does not have OCD, but that she decided to also neatly proof and grammatically clean all her comments to perfection. Cleaning and defense of cleaning. That seems to have been a big part of her life. OCD is obsessively and compulsively focusing on things others would choose to ignore. Whether diagnosed or not. This message had a beginning, and I suspect that for Lisa HW (House Work), this would be an end and segue to more productive ventures. Best. I learned alot about psychology, not housework and being net.

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Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Sara, thank you for taking the time to share in the discussion here. I don't at all think you're "attacking". I think everybody has their "things" (like the shoes-in-the-house thing and the invisible-dust-on-the-plates thing). I agree that I don't particularly want whatever "rides in" on people's shoes on my floors, but I don't want people to feel uncomfortable or unwanted when they come to the house (or even if they've home and just prefer to wear shoes, which I do). I just figure floors are for walking on, and shoes are for walking in and are a normal part of life and what people wear; so my approach is more to be careful about what I DON'T use my floors for (other than walking on).

I like wearing shoes, and when I go to someone else's house and am asked to take off my shoes before entering, I feel like I'm being asked to "undress" (kind of the like so many people complain about airport security..). I feel like someone is asking me to walk around on THEIR dirty floor and dirty MY super-clean feet - and so I feel violated!! LOL LOL Besides not doing to my guest what I don't want anyone else doing when I visit them, I have to say whenever I've gone to someone's house where they immediately announce they don't want shoes on in the house, the very first message that gets sent to the guest is, "Well, you can come in, but you have to get rid of those dirty shoes you're wearing." I know shoes ARE dirty (mine included), and maybe I'm too sensitive; but I've when someone does that first thing when they answer their door, I've always felt just a little bit demeaned (as if their their home is such a special place that they only "allow" some things and people in, and I've got to meet their standards before they'll let me in. Maybe I'm just too sensitive in this way (and I don't take it personally, for the most part); but I want my message to my guests to be, "Come in! I'm so happy to see you! And you're SO welcome in my home that the last thing I'd want is for you to think my carpets (something people walk on anyway) are more important to me than your being here."

Of course, I treat different floors in different rooms differently. Bedroom floors/rugs (especially babies' rooms) are something I'm more careful about (as far as shoes go) than living room or family room rugs (not that I have any babies' rooms in the house these days anyway, but I had three at one time).

The way I (personally - and not that I think everyone else ought to think the same way) see floors (at least my main-part-of-the-house floors) is that floors are only going to be "so clean" (which is "floor clean", a different "clean" than anything else - and in other words, floors are essentially dirty, no matter how sparkling they look). Because of my "low" standards with some floors, I don't want someone, say, putting a tote bag on the floor and then putting it on one of the dining room chairs.

The invisible-dust-on-the-plates thing isn't something I worry about in terms of "what will happen if I eat invisible dust?" LOL It's this: I probably shouldn't post this for the world to see, but there are times when the sun shines through one window when I can see all kinds of dust bits floating in the air! (I like to tell myself it's that the heating system needs a new filter; but to be honest, it wouldn't kill me to wash my curtains a little more often, as well as dust the books on shelves more often than I do. :) ). Anyway, I just figure if dishes are at all exposed to the air for a little while, that dust is on them; and I just don't want to imagine rubbing my food "all in it". LOL And, as you mentioned, I do think that if an ant or spider walked on the clean plate, there's the thing that I don't know if either of them has been walking somewhere "objectionable" (like on the floors that I let those dirty shoes on LOL).

I'm putting the "LOL's" in here, because 1) your comment seems among the most reasonable and "regular" that anyone has posted on here; and I really can laugh at my own "weird things" (when it comes to something like the plate dust).

With the fingernails thing, it's not about worrying about germs or what I might ingest if I can some little thing on/under my nails. That one's more that I do feel it, and it does feel "gross". And if I didn't feel something, I just figure it's a good rule of thumb to always keep hands free of as many germs (and whatever else) as possible.

Anyway, thank you again for contributing your own good-natured "side" the this "hot" (LOL) debate. :) I always enjoy talking about who is picky in what ways with people like my sister and friends; so I thought this would be a kind of fun "discussion" for a Hub (well, that and my wanting to address the matter of whether clean-freaks are mental-cases). It has surprised me that so many people seem to have had trouble imagining that someone can be a comfortably, easy-going-enough, clean-freak. It was nice to see someone comment who seems to have a better reading on the nature of OCD than so many others on here have had.

Sara 5 years ago

I have to say, I do find your post quite interesting. When I met my husband, I moved across the country to live with him. I grew up with a family who was borderline messy. When I moved in with my husband, I soon discovered that every member of his large family were "clean freaks." I have over the years adopted a lot of their clean habits. I have found that living in a clean organized home is very efficient. I have 21 month old daughter, and I find a lot of things easier in a clean home. I am able to leave the house faster, because everything is available to me without it having to be "found." Lunches, snacks, dinners, are all easier to prepare in a clean kitchen and organized fridge/freezer.

What I do find a little odd is examples 3 and 5. I find it odd that you allow people to walk into your home with their shoes on, but you cannot eat food from a plate with "invisible" dust or the small chance an ant might have scurried across it. I understand the logic for considering cross contamination, being careful to wash hands after touching an animal, disinfecting places that are common ground for bacteria, virus's (door knobs, phones etc) The reason I don't allow people to walk inside my home with their shoes for the reason that I do not want to clean up mess if I don't have to. If I can get away with vacuuming less, I will. Furthermore, you don't really know where anyone has been walking. They could have walked through animal feces, pesticide laden grass, or stepped through garbage. I realize you wear shoes in your home so these issues are not really a concern, but who really wants that in their home.

What I'm trying to say is, I understood all what you had to say, but the incident that your fingernail might slightly brush against the floor, or you may ingest a minuscule amount of dust really does not seem to be a valid concern in any way. What is going to happen if you ingest that small amount of dust?

I hope you don't feel like I'm attacking you. I agree with what you had to say, and I do not in any way find you OCD. OCD is a very debilitating disease, and consumes someone's life completely. You are able to live a happy comfortable life, and your cleaning habits do not seem to affect your quality of life. For people to blatantly call you OCD obviously do not know much about the disease.

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st lucia for sale 5 years ago from St Lucia

Its strange, I'm only a clean fanatic in my kitchen. If its not clean all the time, I get depressed!

I hated my first year of university, living with dirty people!

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Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thomas, I'm sorry I didn't reply to your comment sooner. I didn't see it, for some reason. I'm not sure what I'm offering here will be of any help at all to you (and I hope you don't end up wasting your time reading "a whole, big, thing" that ends up being useless. The situation you describe is similar to that that some people I've known have been in. There's at least the chance that your mother is just going through the kind of thing so many people (especially people her age) are going through these days.

I've written a response to your comments in a separate text box below. I have no idea if any of the thoughts I've offered are of any use; but, again, I think this situation is one that so many people live with, without family members or friends understanding what they're going through.

Thomas 5 years ago

I personally dont think that being clean and tidy is a disorder, one can enjoy a clean and tidy environment while not being overly obsessive (im not linking this to OCD in anyway).Saying this, my mum hasn't actively looked for work for the last 5 years and now her cleaning obsession has become a problem. She claims that she cannot look for work or do anything else because she must clean and that cleaning takes up too much of her time. Its extremely frustrating and sad to watch her descend to that level of obsession and delusion, especially when someone says well why dont you try and find a job to ease the family financial issues and the only answer you can get is, well i dont have the time for that, also taking into consideration the fact that my dad is going to retire in a few years and i am at a loss as to how they will be able to pay for things for the rest of their life, it might seem selfish of me to say this, but i think it would be selfish for them to expect that i will be paying their costs as i will not, i will have a family of my own to support. Shes in her late 50's and it feels as if shes already becoming senile because there is no mental stimulation in her life, there is nothing mentally stimulating about cleaning, or there shouldn't be. Her stubbornness doesn't help either. It gets to the point where it causes intense arguments as obviously that single problem creates many others.

I would like to hear your opinion on this situation as you seem to share a similar opinion to my mum's when it comes to cleaning (although hers is more purely aesthetically oriented), yet you still seem to realise that you must maintain a balance in your life that my mum cannot.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Honestly, thanks! You are the first on here (as you saw) to dare to say that being clean isn't a disorder!! LOL

You're right. Being clean and (at least reasonably neat and organized) is the norm. Sometimes the difference between being at the high end of the "normally neat and clean" spectrum and low end of it can be something like one person has no young children in the house making keeping a home neat and clean more of a challenge; or even that some people are more OK living with unfolded clothes thrown around (I'll give non-neatniks that much) - but "clean" is normal.

Honestly 5 years ago

LMAO! wow look at all these idiots posting comments thinking clean people have disorders. Oh well, I guess they'll find out why cleanliness is the norm when they open the fridge to find maggots and roaches instead of milk and meat XD. Most people grow out of being a slob at a young age, but some people are a bit slow and need more time to mature...

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Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Kim (respectfully) oh, brother. This yet again makes my point that the world doesn't seem to quite get it that it is completely possible to be a person who is naturally and easily neat and clean without being obsessed with any of it.

As someone who is well informed about the role of germs/bacteria in our world, there's no need to further read about that stuff.

I don't get why people can't possibly imagine that a person can be a neat-freak or clean-freak WITHOUT being obsessed with it, without spending all their time thinking about it, and without a whole lot of effort.

Just because having basic, good, practices when it comes to things like food handling, personal hygiene, or even just having a neat, orderly, home takes a lot of thought and effort for people who aren't very organized or who don't find being efficient and clean a fairly easy thing to do; that doesn't mean that the world isn't full of people who can be neat and clean, and have good food handling practices, without being obsessed, relaxed, or otherwise have some "condition".

On any spectrum of how people do anything, of what they are, there will always be, within the "normal" range a high end and a low end. It's that simple. It's really unfortunate that people who are content with being in the majority around the middle of that spectrum cannot believe that anyone else could be higher on that spectrum than they are and still be perfectly normal and healthy people.

On any spectrum or bell curve, what is average is always going to be in the majority; which, of course means, that people who fall into "average" will get to superior to those who fall on the low end (even if normal within normal) and inferior to those who fall on the high end (but within normal).

People are apparently pleased enough to consider themselves superior to those who fall on the spectrum below them. When it comes to someone who can effortless be better than they are at something, they get a little more squirmy. After all, they've had their egos boosted by being superior to all those low-end people.

Egos are an amazing thing. They either allow people to measure everyone else by themselves, or they get threatened when/if someone is considering anyone who is better at something than they are. Either way, it always points to an ego needing to believe that nobody could possibly be normal and be better at something effortlessly and without being obsessed.

It's really a sad thing that a person who simply writes about the fact that it's possible to be neat, clean, hygienic, and organized effortlessly and without "having a mental disorder" would get so many from people who just can't imagine that some people can happily and comfortable live a relaxed, happy, effortless, life without being obsessed.

The way I see it, it's kind of "Cinderella/Step-Sisters" type of thing, you know?

I wouldn't even bother answering any more of these ridiculous comments from people who just have trouble keeping on top of things in their own life and need to believe that "everyone else" is just like them. It happens that I'm waiting for someone I'm going out to eat with (Yes - out, to a restaurant) before returning here with my companion and "living it up" by putting out some snacks and wine, dirtying up some dishes, and even allowing my companion to use my bathroom without my running in afterward and bringing out a bucket of Clorox. (And, if anyone thinks what I just wrote is something to be taken seriously, rather than sarcasm - no. It was sarcasm.)

I'm most likely not going to return to this Hub to further "defend the cause" of being a capable, clean (and yet mentally healthy) individual. It occurs me now, though, that I've been far too polite about even entertaining the absolutely ridiculous comments that have been posted here by people who apparently just can't imagine a life in which being clean and neat is not an obsession or a mental disorder.

I'm a well informed, intelligent, individual who will recognize it in myself if/when I ever cross the line from just being a neat person to being obsessed or compulsive. People don't give other people credit for being able to recognize in themselves when something is "too much" and when it just happens to be a matter of being on that high (but normal) end of the spectrum when it comes to something like being neat.

It's just not that difficult for some people to naturally be neat and clean without having to struggle so much with it they must become obsessed with it.

I've left all the ridiculous comments on this Hub to "show the world" what an apparent aversion with, and ignorance about, simply being a neat, clean, person so many people have. Slobs don't have anyone thinking they have a "mental disorder" anywhere nearly as much - and isn't that pathetic?

Some disorganized, messy, slob who lets all the mess pile up to the point where he's overwhelmed with the idea of cleaning gets a pass in the mind of a lot of people. "That's normal." Some person who can't or won't wipe up the spills while he's cleaning (instead of letting them cake on and build up) isn't seen as someone who "can't manage" to function without being a giant slob. The person (and there are many, many, "regular" people who don't think it's a big deal to clean as they go) who just kind of keeps an eye for not letting unnecessary messes happen will be the person someone thinks "is too much". Again, "Cinderella/Step-Sisters"

In the meantime, we're always hearing things on the news and elsewhere about how people should wash their hands after they use a restroom, how they can prevent the spread of disease, how nurses and doctors have to be told how to take steps to prevent nosocomial infections, etc. etc. It's ridiculous and pathetic that, apparently, so many people (including professionals in the health care field) are still too stupid to know enough to wash their hands more often, or to take a few simple steps not to spread their germs to everyone else.

I've through even entertaining these ignorant comments by people who can't possibly imagine there's such a thing as a "neat freak" who is perfectly happy and normal. Maybe my next Hub ought to be, "How to effortlessly and happily have higher standards than 'just average'". Oh - I forgot. I don't really think everyone can happily and effortlessly have those higher standards without being obsessed, because it's just too much of a struggle for them. It would require just too much thinking and obsessing in order to maintain those higher standards.

As I said, I've been too polite and patient on this Hub. I'm sick of it. I'm leaving it up and the comments up just to make it very public what people try to do to anyone who has higher standards than they do.

Whether or not I approve any more comments on here depends on what those comments are, but I've shown readers enough with the above comments that I'm not going to approve any more of ridiculous "tips" about how I can "be helped". No thanks. I'm happy with my natural organization ability, speed at which I can accomplish things, and general ability to be hygienic and neat without having to even think about it.

Kim 6 years ago

The O in OCD stands for obsession. When you cannot perform daily activities without thinking or doing something related to a persistent theme, that is the definition of obsession. Do you ever go a whole day without thinking of cleanliness? How about half a day? How about an hour? If it occupies your mind to such an extent, it is an obsession.

Although you still might be able to hold certain jobs and keep certain like-minded friends, your quality of life would improve dramatically if you sought counseling and learned that the fears you have are only in your head. I'm sure if you knew what it was like to not have to obsess over these things, you'd certainly choose that life over your current one.

I thought for a few minutes before deciding to say this last part, because this information might make your condition temporarily worse, but if you realized that germs are everywhere (on your counters, in your food, in your mouth, on your skin, in your intestines), and that plants and animals (yes, humans are also animals) coexist symbiotically with most germs (yes, we NEED them to survive!), then maybe you could feel better about them. If you can be objective about it and read an article (with references!) that supplies quite a bit of insight into our necessity of germs, then please give this one a try: http://www.mindfully.org/Health/We-Need-Germs.htm

Either way, I hope you one day experience peace.

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Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Alicia, thanks for contributing here, but I think people (like you and others) need to be very careful about "deeming" other people's level of cleanliness to be a disorder. That's kind of the whole point of this Hub. I'm not saying your sister doesn't have a disorder because I don't see her in her day-to-day life any more than you see me. I don't make anyone feel uncomfortable. I'm happy to have people stay at my house. It's that simple. In fairness to your sister (and separate from anything else that may make her seem like she has a disorder), a lot of people are extremely picky about keeping their car clean. (My theory is that people with super clean cars often have horrendously dirty/messy houses; and that people with messy cars are secure enough in their knowledge that they're otherwise very neat at home that they feel free to let their cars be a mess - but that's just a theory based on my own experience and not one I take all that seriously :) ). Also in fairness to your sister, a lot of people aren't all that thrilled to think of a two-year-old's feet/shoes on things like sofas or car seats. It's no reflection of whether they love the child or not. Kids can wreck stuff, and people without kids don't usually want their stuff wrecked by someone else's kids. Separate from any dirt issue, shoes can have little pieces of gravel that might actually end up leading to tears in something like leather seats. I have three kids. When they were little I wouldn't have been insulted if someone covered something. It happened that I was someone who wouldn't let my two-year-old be in a car without a toddler seat, so it wouldn't have been an issue; but I wouldn't have been insulted if someone, knowing the reality of two-year-olds and shoes, covered a seat.

People who seem to have an issue with someone else who likes to prevent dirt and damage need to relax a little. It doesn't mean someone loves his belongings more than he loves the people in his life. It just means people prefer to head off things like unnecessary damage or dirt. It's jumping to conclusions to assume that doing something like covering a car seat is valuing the car seat more than the child. I really doubt that's the case. Does your sister value her own right to take a couple of steps to prevent dirt or damage to her leather seats (especially when she'll be the one who has to clean or repair them if something happens) over, say, having to risk offending someone who doesn't understand not to take a seat covering personally? That she probably does.

"If something gets dirty clean it" - of course. That's what people do. For me, though, heading off unnecessary need to clean means freeing up my time to be doing things besides cleaning messes that didn't have to happen. Some people may have trouble heading off unnecessary dirt/damage fairly effortlessly, but it's pretty effortless for me. I'd rather clean as I go along than let some big, horrible, cleaning job build up and require me to devote a big, bunch of time that I could spend doing something else. I've done the young-and-single-and-childless thing, and cleaning wasn't even a factor because one person who isn't messy means very little in terms of cleaning chores. I've also, however, been the mother of three active little kids (who grew up to be three active adults), had pets, the eight-room house, a job, two cars, the whole bit. Normal and routine cleaning isn't a big effort for someone who's used to having a family and home, but I didn't have a lot of spare time as it was. I just figured it would be dumb to let unnecessary messes and damages happen just because I couldn't be bothered taking a few simple precautions.

When it's YOUR keyboard that's going to have someone else's orange juice spilled into it if they place their drink near it, and when you have other things to do in life, you're not really anxious to invite that kind of nasty and sticky clean-up job (or to risk damage to the keyboard you'll have to pay to replace if damage occurs).

Something else is this: I've been the "chief cleaner" of the house ever since I became a mother more than 30 years ago. I've lived with one pet or another longer than that. Even the cleaning I don't mind doing or don't resent can wear thin after you've done it for your whole adult life, so I just don't want to be cleaning unnecessary messes or paying for unnecessary damage. "Unnecessary" is the key word for me.

It's just sensible, if a person is someone who can easily and effortlessly avoid a lot of unnecessary cleaning, to do that. It's harder for some people, apparently. That's fine too.

I don't want to at all come across as angry or hostile, because I appreciate people's taking the time to add their own side of the matter to things; and this is just discussion. Your comment, though, points out exactly the reason I wrote this Hub: So many people, who can't believe someone can happily have a "high standard" or else prevent a lot of mess without a lot of effort, will think "all clean-freaks are alike" and "they all must have a disorder". I may do some things that are the same as your sister, but since this Hub was about being cleaning a freak, what it doesn't show is some things I may do the same as you. You automatically jumped from what IS said above to your sister's not wanting company because she wants a clean house, and that has nothing to do with me. You've also jumped to the conclusion that your sister must love her stuff more than people. That may be anywhere near true; and what she's dealing with from others, apparently, isn't just whether they have an opinion about her "level of clean", but also having them jump to the belief she doesn't love people that she most likely does. Your sister may have a disorder. If she actually as OCD that would mean she needs support and understanding - not people assuming things about her that may not be true.

As for me, when I have guests coming I'm fine knowing things will be messed up. I don't care. My thing is that I live the way I find the house most appealing in my non-Holiday/non-guest usual days. On the other hand, I have a friend who asks guests to take off their shoes in order to keep her carpet clean. I wouldn't ask that of guests, but I'm fine with her asking that if that makes her life a little easier (or if it makes her feel her child can play on the rug with a little less worry). I'm not insulted. She isn't suggesting my shoes are any dirtier than anyone else's. She just has a "thing" about her white rug.

Anyone who reads some of my Hubs will see that there probably isn't any way a person could place the human beings in her life first more than I do. Anyone who knows me knows I don't have a disorder. Yes, some people think I'm "just a little pickier about some things" than they are. Others think I'm "way pickier" than they are. They can think what they want, but in my own case it doesn't fall outside what would be considered "high-end of normal" on the "clean spectrum".

Again, thanks for sharing a different viewpoint. I hope, for your sister's sake, though, your family and you might understand that if she has a disorder that's not reason to take offense at her "pickiness". If she doesn't have a disorder, I'd hope (not that it's my business, of course) people would understand not to feel insulted just because she may be trying to save herself some work. (In fact, that even the chance that she doesn't have OCD and a "cleaning disorder". There's the chance she's exhausted or depressed and not able to deal with extra work or expense. So while she may have a disorder, there's the chance it isn't OCD and could be, instead, something like exhaustion or depression (which can make doing the simplest chores seem so overwhelming someone may find it important not to let the need for those chores happen. :)

Alicia 6 years ago

You sound like my sister and I do consider this a disorder. She even rented a place for my parents and I to stay when we drove over 2 days to visit her because she was afraid we would get her house dirty. I found it insulting. She also was extremely hesitant to let anyone ride in her car. She put a plastic bag over the car seat so my 2 year old nephew would not destroy her leather car seats with his feet. When you are so picky you insult your family and friends. I agree that it is good to be clean, but at the same time if something gets dirty so what, clean it up. Isn't material possesions about making everyone feel comfortable. When your material possesions become more important than your family there is something seriously wrong.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Note to readers of this Hub: It turns out I cannot eliminate additional comments without getting rid of the all the comments already posted (unless I do a whole lot of work, transferring comments into a text box).

I've removed the e.mail notification of further comments on this Hub and have decided not to approve any additional comments. What's here already pretty much makes my point about what "clean fanatics" have to deal with.

Sincere thanks to all previous commenters for contributing to a full, more complete, discussion. :)

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Paula, hi. Believe it or not, I'm a lot of fun to live with. LOL This Hub has been so eye-opening to me, because I'm amazed that as many as people as there seems to be can't even imagine a relaxed, happy, life that just happens to include effortlessly being a little more aware of "yukky" stuff than a lot of other people are.

It isn't where I worked. The company wasn't a "disease control" company. It was a high-tech company that had lots of products and applications. It happened that I worked in a department that involved disease (but that was primarily disease parts of the world other than the cold-climate, well developed, part of the US where I live. Besides, I was an adult when I was transferred to that department. It wasn't a matter of a company "being really strict" because I worked in "the usual" office environment. It was more a matter of my being a particularly conscientious worker (with regard to quality of the work I did - not "the clean thing") and being promoted to a department where conscientious people were valued and needed.

As I've mentioned above, it isn't even particularly a "germ thing" for me. It's a general awareness of things like the fact that if someone, for example, puts shoes on a sofa; those shoes are going to make the sofa dirtier in a number of ways not necessarily related to germs or to whether anyone will get sick.

For me, it's all a matter of "general dirt", rather than germs (although I use the reality of the fact that germs can cause serious illness as "yet one more good reason" for people to have high standards when it comes to cleaning).

I know the cat thing is extreme. That's why I used it as an example. I can "step outside myself" and realize that in a world where people come with a range of standards when it comes to "clean", I'm on the "high end" when it comes to pets. The whole point of this Hub, though, is that so many people, who have more casual standards about things like pets, can't step back from themselves and realize that anyone with a higher standard than they have doesn't necessarily have a problem; and that it's completely possible to be a relaxed, normal, OCD-free, person for whom having high "clean" standards is effortless.

I'm not all that rare with the thing about cats and other pets. I love our cats, and I have more than my share of cat hair that finds it way under furniture, only to come blowing out one day when a window gets opened. LOL

I'm not worried about getting disease from the cats. Like a lot of people (some of whom won't have pets or let their kids have pets at all for this reason), I know that pets "aren't the cleanest". Cats are either outside doing "God-knows-what" (killing mice, etc.) or they're indoor cats, who step out a litter box and immediately hop up on someone's bed or couch. Their hair gets where they get, and oil from their fur gets left behind in small amounts.

All anyone has to do is look at a cat bed after the cat has been using it for a week or so to see what happens to human beds and couches if cats sleep on those.

None of what I'm saying here is intended to at all come across as "hostile" or "unfriendly", because it's all part of sharing different views in a discussion.

The whole point of this Hub, though, is exactly what's showing up in the comments here: People have a real hard time believing that a perfectly happy, relaxed, OCD-free, person can have a "higher standard of clean" without having a problem.

I can step back from myself, see the whole range of people's standards when it comes to clean, and not believe that anyone who doesn't measure up to mine has a problem. I just respect them as either not knowing any better or else not wanting to be bothered with the effort it would take them to stick with a higher standard than their own; and think it's all a matter of individual differences and preferences.

If someone is REALLY a giant and hopeless slob I'll admit to wondering if he's got depression or some problem that makes being/staying organized without a lot of work difficult. I'll even admit to wondering if an extremely dirty/"slobby" person is someone who drinks too much or uses drugs. I know a lot of college-aged kids let things get out of control too, so being young can be a factor for some people. This is with those extreme "slobs", though.

If I see someone who lets their cat get on their kitchen counter, or who picks up a cat and then doesn't wash his hands before setting the table, I don't think "there's something wrong" with that person. I think that person is just more casual about clean, which is his business - not mine.

Being on that "higher-standard" part of the "normal scale", though, people who would fall lower on that "scale" can't even imagine that there's such a thing as a perfectly happy, relaxed, person who can effortlessy be pickier when it comes to being clean (without having a problem).

I recognize that the cat thing is extreme (at least for a person who has pets at all); but I don't want to be one of those people who says, "I don't want pets because they're dirty," or "I don't want pets because they're too much work." I like having pets in my life (although it's wearing thinner as the number of "cat vomits" I've cleaned up continues to grow as I get older LOL). I'd rather put in a little extra effort and have them than not have any and not have to think about cat hair and litterbox-feet at all.

I have a friend who is much better than I am at not letting any dust collect on things like blinds or books. She won't have pets for the reasons I mentioned above. I don't look at her and think she must have a problem. I see someone who lives alone with her husband, who has always been organized and skilled at keeping her house clean, who doesn't have little kids making messes, and who doesn't work - so it's that much more effortless for her to prevent that dust build-up the way she does. I can look at my friend and (if I think about it at all) think, "Hey - she's got a far more "spotless" house than I do. She's got the time now that she and her husband live alone and don't work. It's all good."

I didn't write this Hub to defend myself about cleaning standards. I wrote it to pretty much speak up for all those "zillions" of other people like me, who can effortlessly and happily have high standards; and yet who live in a world with so many people who can't imagine that high standards don't have to equal a problem.

:) (I think I may actually turn off the comments on this Hub, because it's clear that nothing I say will ever convince people that those who have "high standards of clean" don't always have a problem - only higher standards. The comments on this Hub show what "clean fanatics" (with "fanatic" being used the way as it is in popular culture, not being used with its correct definition) live with.

I know people who, to be honest, I just think are "messier" or "messy" or out-and-out slobs. I don't call them "dirt fanatics" or "mess fanatics". I just accept them for being people with lower standards than I do (for whatever their reasons are).

That's the whole point of this Hub - that the world is full of people who can effortlessly keep a super-clean house without it being a matter of OCD. It's very sad that that idea is so impossible for so many people to accept.

Paula 6 years ago

I understand where you are coming from and have read that you worked for a disease control company, but I think you have taken it to an extreme. The cat example that you list is one of them.

I do think you should realize, a company has to be really strict in that case but in your own home, it's okay to relax a bit.

I do think you have a problem and wonder, how much fun are you to live with?

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Sue B, thanks for sharing another view here (other views always welcome in such a discussion); although I do have to say I'm pretty certain my preference for "neat and clean" has nothing to do with my mother (at least not in the ways the particular school-of-thought you've raised goes). My mother was an average housekeeper when I was in a kid. She didn't have her children do house work because she said she spent her whole childhood doing housework, and by the time she got married and had her own house she was sick of it, and hated it. :) So while she and my father expected us to pick up after ourselves and make our beds once we got old enough, she used to say, "I think kids should keep themselves clean, pick up after themselves, and do their homework."

She knew I was a "better" housekeeper than she was, but she just kind of wrote it off to my "being better at it" (rather than thinking there was more to it than that). She was 76 when she died, and her later years she let her house go quite a bit. She'd take care of other people's kids and did trouble keeping up with kids' messes (etc.). She would say, "I'd rather have my house not be as clean as I'd like it to be than to sit in a clean house, alone, and with nobody around." When I'd try to help with her house she'd get aggravated and act as if I thought "what's unimportant" was "more important than it really is".

I think, for me, it's just that thing about being a left-brained person (liking organization), being organized as a result of that kind of thinking (and so not finding it a challenge to "operate neatly"), and disliking housework enough that I'd rather keep on top of things than end up having harder, more time-consuming, work to do.

As far as germs go, while I'm, of course, interested in keeping disease to a minimum; for me it isn't so much germs as it is "yukky stuff". I just don't like anything "yukky", so, for example, if I knew when I was out and walked where I once saw a dead animal on the road, I wouldn't want those shoes walking across the rug in my bedroom. Particularly when my kids were little and playing on the carpets, I didn't want the dog and cat playing on the same rug (so I kept them out of the living room). My husband (same as I am) used to say, "Until pets wear diapers and don't have litterbox feet, they need to stay off where the babies put their faces down." :) We absolutely loved our pets, but pets are pets; and we didn't want the children getting something from them (if "only" e.coli). To me, it sure didn't feel like a "control issue". It just felt like wanting to prevent as much disease as possible, because little kids can die from things like e.coli infections.

Honest answers to the questions you've asked (and the questions that are actually making smile for some reason - I guess because they seem so odd to me :) ):

I eat in restaurants (and bring take-home) all the time (several times a week because I hate cooking, and my youngest child is now grown and out most of the time).

Bars: If I were a big drinker I'd drink in a bar. I don't really drink (although I may have wine or a drink with dinner at a restaurant).

Sporting events: I'm not a sports fan, but when my three kids were little I went to their games. (I go to movies, circuses, dance recitals, parades, and a lot other crowded events/places if that counts. :)

Public restrooms: I'm such a coffee-drinker I know all the public restrooms in town. Like most people, I prefer the cleanest ones; but I'm not above the one at McDonalds or the local supermarket if necessary. In the interest of full disclosure, I do use paper towels to open the door when I leave; but that's what "everyone" says we all ought to do.

Beaches - yes (and I eat food cooked by food places at the beaches too). Public pool - not since I was a kid, but only because we had a pool for our own kids; and adults where I live don't really go to public pools (unless they live in apartment complex, which I don't or stay at a hotel, which I don't often do these days).

Gym: I don't belong to one, and I do like using fitness DVD's at home - but only because it's more convenient. Like a lot of people, I don't have the kind of lifestyle that offers much time in the morning (or even evening) to go out to a gym regularly; so I find the home DVD's more convenient. I have, however, taken tennis lessons at country clubs and used their locker room and shower facilities (and actually did get ring-worm on my foot from one of them LOL - but that was years ago).

Shopping carts - I always grab a shopping cart to give my heavy pocketbook a "ride" in the babysit. Since Christmas this year, I've been dealing with a leg injury and have come to form quite an attachment to shopping-carts-as-walking aid up until recently. My grocery store does offer wipes for the handles. Sometimes I take one. For some reason, my sister and I have both discovered that the WalMart and dollar store shopping carts seem to leave your hands feeling dirtier than the grocery-store carts do; so I do go for the spray hand sanitizer more quickly. Since I make coffee the minute I get in from anywhere, I always do first wash my "shopping-cart hands" well the first thing when I get home.

All three of my kids rode in the shopping carriages (sometimes three at a time). In fact, now that my kids are grown I often think other people should do "what I always did" - "put your kids in the carriage, so they won't be in everyone's way". When my babies were newborn I did make sure there was a big blanket or their own infant seat between them and the shopping cart (of course, I had one premie and had to be particularly careful with him).

Produce: I have bought it from an open-air place but don't have much chance to; so I pretty much always buy it at the grocery store. It wouldn't occur to me not to buy it from an outdoor place, though.

Gardening: I don't, because I pretty much hate it. I don't have a lot of time, but I don't find it something I enjoy doing anyway. I don't know much about it and tend to kill all but the heartiest of plants. I buy ready-grown in pots, put them in, and take care of them all summer (if that counts). :)

Lying in the grass? No. Absolutely not! LOL Bugs are, as far as I'm concerned, "yukky". LOL I don't want them walking on me, getting in my clothes, or getting my hair. Ticks are a big issue where I live. I don't actually remember the last time I was even near any grass that was decent enough to even think about sitting on.

Gloves - only when it's cold. This last Winter (with H1N1 around), I'll admit that if I went into the store and had my gloves on because of the cold; I was as likely as not to leave them on (unless I had reason to take them off), figuring it's easy enough to throw the little, cheapy, knit, gloves I wear in with the laundry. Not always - only if I was kind of cold anyway.

Nobody asked, but I also ride on the subway, buses, trains, and in taxis; have used pay phones (when they were what people were using), use libraries' computers, and rent movies. :)

In all seriousness, I sometimes think that maybe my mother was right that if we weren't expected to do housework (other than cleaning up after ourselves and making our own beds), I grew up kind of seeing keeping the house clean as "what grown-ups do, the way all people brush their teeth and take showers". By the time I had my own house and kids, I was 29/30 years old. I was happy to have the house and a baby. I just kind of thought, "This is my house. I want to take good care of it, and make it a pleasant, welcoming place for me, my husband, children, and guests." At this point in my life, besides being a pretty organized and neat person anyway, I've had decades of practice, developing a system (with three kids and pets), and learning the hard way that it's more pleasant to clean regularly. Mostly, I think, I'm just not "the domestic type" and pretty much hating cleaning and want to be doing other things (so I've learned how to make it as effortless as possible).

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share all the ways in which I

Sue B. 6 years ago

House cleaning is directly related to one’s relationship with one’s mother. We all clean our homes to please our mother. Whether you are 28 or 98, whether your mother is living or passed on, it is all the same. We clean our bedrooms and the little voice within says, “Look, Mommy, see what a good job I did!” or our kitchens, “See, Mommy, I got all the dishes done and wiped the counters, too!” or “Look, Mommy, at how clean the glasses are! No spots!” Cleaning was a sure way to please Mommy and earn her praise, attention or perhaps her love. Of course, some mothers are more demanding and more critical than others. Some of those mothers are particularly hard to please and see anything less than perfect as failure. The children, the daughters mostly, pick up on this at an early age and learn that in order to please Mommy they need to keep everything neat and clean and tidy at all times. Mommy may or may not have been a neat freak, but it sure pleased her that her daughter was. I won’t touch on the abuse aspect (physical, sexual or emotional), but it certainly is possible. In school these children learn to keep their desks neat and well organized to please the teacher (another mother figure). Would you say your mother was demanding? Or pretty laid back?

Being fearful of germs is a control issue. Getting sick is a sign of failure - failure to protect your family, failure as a mother. If you or your child gets sick you hear a voice (perhaps your mother’s) ask, “How could you let that happen? This is your fault.” After every illness the cleaning spikes in intensity.

I’m not against neatness or cleanliness. I agree that a clean, well organized house is peaceful and a delight to live in. If how you live isn’t affecting your family or yourself adversely, then clean away!

I do have some questions that I hope you will answer honestly. I’m wondering how far outside your home your tendencies extend. Do you eat at restaurants? Would you have a drink at a bar? Do you ever go to sporting events, like a baseball game? Do you ever use public restrooms? Do your kids play at the playground? Do you go to the beach? Do you swim in a public pool? How about a lake? Do you belong to a gym? How do you feel about shopping carts? Would you put a toddler in one? Ever buy produce from an open air market? Do you garden? Do you ever lie in the grass and gaze at the stars? Do you wear gloves when you go out?

Thanks for being so candid about your lifestyle. It is very interesting. I hope I was able to give you some issues to consider.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Carmen, thank you for sharing info on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; and there are certainly people who have OCD and do things like keep looking under the bed. At the other end of the "neatness spectrum", though, there are people who are "pack-rats" or don't clean as often as they should, and if that were extreme enough it might be considered the disorder, "Hoarding".

Then there are all the people with no disorders at all. Some are super-neat. Some are "super sloppy".

I think readers who see your comment would agree that your English is fine. I admire people who can write in a language other than their own, because all I could muster up in a language other than my own would be something like, "Hi. My name is Lisa." LOL

As for me, I hate cleaning and don't want to be doing it all the time - and that's why I'd rather "live neat", keep big messes from ever happening, and doing the few, regular, cleaning tasks needed to keep a lot of housework from turning into a big, overwhelming, job.

Carmen 6 years ago

I am a woman, and i know a lady with the same problem. I've read that it may come after other relatives (mother, an elder sister,...). She feels better when she cleans, a typical feeling on people having OCDs ¡ but i think something is happening when she has to look under the bed before going to sleep; or when she must say no to going out when she feels she has to clean something at home. And sometimes she even stands up from bed again, to make sure something is clean. Her husband has depression episodes from time to time and now i know that he likes to ion everything, even underwear! but of course he has no time for that and his wife is happy to do it. Are both disorders connected or at least went worse because of having a partner having a disorder too? Sorry for my bad engilsh, i come from Spain. Thank you for reading.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Taniaalbenti, thanks for commenting (and, unlike another comment or two on here, your comments come across as reasonable enough to me. (I don't actually pick up dust particles. I pick up whatever "little white things" show up on the rug. LOL. I don't really know what they are - lint? paper? LOL).

In answer to your question about a psychiatrist, no I haven't sought psychiatric help because I'm a happy and relaxed person (believe it or not). Actually, though, I have been evaluated/screened for overall mental health/adjustment because I'm an adoptive mother, and it was part of the screening. On the neat/messy "spectrum" people can be one extreme or the other, but between the two extremes there's a whole range of "levels" of "neat" and "clean" that fall within normal. While someone who is clinically insane isn't necessarily aware that he's ill (although even they often know something is wrong), most of us who are without mental illness or neurosis can pretty much see whether whatever we are or do is "beyond normal" or not. If I ask you if you've seen a psychiatrist for your agoraphobia you'll, of course, tell me you know you have no signs of it (I'm guessing, anyway). This is the same kind of thing. I've actually just written a big blost post elsewhere about the fact that I've noticed I spend too much time at the PC and need to cut down on my time at it, because it's getting to be a little more than is ideal.

You're right that children who haven't had a little exposure to some germs won't have the same immunity to some illnesses. A lot of first-born and only children spend their first year in school getting every virus that comes down the pike, while kids with siblings get sick less. At the same time, though, it isn't possible (or at least it's not the degree to which I clean) to sterilize a house to the point where a child isn't exposed to germs. My house is far from sterile. At the same time, years ago my little nephew 20 months old) died from illness caused by a very common bacteria that a whole lot of people carry in their nose and throat. When my own children were young the pediatrician said that how much of a "blast of exposure" someone gets to germs can make a difference between whether he gets really sick with something or only a little sick with it. I think most of the time even the biggest clean freaks don't have a sterile environment (heck, even hospitals don't have as sterile an environment as they should to be prevent MRSA illness and deaths); but, to me, it does seem worth taking steps to reduce the chances that someone will get a big "blast" of exposure to germs and get sick (or sicker than they had to get).

Sure, I think it's almost funny that if a "little white thing" shows up on the rug it really does irk me, but I live with two adults right now. There aren't all that many little white things that show up. :) If I lived with five young children it would be different (although I suppose I would vacuum more than I do in my present situation). :)

I wrote this Hub in response to a request that asked if being a "clean freak" is a personality disorder. The answer to that is that being a clean freak doesn't necessarily mean someone has a personality disorder, as long as they still fall within what would be considered "normal" on that "messy/clean" spectrum. I wouldn't so much describe my own attitude toward my own standards/preferences as "convinced with myself". Obviously, from comments on here I haven't convinced some people who don't know me or don't see how effortless it really is for me keep as neat and clean as I like; but I'm familiar enough with what the signs of "genuine" OCD are to be as sure that I don't have it as I am as sure that I have light brown hair (even if someone on here cannot see that for themselves).

This is a good discussion that people of all "levels of neatness or messiness" should have, though; because (and I'm honestly not being defensive here) think of how unfortunate it is that a person who likes being neat and clean and who finds it fairly effortless to be neat and clean can't write freely about it without having at least a few suggestions she see a psychiatrist. I'm not angry or offended that human nature is such that people can find it so hard to believe someone can be perfectly normal and happy and relaxed but just be a "clean freak" or a "neat freak". It's just kind of sad that, perhaps because someone simply is left-brained and likes order; or because a left-brained person can find it effortless to just "live neat", so many people would find it hard to believe that person just may be perfectly normal (creative? no - but normal, sure). :)

When I adopted my son I went through a years-long process of having social workers, psychologists, etc. visiting, interviewing, having us write one thing or another about ourselves/our life, and later observing me with my son (as well as evaluating him every few years following the adoption). I do have in my possession a psychiatrist's report that says - believe it or not - no signs of mental illness. I don't expect everyone else to be the same as I am. I can think of some of the messiest people I know, and I have to say I can't imagine what on Earth is going on with them; but I never think they need a psychiatrist. I just figure they're different from me. I figure they either have "lower standards" (their business) or else they may find it too challenging to stay neat and clean without a lot of work. It really is kind of sad, though, that the people at the "low end" of the neatness/cleanness spectrum can't imagine that those on the other end can still fall within normal. (Maybe I should start a support group for us, "poor", persecuted, neat freaks. LOL ) Again, thanks for contributing to the discussion in such a reasonable way.

Taniaalbenti 6 years ago

I mean, our species evolved to this day without people being clean-freaks, our bodies can take much more than you may think, thats not to say we must live in filth, but by being too clean, your kids ammunity will fall and they will get ill easier when they re out of the house. Also, how is it that your life is not affected as you say, if you keep "following everyone around de-contaminating as they contaminate".. that sounds like someone with a problem. I mean ok, if someone spills something to wipe it up but pickig up dust particles that your eye scans for is a problem.

Taniaalbenti 6 years ago

Despite all you have written, you seem pretty convinced with yourself but have you actually been to a psychiatrist??

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Not if the same psychiatrist could follow me around throughout my days/life and put what I've said within the context of that. :)

There is a lot of misunderstanding about OCD. This link offers a solid description:


Not that I need to defend myself (because people will always believe what they will; but speaking for so many other people who may happen to be at the "high end of the neat/clean/organized spectrum" (but still within the range of happy, normal, unplagued, person): I am not plagued by unwanted thoughts, and I certainly don't spend my life thinking about germs. If I do something like - what - pat a dog or pick something up from the floor without those baggies I prefer, I wash my hands - end of story. People with OCD keep doing the same thing over and over again. They can't help but do things like keep washing hands, keep checking that they didn't leave an iron on, keep counting, etc. etc. They live with anxiety (which I don't - or at least when I do get anxiety it's over normal worries in life).

Most of what I've written is not something that a skilled psychiatrist would view as "off". Yes, there are a few things that would probably cause that psychiatrist to further question me on. The not-picking up stuff (I should have specified paper and tiny objects, not things like bookbags) from the floor are extreme. I added those extreme things, though, to show exactly what a "clean freak" I am. As I mentioned earlier, the "Cinderella/Snow White/Shirley" references were added in humor - not seriousness.

I think one problem with this hub is that, because its purpose was to discuss being a "clean freak", it talks about only those aspects of my life/personality that are related to being at the "high end of the clean/neat spectrum" without balancing things off my adding "all the rest of my life". The hub, though, was not supposed to be all about the rest of my life - only those minor things that would qualify me as a "clean freak".

For me (and for all those others for whom "high-end cleanliness/neatness" comes effortlessly and as the result of something other than "unwanted thoughts" and "anxiety") being "high-end neat and organized" comes easily and certainly doesn't detract from the rest of my life.

"Living neat and clean" is a skill like anything else (basketball, typing, singing, woodworking, etc. etc.). With any skill there will always be people who have more proficiency than others. With any skill there will always be people who care about that skill and people who don't. In general, though, the only skill (and it is a basic, living, skill) that gets "attacked" as "mentally ill" seems to be that skill that involves an effortless ability to "live neat, organized and clean".

One of my sons is adopted, so I have gone through rigorous visits with having social workers visit and observe the way I live. After the adoption was finalized we had the occasional psychologist show up for follow-up visits, again to observe how we lived and to evaluate my son. In other words, I've had my exposure to people capable of noticing any mental disorder and calling it to my attention.

Having raised three children and had a dog and/or cat pretty much since I was child, I've graciously and happily dealt with being projectile vomited on, cleaning up after pets and dealing with their hair, having contents of diapers slip out the legs of diapers, discovering dead mice on my back porch, and any number of other of life's disgusting things. I've also wallowed in the urine-soaked sheets that occurred all through the day when my mother was bedridden and dying, and I was her primary caretaker.

With all those "less pleasant" things of life, however, I have enjoyed a whole, normal, and even enviable existence as a perfectly capable individual free of unwanted thoughts or actions over which I have little control.

I would welcome comments that were along the lines of, "Why on Earth do you think picking up a cat calls for handwashing?" because I could then explain the health reasons for that kind of thing. I'd also welcome comments like, "Can't you pick up a dime from the floor without having your long fingernails touch the floor?" Again, that would give me the chance to explain the reasoning behind choosing to cover my hand with a baggie (when I do - it isn't like I walk around with baggies on my hands all the time; and it isn't like I won't touch a shopping cart handle).

I don't even find it particularly offensive that someone politely suggests I could possibly have signs of OCD, because I know someone may mean well; and I know that I'm at the "high end of the spectrum". Even I have often joked that I "border on OCD" because I know a few things (not most) that I do can seem extreme.

Still, without knowing me and without seeing those relatively minor steps toward cleanliness within the context of my life and personality; nobody can or should jump to the conclusion that I "must have" OCD.

Again, I haven't written this so it will be "about me". I've written for that "silent minority" who are at the high end of the spectrum (but still within normal range), who have lived their lives being seen as "too much" (and "having a mental disorder") by people like me, who think that the more careless are "not enough".

I don't look at the "more casual" people and think they are incompetent or have a mental disorder. I just figure they have different personalities and priorities than I have, or else they just have too much trouble effortlessly "living neat and clean". I may not understand them and may not be able to imagine how they could live as they do - but I don't think they have a mental disorder. Why is that people who would fall "lower" on the scale (but still within normal range) presume to believe that the more skilled, more efficient, or more informed among us MUST have OCD?

What determines whether a person has crossed over from "normal" and into "OCD" is related to the degree to which that person's behavior affects his being able to live a normal life, act like a normal person, and generally be of good mental health. Also, what determines whether some actions would be considered "OCD" or not also involves whether or not that person is "plagued by unwanted thoughts" or repeats behavior over and over again. There is more to the diagnosis of OCD than whether someone prefers to keep her hands clean by picking up dimes with baggies on her hands or by giving her hands a good washing after touching a pet.

I wrote this hub because I am aware that those of us who are at "high end" of the "neat-freak-but-normal" bell curve have to deal with a lot of misunderstanding and even ignorance. I thought it was time that someone make a point of speaking up about this, and when I saw the request that asked if being a neat-freak is a "personality disorder" I was particularly "inspired" to answer that.

Any capable psychiatrist with a good understanding of OCD would know the "extra pickiness" doesn't always constitute OCD. The comments on this hub, though, do point out the attitudes that that "silent minority" of "neat but normal" people must deal with. :)

Serious Guy 7 years ago

Lisa, you have a problem. If you saw the psychiatrist and showed him all the stuff you wrote on this page, you would definitely fall under obsessive compulsive disorder.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Think what you like, Diane. As I said earlier, there are people who just cannot possibly believe that someone who can keep an orderly, clean, house relatively effortlessly exist. There will be no convincing them otherwise.

Diane 7 years ago

The lady doth protest too much.

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Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hard as it may for anyone to believe, there are people who can have very high standards about cleanliness and order while remaining completely happy, relaxed, normal people who happen to find keeping things clean and neat effortless.

I described it "at length" as a way to point out the degree of "high standard", while also trying to point out that such a high standard is easy and effortless for some "clean fanatics".

This hub was written in response to request that asked whether being a "clean fanatic" is a mental disorder. Based on the number of mature, capable, well informed, people I know who have similar standards to mine; it is clear to me that I'm generally not all that unique.

The fact is there is a "slob/neat-nik" spectrum with abnormal extremes at both ends. On that spectrum there is a range that would be considered "normal", and some people fall closer to "slob" end than the "OCD/neat-nik" end, while still remaining happily well adjusted, normal, people.

No psychiatrist in the world who knew me and how I live would call my standard of cleanliness/neatness anything but "at the higher end of the normal spectrum". People who are "super" neat and clean usually just develop a good system of cleaning up as they go along, getting work done efficiently, and being well organized to make the rest of it easy. Being aware of good food handling practices and pet contamination, and throwing a baggy over one's hands before doing some things does not OCD make.

When I saw the request for this hub I just thought, as a "clean freak", and as a writer, I was in a good position to defend all those other perfectly normal but super-clean/neat people who have lived their lives being viewed by people (who either can't manage to keep life very orderly and clean, simply don't care about it, don't realize how easy it can be, or may even have something like ADD) as "having a mental disorder".

When I see people who are messy (but still generally on the "normal" part of that spectrum), I just figure they don't care for some reason; or else they just aren't as organized as those of us who are good at making/keeping life "super neat and clean". I don't think, "mental disorder". Those of us at the higher end of that particular spectrum, however, are often viewed by people at the lower end as having a "mental disorder"; apparently because a lot of people use themselves as the standard of "what's normal" and can't imagine that anyone with a higher standard could possibly be normal as well.

People are different. They have different sets of skills and abilities and priorities. Some know a little more than others about things like contamination. (I cannot tell anyone how often I've seen perfectly attractive and normal looking women walk out of the rest room stall and head straight for the door without washing their hands.) There are people who know about some of the contamination pets can bring and who won't even have a pet. Then, too, there are people who don't mind if the cat goes from the litterbox to their kitchen counters. Taking a few precautions and setting up a few rules about where pets can be is a way of doing the "normal" thing of having pets while also being careful about things like toxoplasmosis "germs".

The whole point of this hub (again, that I wrote in response to someone else's implying that being a neat-nik/clean-freak means having a mental disorder) was to point out that perfectly happy, normal, people (and there are many, many, of them in this world) can have a very high standard of "clean" and no mental disorder whatsoever. That's why I described my own standard of "clean".

If I have any "issues" with the whole clean-versus-messy thing it's a certain amount of anger at having people establish the "standard of normal" at themselves, and think anyone over or under their personal standard "has a problem". I've had people jump to the conclusion that I don't use my stove because it's always so clean. Worse, I've had people assume I didn't let my little kids play freely when they were little, when, in fact, they would strew their stuff all over the house; and the reason the house was clean and neat was that I'd go around cleaning up at night when my toddlers were asleep!

When you are someone who has good organization skills and manages to (often) effortlessly to keep things neat and clean; or when you're someone who simply makes yourself do tasks that, maybe, you don't really feeling like doing because you're tired; it is aggravating to have anyone assume you "don't use your stove" or "don't let the kids play".

If anyone does a little research on legitimate sites or at the library they will see that there is that "spectrum" of "neat/messy", on which people of all types fall well within the "normal" range. One other note: There are a lot of things in this life on which I'd fall at the "low end" of any abilities scale, but two things that are effortless for me are cleaning and coming up with a lot of written words pretty fast. The length of my hub (or comments) should be seen as anything other than the ability (and tendency) to whip up a lot of thoughts in a very brief time.

DianeZ 7 years ago

The fact that you needed to describe at such great length, in the most minute detail, why you like to keep a clean house, already tells me that there's some disorder involved in your cleanliness needs.

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Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Although I had to delete one because it was way too vulgar, it's funny to me that the people who think being a "neat freak" is a mental problem always throw in some remark about sex. Gee, when I run into someone that I think has mental problems it never occurs to me to make crude remarks about sex. I somehow don't think I'm the one with the "issues".

Since your issues must related to the first four paragraphs, do you know that women have more tactile senstivity than men do? Also, do you know that some girls/women have even more than other do?


They way I see your comment is this: If you found what I wrote really off-the-wall and said something like, "I completely disagree with this whole hub and think that this degree of neatness if not healthy," I'd just assume you're the messy type who thinks super neat people are compulsive. (I'm the neat type who thinks at least some, not all, messy people are the ones who have the disorders.) The fact is that people are different, and just because someone is not like we are it doesn't necessarily mean that either party has a mental disorder.

Between women's having more tactile senstivity in their hands and often being responsible mothers who want to make a nice, healthy, nurturing, home for their family and guests, the fact is a lot of women are very much like I am. Yes, I've worked in an Infectious Disease department, and I may be a little more aware of things like cross-contamination in the kitchen; but I know plenty of women who are very much like I am.

Instead of a reasonable comment that simply criticized/questioned the material I wrote, however, you apparently felt the need to send an aggressive, name-calling, crude, comment. That shows me (and others here) that something I said pushed your buttons to the point where you needed to "attack".

I'm going to assume that either you have an ego that needs to think that everyone needs to be like you in order to be normal, or an ego that believes you are superior to everyone else and if it feels threatened by someone who may have made you feel as if you aren't quite as on top of your life as you like to think you are.

There is nothing I said in the whole first three paragraphs that says anything "worse" than that some people don't find being neat and clean any particular challenge while others find it more of a challenge. Also, I simply said some people care more about a neat home and hygiene more than others do. That's a fact. There is a spectrum for what is considered "normal" . You're at the low or middle end; and I'm at the higher end. What the heck is the big deal?

In the fouth paragraph I commented on aiming to keep contamination out of the kitchen where food is prepared. (Look up a site that gives food handling practices). I also commented on washing hands after picking up a cat. (Look up the kinds of parasites and germs pets can have; and consider, too, that they lay around on the floor where shoes from outdoors have walked.)

The funny thing about crude and aggressive comments is that the person who writes them never tries to debate, point by point, anything that has been said. They name-call, call people "mentally ill", and make crude, sex, remarks.

Last week I had the same old crude kind of comment and insults on a hub that was about a foolish phone service!! Gee, I had no idea I am so controversial!

Other than my whimsical references to tv characters and cartoon characters at the end of the hub (and which could seem strange to the person who didn't get my attempt at being whimsical), there's nothing I said in the hub that any knowledgeable, educated, person would find as "psycho". If it makes you feel better to believe otherwise, feel free....

Dan 7 years ago


I got thru about four paragraphs. YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP! See if there is a local health department to provides free psycho consultations. I'm sure they'd wear a bubble for your first consultation to make you feel uncontaminated by their presence. Wow! When do you have time for sex? And do you make him finish off in a plastic bag?

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts Author

The guy I married has always been pretty much as "bad" as I am when it comes to germs; but even so, I know the kind of thing you mean. Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I pretty much scoot around in back of people - uncontaminating whatever they contaminate. :) I don't let them see me doing that, though, because it would probably be aggravating to them, and I do have my pride. :) We've always had a kind of half they-cooperate/to-some-degree-I-"perfect"-things kind of set-up. It's a compromise type of thing.

I guess I know that (even though I believe I'm the more cautious one) I'm "a little too much" according to a lot of people's standards, so I figure it may be too much to expect them to go with my standards at all times. (Still, I can't live with contaminated stuff - so I'd just rather do the stealth thing.)

Max 8 years ago

Dear Lisa

Please tell me what are you doing when your husband or your kids dont keep clean. For example if there is a paper on the floor, your husband pick it up and than unintentionally take a clean cup from the kitchen with the same unwashed hands?

Thank you in advance. Because you are positive and I like it your answer will help me a lot.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts Author

To lui (whose second comment - like the first - I have chosen not to post on this hub): I ordinarily allow just about all comments on any of my blogs - all but those that are crude or otherwise cross a line that would inappropriate content on my pages. As I mentioned above, writers of Hub are held to HubPages standards of content. Besides not wanting my account closed for inappropriate content, there are just some comments that are a little too tasteless (or bordering on it) that I don't want posted.

I post just about all comments that show up on any of my pages. As I said I before I welcome differing opinions. They make any hub more interesting. It doesn't happen often, but when I had a reader name-call I'll post that as well (as long as it's clean, and - in the case of your original comment - saying you think I'm an "idiot" is fine with me. "Idiot" isn't crude. So with regard to your second comment that people "should be able to post anything on this wall", the fact is most of the time they are. It is a very rare comment that I delete.

I don't know what it is about this particular hub that seems to have bothered you so much; because if you went to most homes in any decent US neighborhood; with a mature, responsible, organized, parent in charge; you'd more often than not find a home that's kept nicely. As I said in my hub, it isn't difficult for people to have well-organized, clean, homes with flowers on the table, sparkling dishes, shiny floors, neat drawers, and no trash or clutter anywhere. Young people (say, college aged kids) who have no children have other things to worry about, haven't seen the disaster that can occur when messes get out of hand, or have no need to keep a nice home for children often tend to let things get out of control. Even among them, though, there are neat freaks who see view their messy roommates as irresponsible and even disgusting. I answered a Hub request once from a student who didn't know what to do about her roommate who "wouldn't clean". It's on here somewhere.

Getting back to your opinion that anything anyone writes as a comment should be posted: Out of curiosity I went to your profile to see what types of articles you write. I saw that you joined HubPages ten months ago and haven't yet written any articles at all. If you had your own articles written on here you may have a little more of a reading on why some people have to (once-in-a-great while) delete a comment.

I'm a freelance writer, and I often refer potential employers to any number of my online articles or profiles as a way of providing "back-up" writing samples. (Sometimes the samples I send aren't really good examples of the kind of writing the person wants, but something I've written online may be.) I have children and a bunch of other family members and friends who sometimes view my sites as well. For good or ill, my online material is a reflection of me. For good or ill, I've put a lot of effort into producing over 1500 online articles (not on this site, but on several).

I don't want potential employers or family members (particularly my kids) running into crude stuff if/when they're browsing my material. Also, after writing just my 150 or so hubs, alone, I believe I have put in enough effort to have earned the right to choose whether I want my pages to remain reasonably tasteful (particularly since I let just about all comments get posted).

When a person writes online he runs the risk of having people not like, or agree with, what he has to say. That's part of the deal when a person puts his writing out there. Whether that material is posted on someone's own,private, website or under the terms and standards of a site like HubPages; the material is posted a private site, and private site's and individual are not obligated to post material that's the writer or site-administrators find off-color or otherwise cross a line. Anyone who writes online pretty much expects to be called the occasional name and can't spin his wheels over what strangers think of him.

If you had wanted to take issue with anything I said in the hub (without adding words involving body parts) I would have been more than happy to post your comment. Depending on the point you had to make, I may have further commented or debated or else just posted the opposing opinion without more comment. If you had wanted to call me an "idiot" and left out the reference to a body part I wouldn't have deleted it.

For now, I've taken more time to address the matter of your comments than a lot of people would have bothered with. Think what you like. Maybe you'd like to consider writing a hub about why a pleasant, organized, clean home is such an undesirable thing. (Seriously, that's not a saracastic remark at all. Why not fill out your profile, write a few hubs that express your views of things.)

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Author's Note: A crude, vulgar, comment was left at this hub by someone who apparently disagrees with the idea that being neat, clean, hygienic, and organized (while still being perfectly OCD-free and perfectly able to enjoy life) is a good thing to be. Disagrement and disagreement from anyone (who can't believe that being well organized and capable of keeping their home in order just may be a good thing) is welcome. Even name-calling comments are welcome, if someone is so inclined.

Vulgar, crude, comments (usually a sign of an immature, dirty-minded, person, and always a sign of someone who has nothing solid to add to any debate) aren't going to be posted here. They're a violation of HubPages policy; and they're the kind of thing the mature, wholesome-minded, among us are going to tolerate.

"Dirty" (whether in one's house, language, or mind) isn't something I have in my life, and it isn't what will be on my HugPage. I find the occasional "hate comment" or name-calling humorous. I find disagreement an intellectual challenge and a little bit fun. Crudeness, however, is for some other site and someone else's pages.

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JerseyGirl 8 years ago from Jersey Shore

Good hub with great info. Thanks for sharing.

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Reply to Comment by Thomas, Above

Thomas, I think the difference between me and your mother might be that cleaning doesn't take up all my time. I won't let it. My "thing" is more about not letting mess build up in the first place (when possible), which means I don't have all kinds of cleaning jobs sitting and waiting to be done (when I don't have the time to clean).

It's important for me to point out (not that anyone on here, including you, needs me to point this out) that I'm not a psychologist. Any thoughts I offer are nothing more than my own, personal, guesses; based on what you've said and based on my own experience in my own life, and with people in my life.

There are, of course, always the possibilities that your mother could have a psychiatric disorder (or the beginnings of one), but I suspect there's a good chance her main problem may be the stress of financial problems (maybe combined with issues associated with a woman's change of life - maybe not. Not all women go through "a thing" around menopause and for awhile following it. Some do.). Menopause-issues aside, though, stress from something like financial problems and/or not having much going on in life that one finds rewarding can lead to problems like difficulty concentrating, physical and mental exhaustion, and generally having difficulty doing some things (like going out to find work). Something like adrenal fatigue can mean a person doesn't have the ability to really do some of the more demanding things at all times. Someone who is strong and tries to keep going may easily be able to get something done that isn't "emotionally demanding" or "emotionally draining". I've known more than one person who has been chronically stressed and exhausted, but who will do those things they CAN do, even when their stress level (and maybe inability to concentrate or cope with some things)makes it seem like "too much" to do some other things (like going out and meeting prospective employers, of even going out and socializing).

For the person who is otherwise (for lack of a better way to describe it) generally miserable, exhausted, stressed out, and MAYBE even grossly misunderstood; finding ways to have some small joy in life can feel important. For a person who thrives most on "clean" and who feels she can't think well in a mess, one of those "small joys" (but also one need) can be having things in order enough not that the environment doesn't look like an overwhelming and depressing mess. Some people who are unhappy/stressed out can feel in desperate need of finding "a least a little shred of beauty in life" and/or they may feel as if, in order to even try to be able to concentrate or "think straight" they have to have a certain amount of order. Also, when the rest of life feels out of control a person may find it helps his ability to feel less overwhelmed if exercises what little control in life he does have, which is his own ability to keep (or try to keep) some order around him.

The person who is so exhausted or stressed out that he has reached this point is likely to be a strong, capable, person who is determined to find ways of "taking care of" of his own emotional/mental needs, especially if/when that person feels as if nobody else can understand the degree of exhaustion or stress he is dealing with. This can be an otherwise perfectly mentally healthy person who is strong and capable of dealing with life, but there can be a point where even the strongest of people eventually become exhausted to the point where even the healthiest mental attitude and healthiest thinking just doesn't help the person do what he'd like to do (no matter how much he knows he needs to, or ought to, do something).

People over 50 face particular challenges when it comes to finding work, and if your mother hasn't worked for a long time she'll be faced with even more challenges (if not discovering that's close to impossible to find work in this economy, no matter how many times she tries). Being faced with discouragement on top of all the rest of life's stresses can just make things worse and further erode at a person's sense of self-esteem. Also, sometimes people reach a saturation point where they feel that they just cannot possibly keep trying, only to face rejection once again.

Some of the jobs available to people over 50 (if they can find them at all) are jobs that involve doing work that is too demanding for someone who is already exhausted; or they may involve a demeaning setting that can be more than someone who already feels misunderstood or disrespected. That can get into that "saturation point", where the person just cannot deal with yet more. Some jobs may involve wearing a uniform that looks fine on a sixteen-year-old with a reasonably fit build but would make a person close to 60 look ridiculous (or else just look so awful that person couldn't make himself wear such a thing in public).

Jobs aside, what goes on at home can aggravate how someone feels and make more stress, rather than help. In families where money is a stress, everyone is stressed out; so it's common for some family members not to want to bother helping with cleaning. Some people just automatically think it is the wife's/mother's role to do all the cleaning (sometimes that the woman, herself; sometimes it's only her husband and kids). Some grown kids just kind of take it for granted that their mother has always been happy to do anything for them (including easing their burdens by not making an issue if the son or daughter leaves things around the house, or makes messes). Often, mothers are, in fact, more than willing to do anything for their children; but many mothers think that once children are grown one thing they shouldn't have to do is pick up after them. At the same time, some mothers who truly care about not hurting their child's feelings (or his trust that she would be willing to do anything for him) by pointing out to him that faith he has in her willingness to do anything to help him has, in fact, become a problem for her.

The mother may know (or believe) there's a certain kind of "innocence" to her grown child's taking for granted that she's "happy to pick up after him" or "happy to be the one who cleans the house"; and she may not want to hurt the feelings of a grown child who still shows such an innocent faith in her wish to be a loving, caring, mother. She may wonder if child is "just thoughtless", but she may not want to take the chance that he doesn't realize that, while she's always been happy to do the things that come with being a mother (and always will be), she, herself, has come to define her own role as "mother of grown kids" differently than her child (or husband) may define it. The mother who isn't sensitive to the feelings of others (especially her children) is often less likely to take the chance she'll hurt someone's feelings than a mother who isn't very sensitive or understanding.

Something similar can occur with wives, but another thing that can happen with wives is that husbands just essentially think their wives "ought to be maids", and husbands don't see their wife for the person she is, or understand that the challenges she faces as a caring, conscientious, stressed out, person who keeps going (and therefore doesn't respect what she does or doesn't do).

Good, solid, mothers (who care about not burdening their children, even grown ones, with what they are dealing with; and who have vowed to always "be the adult", no matter how old their child gets; are not going to tell their son or daughter how bad things are (when it comes to what they're dealing with). As a result, a question like, "Why won't you work?" is likely to get a quickie, easy, answer, like, "I don't have time." This of course, will be followed by, "But what are you so busy with?" What other answer is there to give but, "cleaning". I don't know if any of this applies to your mother, but there's a chance that she's just saying "cleaning" as an easy explanation to the more difficult-to-explain reasons why she can't/won't find work.

If she's a person who isn't about to sit around and do nothing, there's a good chance she's cleaning as a way of at least doing something (separate from whether she's also looking for that "small joy" of having things look nice).

Another thing that can happen in families (usually with mothers) is that the mother will keep on cleaning and cleaning, only to discover that a husband and/or kids go around immediately after, undoing what she's done (not intentionally, just carelessly). A certain amount of re-doing the same cleaning jobs is usually something a mother will expect (dishes, floors, laundry, etc.); so those jobs aren't usually the ones that bother most mothers. The complaints I hear from other women (and even from my own kids, who have lived with messy roommates) is that "stuff that ought to stay clean for awhile" gets "undone" immediately. An example might be that a person wants/needs something like a clean table top with just flowers on it. If everyone comes in and throws stuff on that table the minute after a mother has changed the tablecloth, that can be kind of frustrating. If the table can't stay the way she wants it for, say, more than an hour; that's another source of frustration. This is a small thing, but these things can add up. The mother who cleans a counter top, only to find crumbs or spills minutes later; or who cleans the refrigerator, only to find spills soon after; can find such minor things adding up and making her feel (and act) like a lab rat in some experiement in which achieving desired results are forever removed from within reach.

The people I know (most of whom are in your mother's age range) who are dealing with extreme stress and financial worries have all talked about considering seeking professional help. They all say the same thing: "I don't want or need to talk about what's bothering me, because it's money; and I don't want or need to risk the side effects of anti-depressants, when I'm not really depressed -- just exhausted from stress." Looking up "adrenal fatigue" will show that what helps the less severe cases of it is getting rid of stress, eating a proper diet (aimed specifically at people with this condition), and getting lots of rest. (A more extreme form of adrenal exhaustion is association with Addison's Disease, but most people who experience some adrenal fatigue don't have Addison's Disease.)

All of the thoughts that I have offered above are just "wild guesses" or "wild thoughts" about what some of the possibilities may be, with regard to your mother. There is the chance she quite simply has OCD, but a lot of people in situations similar to hers don't. Difficulty concentrating and worries about money can make a person feel distracted and have trouble with being absent-minded and forgetful. Women within a certain time frame surrounding menopause can have trouble with things like anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty dealing with stress, etc. If, by any chance, your mother is actually suffering from even mild depression, one consequence of that can be feeling hopeless.

Something many people don't realize (about some others who are extremely stressed out and possibly even suffering from mild depression) is that strong, capable, people (especially, perhaps, mothers) can be extremely skilled at doing a pretty good job of coping with their own exhaustion and/or depression (up to a point). They may be able to keep up a reasonably cheerful attitude. They may be able to get the non-mentally-demanding tasks of life done. They may be people who are quite skilled at "rising to the occasion" even when "the occasion" is that they suffer from exhaustion or depression. There's a point, though, where even people like this may not be able to overcome what they're living with. Doing new things, meeting new people, placing oneself in the position of facing rejection, dealing with the frustrations of things like phone tag and electronic answering machines, are all things that can be harder to deal with than, say, washing a kitchen floor.

For a spouse who is going through this kind of thing, one thing that doesn't help (to say the least) is to have the other spouse demanding one "help" or losing respect for him/her because he thinks the spouse is unwilling to contribute. For a mother, one of the most painful things for a mother who knows how hard she's always tried, and worked, to make sure she does what's right for her child (even if child doesn't understand), is to have a child begin to lose faith in her (only because he never knew what it took for her to be "a super hero" in the first place, and now life has taken such a toll on her energies (or else has presented challenges that are too big even for her "super-hero powers") she just can't measure up in her child's eyes. Worse, the child she may have always made an effort to believe in has grown up to be someone who doesn't believe in her (even though, if he had any idea of all that it takes to be a good, capable, mother; he would see that, while his mother may not be a super-hero, and while she may not even seem to have the same kind of energy she always has; there is no need to worry that his mother has changed or has become mentally ill.

I have no idea if any of this applies to your mother. I do know, though, that with the women (people, in a couple of cases) I've known, some simple things would help. Most of them don't want/need family members to do the housework. Most would find it tremendously helpful if family members just wouldn't undo what they do so quickly. Something else that would help would be having a certain amount of faith that the person who isn't working isn't working for reasons other than laziness, and other than "just planning to rely on other people for support". One thing that contribute to working away at person's energy level and self-esteem is not being able to work, or find work, when he knows that's what would help. Something else that contributes to any parent's stress level, and "mental pain", is watching children suffer the consequences of a bad financial situation that belongs to the parents. Something else is often having to accept financial help from "the last person one would ever want to take money from". Feeling harshly judged or feeling that the people one cares about most (and the last people one would want to be a problem for) can make things worse, so trying to show some understanding that people go through things we can't see or understand may help someone who isn't working.

For a lot of people in situations similar to what I've been discussing above, a big problem is lack of support. The trouble is, people who are generally strong, capable, grown-ups don't need the kind of support others often think of (a shoulder to cry on, someone to pour out one's troubles to, etc.). "Support" for the generally strong, solid, individual who is going through a very difficult time is often nothing more than not feeling judged or attacked by others; and maybe not having one's efforts immediately undone.

Another thought is that grown kids often don't know what kind of arrangement parents have between them. They may have discussed financial problems, any exhaustion/stress issues, etc., and decided that, for x amount of time, one spouse's working isn't the answer (for one reason or another). People in their late fifties may have it in their mind, "We'll live with this for another few years, and then we get to retire and live on Social Security." This may not be their ideal/dream plan, but it may be their plan if they have few other options. Although there are, and will always be, parents who expect their grown kids to support them; I don't think that's most parents. I think most parents would be sickened to think of having to accept support from grown kids once their child has moved out and has his own living expenses. Most don't see the harm in expecting a child who lives with them to kick in some reasonable help with some of the monthly bills (at least if they need help, but sometimes even parents who don't need the help expect their child to contribute). It is, though, (I think) a rare parent who would be content to have the long-term plans of having their grown child support him forever.

Lots of times parents may be more willing to accept money from a grown child who doesn't have a family, and who may have a few spare dollars to spare here or there; than they would be willing to accept money from a grown child for whom helping would be a hardship. Also, if a parent says, "We have to watch what we spend," or "We could really use some extra money these days," such a statement can have a broad range of the degree of need that parent has. Some parents may be struggling to keep the heat and lights on. Others may have a less extreme struggle, involving whether to buy some of the less critical grocery items versus sticking with store brands and basics only.

Thomas, if none of this applies to your family, I'm sorry you've read this far, only to discover it's useless. I thought, though, that even if I don't know if it applies to your family, it DOES apply to a lot of people (especially these days and in this economy, with more and more Baby Boomers finding themselves unemployed). So, I figured if it doesn't apply in your case, it may apply to any number of other people (and was therefore worth discussing).

For all I know, your mother could have a bad case of OCD and just not be able to leave housecleaning in order to work. It's just that - "odds-wise" - I'm guessing there's a good chance she has something else going on that isn't necessarily OCD. I'm the first to say that I could be wrong. I know, though, that I'm not wrong that the kinds of issues/scenarios I've described above are common ones in families (although it isn't always just the mother who can't/won't work; it could be a husband, a grown child, or some other family member).

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