What is your cleaning style?

Over the last few months I’ve been inside the homes of at least 3 dozen people. I visited most of those homes because we were house shopping, my family was house shopping, or we were simply visiting. Our summers are wild and busy like that. Since I am a people watcher this gave me some great insight. So what did I learn? We all have a different idea of what “clean” really is.

I visited some homes that looked pristine with nothing dragging, nothing out of place, and everything was shiny. Just don’t open the cabinet doors. Or open the back of the commode. Or look under the microwave.

Other homes looked cluttered and unkept. Toys and books were placed in random places. Cups sat on the counter by the refrigerator. There was also piles of things in various places. But something I noticed in most of these homes is that the sink was spotless, you could eat off of the floors, and the doorknobs, light switches, and appliances were clean as a whistle.


Then there was the other extreme where the homes looked so clean that I wouldn’t want to live in them or so dirty that I wouldn’t want to live in them. After seeing this time after time I recognized the patterns; the styles of cleaning.

Inside Out Clean

This style is more concerned with removing germs, cleaning surfaces, and doing the job thoroughly. We usually get so consumed with cleaning the counter tops that by the time they are sparkling and germ free we don’t have the time or energy to arrange things beautifully back in place much less spend time cleaning in another room. We tend to make full cleaning days or do one room at a time. There is no sense in doing it if you don’t do it right, right?

I fall into this category. I am the type that wants to vacuum out the sawdust when building things. I can’t stand the thought of that being between the boards even though it is nailed shut and no one will see it. I don’t mop with a cotton mop and handle. I use a bucket and a rag and I go square by square because I have to know that each square foot is really clean. And, I can get the baseboards this way too.

My visible areas are another story. I have clutter. I don’t mind blankets on the couch or cups by the refrigerator. I don’t mind a few toys on the floor. I know it is all clean. Really clean. We clean from the inside, out.

Outside In Clean

I remember visiting a relative’s house as a child and always thinking about just how clean everything was. The counters and floors never had anything out of place and everything looked as though it was a showpiece. Things had been scrubbed to perfection. For years I thought this lady was the cleanest person in the world. Then I got old enough to help out in the kitchen.

One day while making tacos I opened a cabinet to get a bowl. Twelve bowls, a stack of paper plates, and a roll of paper towels fell out. Everything had been stuffed into this little cabinet. The outside of the cabinets were in pristine condition while the insides were literally falling apart. After that I became a bit of a snoop checking out other places. The medicine cabinet had medicine in it that expired ten years before. The pantry had food that had long been stale and the garage had stacks of newspapers that had never been brought to the recycling center.

This group spends so much time on the appearance of the home that the insides lack cleaning and organization. They clean from the outside, in.

Obviously others will fall into a happy medium. I have found that some people do both to perfection or don’t do either at all. Those styles likely have other outside influences that drive them to react that way. For the most part, we are Inside Out or Outside In cleaners. Which are you?


  1. I don’t know what my cleaning style is. I can’t stand cluttered/disorganized cabinets that things fall out of when they are opened, or disorganized drawers, yet my countertops get very cluttered. I have recently developed a NEED to clean my kitchen before I go to sleep (I used to be a morning cleaner). I have a difficult time going to sleep if I know I’ve left dishes in the sink…the only exception is if my dishwasher is full and running, and the extra dishes that would not fit have been rinsed and are soaking in soapy water (I do not put dirty dishes in my soapy water because I feel like the food is just getting right back on them, gross), to go in the dishwasher once it has run and been unloaded. Yes, I know I could just hand-wash the dishes, but I don’t have a dish drainer and i don’t like seeing them piled up on the counter.

  2. That is so interesting! I’m an outside-in cleaner, but I still have clutter too – LOL! But I definitely clean for appearance and would rather be the other way because then the places/things that matter most to my own family would be clean {like the master bedroom which is always the last place I get to because nobody other than our family will see it}.

  3. I am a everything in it’s place type of person….I can’t go to sleep at night if I know their are dirty dishes in the sink. My home always looks clean and polished…just don’t pull the fridge out!!! I am extremely lazy on washing windows though….to my poor mothers embarrassment!!! To my defense, I do hose them down, and of course I windex the inside windows…but I do not do the outsides unless I know someone is coming to visit, and never the second story!
    I keep my kitchen sink clean….but with that said, if food drops in it, it continues it’s trek to the garbage disposal. Not because I don’t think it is clean….but I live with a 15 year old son that doesn’t think about the “big picture” and God only knows the things he puts in there to clean!!! And of course, my dear sweet hubby is just as guilty if not more so than the 15 year old!!!
    I have to admit I laughed out loud when I read you opened up peoples closets and cabinets! I have ALWAYS wanted to do that when I go to someones home…just never had the courage! That is the first thing my mother taught me when I moved into my own place….most important was to always have a clean bathroom, make sure the fridge is always clean inside and wipe down the front, and if you don’t want your business known, keep your cupboards in order!

  4. My home must be clean. I clean from top to bottom, including door frames and baseboards. I can tolerate a little bit of clutter, but only for short periods of time. If my home were on the market though it would be spotless in all areas. Clean and no clutter; everything put in its place. But because it isn’t on the market, I’m more laxed. We do live and have a life.
    Now my neighbor, I have to share; she was so anal she couldn’t even have leaves on her lawn during fall. Weird, right? When she moved she gave me some dishes and knives and whatnot.
    First let me say EW! I WASHED everything she gave me. There was old crusted food on the things she gave me. This surprised me for two reasons: one she had a maid, two, because she was such a neat freak. I guess that was all for show.

  5. uuummmm…. You HAVE been to MY house in the last couple of weeks. I am wondering if you peeked in my pantry to see the huge stack of newspapers that needs to go. HAHA! I {think} I am the happy medium. What do you think?

  6. I am an outside in! I feel more secure in a clutter free organized environment. I also have issues having people in when things are not perfect. God is showing me this is rooted in pride.

  7. I think the Lord was gracious to keep me from my natural tendancies to be overly-clean…by giving me kids 🙂 Even when I was a kid, when we went camping, I was known to sweep the dirt “clean”–not because it was on some camping gear, but because it was just a particularly cluttered looking patch of dirt! Now that I’m married and have a family, I know that I can’t make anyone conform to my standard of clean and order, so I am learning to loosen my grasp on that. In fact, since being married, it’s been a rather humbling experience on that front since my mother-in-law has a pristine home, and as I tend to people-please and wrap my identity up in the keeping of my home, I’m learning not to poo-poo myself too harshly for the many times she and other folks have come over to a house that looks, shall we say, “lived in”. 🙂

  8. Amy, I am definitely an inside out type of cleaner! I can’t always go to the extreme of scrubbing each tile but I do do that when I can. So glad to know I am not the only one!


  1. […] I’m not mocking FlyLady. I adore her. The advice she offered simply didn’t capture my cleaning style. And I realized that a shiny sink wasn’t at the top of my happy scale. I saw that as a basic […]

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