Many of us are convinced that we are orderly but still want
to straighten up the house before guests come. Why is
external order so important for people and how does it
influence one's behavior and success in life? What is
considered tidy - inside cupboards or the cleanliness of the
living room? And most important, what is at the root of the
pedantic or messy housewife and how can we tame her
extremity? Professionals make order out of chaos and offer
helpful tips to keep the perspective on keel.
Housewives are, without question, the police of order in the
house. And even if the house does not undergo a thorough
cleaning every week, they carry the burden of the character
and appearance of the house. If so, neatness and organization
of the house, however technical, and a regular routine,
require proper organization and an investment of time and
Image and Order
"A person's image is built on a number of characteristics,
among them, the way his environment looks," emphasizes Mrs.
Naomi Tal, image consultant. "Disorder, dirt and neglecting
one's surroundings transmit the message that the lady of the
house neglects her other concerns, as well. It is important
to note that people are visual (80 per cent of human
perception goes through the eyes, not the ears) and we judge
people by what we see," clarifies Tal. "This appraisal takes
no more than 30 seconds or less.
"In 30 seconds, we grasp how the person in front of us looks,
as well as form an opinion about the environment in which she
lives and functions. The image is engraved in our memories
and greatly influences how we judge that person. Moreover,
people who function in a disorderly environment project not
only that they aren't organized but also their way of
thinking and logic isn't disciplined, orderly or
"In contrast, when you walk into an orderly and well-groomed
house, even if it's small and modest, the feeling is that the
lady of the house cares about her house and also herself. The
appearance of a neat and well-kept house generates a pleasant
atmosphere and gives the lady of the house a secure feeling,
one of self-esteem, that she is in control of her kingdom and
she conveys that to the rest of her family.
"Most people enjoy being in a clean and orderly environment
but not everyone enjoys creating one. We should also remember
that maintaining a clean and well taken care of house has an
educational benefit. Children who grow up in an aesthetic
environment will strive to emulate it in their own homes.
Giving children cleaning chores creates a feeling of
cooperation, commitment and responsibility."
Order - A Means, Not an End
"The need for order is a matter of personality," explains
Tzahala Meinart. "Every one of us has a different need for
order: There are some for whom order exists only when the
shirts are arranged in the closet according to color, and if
they are merely folded, then, in their eyes, it's a mess.
There are women whose serenity is disturbed by speck of mud
and others whose Shabbos dishes can wait until Sunday."
Three housewives who were interviewed emphasize the
differences of the order in their homes.
Tamar from Bnei Brak, a teacher and mother of seven: "It's
important for me to have a feeling of space, what one would
call having light in your eyes, and that includes a minimum
of things and a minimum of decoration, easy access to
everything functional and a place for everything. If I didn't
work outside the home, I would invest more in my home. Now, I
have to compromise.
"Every evening, I go through the house and whatever is lying
around is returned to its proper place (of course the next
day it's all over the place again). Towards Shabbos, I do a
thorough straightening up. When Shabbos arrives, I yearn for
it to be like this all week, but I just can't do it."
Even in arranging the house there is an order of priorities.
Tova from Ashdod, a kindergarten teacher and mother of one
daughter, says: "I'm thought of as a friend to disorder. Even
when I fix up the house, cleanliness doesn't stress me out.
For example, if there are dishes in the sink and I want to
read a book or go to sleep, first I'll read/sleep and only
then will I straighten up. Most of the time, I'm not
pressured. As the mother of one daughter and the wife of an
avreich who comes home late at night, I can use the
afternoon hours at my leisure even if there's chaos around
me. But when the time comes for me to do something, I do it.
With time, I've come to the conclusion, that when I'm under
pressure I work better."
Rabbanit Y. from Jerusalem, a mother of a full house, says,
"Order and cleanliness have to be a means, not an end. When
things are in their place, the house is neat and tidy. It is
one of the conditions that help us in serving Hashem. I heard
at a lecture one Erev Rosh Hashanah that we ask Hashem to
give us, in the New Year, the ideal conditions to serve Him.
I see this subject in that category.
"You don't need a wild imagination in order to visualize how
a chaotic house hampers advancement: resentment and
complaints against those who make a mess; losing time trying
to find lost items; difficulty in getting to things; feeling
rejected or loathing from members of the family or guests.
Also, when the level of cleanliness is low, it could be a
health risk, the opposite of safeguarding your health. This
situation leads to a general feeling of uncertainty or
"In contrast, under the right conditions, we provide the
members of our household with the pleasurable setting and
background for a pleasant life and spiritual advancement. In
one of the Mussar books, there is an alphabetical list of
character traits and behaviors that should be fixed, positive
versus negative. Among them, confusion of mind and
possessions are opposed to order and discipline. And that's
in the same list as pride versus humility, worry versus
security etc. You know the story of the rov who went to visit
his son in a far away yeshiva and satisfied himself with a
glance at his room, his bed and his things. When he saw that
they were in order he returned to his city, satisfied. The
story illustrates how close this subject is to our spiritual
lives and we have to joyfully fulfill the obligation of order
and discipline as a means to the end of `worshipping Hashem
with an ordered mind.'"
What is Order? Internal or External?
For Tova from Ashdod, an ordered house means the living room,
not the closets. "My drawers are organized and instinctively
I return every thing to its place," she says, "but it's the
external things that cause the disarray, like: throwing the
bag in the hallway or the tissue package wandering around the
rooms, the markers that are always strewn in the children's
room or clothes that haven't been returned to the cupboards.
The task of keeping order is defined for me as organizing the
area of the house which doesn't demand a lot of time or
effort but appears to be under siege."
Tamar from Bnei Brak, the mother of young children and a
teacher who devotes many hours to teaching, is hard-pressed
to complete all the household tasks. "There's what you want
and what you get," she says. "I plan to get to the cupboards
on my day off but generally I don't succeed. I've arrived at
the conclusion that when the house is very clean, it's a
pleasure to straighten up, but when it's dirty, however much
you clean it, it will look a mess and it won't give you a
good feeling. Before Pesach is a very stressful time for me
where I have to gain control of the interiors (which are
generally neglected) and maybe when the kids are grown, I'll
be closer to attaining perfection."
Rabbanit Y. from Jerusalem makes do, as the mother of a
family blessed with many children, with a general tidying up
of the house every day. "In the morning, I straighten up and
during the day the things scattered around are for me like
decorations that testify that here live active, emotionally
and physically healthy people. Towards evening, we start
arranging the house. First, the younger children clean up
their toys and before they go to sleep, they straighten their
rooms. There is a turn of duty for cleaning the main room and
the kitchen. I'm primarily concerned that the room in which
my husband studies is clean and neat before he returns
The image consultant, Naomi Tal says, "Order is an
oversimplified concept. Everyone has their own order. I know
people who have a pile of papers on their desks drowning them
but at the same time when they're asked to extract the needed
one, they'll find it immediately. But when all is said and
done, an organized house is one where things aren't thrown on
chairs and whatever is worn finds its way back to the closet;
the children's toys are put away at the end of the day in the
toy box; the beds are made every day; the dining room table
is clear of glasses, coffee cups or the remnants of food.
"A clean and orderly house is one where the housewife clears
away the cobwebs, the bathrooms are clean and that there
isn't the feeling of walking on sand. A clean house is one in
which the kitchen, which is the heart of the home, is
organized and there aren't dishes piled in the sink."
She suggests devoting free time first to straightening up the
living room and only after, the cupboards. Tal says, "You
know the saying: a guest sees the mess. Therefore, before
getting to the closets, it's preferable that the living room
be neat and tidy." And as to that, she gives a small tip:
It's best not to empty out all the contents of the closets in
one go and then doing them. Do each drawer, shelf or section
separately. Whatever you do, don't attack the whole thing in
one shot because if you want/have to stop at any point,
you'll be left with a big mess.
"Organizing and putting the house in order has an exhausting
element," Naomi is convinced. "The exhaustion stems from an
inability to find a place for everything and the never-ending
daily routine of straightening up the rooms, which is
generally not appreciated by everyone. The pleasure, in
contrast, is short-lived until the mess begins again."
Tamar complains about the fact that after her efforts towards
a well-groomed home, in a short time, her house turns into
"The overturning of S'dom." The most pleasant work for her is
sweeping the house, while the kitchen for her is the most
Rabbanit Y. states her opinion:, "I don't have such a concept
as work that is `difficult' or `exhausting' when it comes to
cleaning or organizing the house. All we're doing, for
ourselves and for those we're helping, is serving Hashem. If
we do it happily and with love for the purpose that unites us
all, then, the simple activities will be received by our
Creator like an incense offering. In Eishes Chayil, it
says, 'And her hands work willingly.' Although the work of a
housewife is menial work, hard physical labor, the praise she
gets is deserved because she does it 'willingly' - with joy
[to be continued]