“Same, same, but different.” It’s a saying well-known throughout Asia when trying to compare two items that may seem similar, but have small variations, or differences, between them. In the organizing world, it’s a perfect way to describe the ever confusing controversy between organizing and cleaning.

While the two words are often used interchangeably and seem to have some overlapping commonalities, they really aren’t the same.

According to the dictionary, to organize means to arrange into a structured whole; order” while to clean means “to be free from dirt, marks, or unwanted matter”.  

Let’s take a look and see how organizing and cleaning are the “Same, same, but different”.

Same, same

Both are essential. You can have a sparkling, clean house that is cluttered and crammed with stuff and, at the same time, you can have a home with everything in its place that has layers of dust covering every hard surface and crumbs littered across the floor. But to have a home that stands out above the rest, it’s important that you not only organize but clean your space. In doing so, you have the best, and healthiest, of both worlds.

Both require effort.  As the saying goes, “It only works if you do”.  While it would be great if there were a magic wand that you could wave to bring order and cleanliness to a space, sadly, there isn’t. In order to have a home that is organized and clean, you have to put forth the effort by decluttering, sorting, containerizing (yes, that’s a word!), dusting, sweeping and mopping. It may be hard at first, but the results are always satisfying.

Both can bring less stress and more joy. It’s not uncommon for people to feel better when a space or their home is clean and/or organized. The smell of lemony furniture polish and the ability to see a surface that had been previously cluttered with papers can bring a smile to anyone’s face.  As no one ever said, “I regret getting my house clean and organized.”

But different

Now that we’ve seen the similarities between organizing and cleaning, let’s look at how they differ.

The tasks themselves are not the same.  As mentioned above, when someone is organizing they are letting go of items they no longer want, need or use, sorting like items together to make it easier to find them, and utilizing containers to offer boundaries for their stuff.  On the other hand, cleaning might include a determined routine or checklist that includes dusting the furniture, sweeping and mopping the floor, wiping down countertops or emptying the trash.

** Don’t have a set routine or checklist for cleaning? No problem! Download our FREE Cleaning Checklist at the bottom of this post, which includes our favorite cleaning products and 2 cleaning routines for you to use! **

One usually comes before the other. While no one knows which came first, the chicken or the egg, there is no set rule about which must be done first, cleaning or organizing. However, at Mission 2 Organize, we’ve found that it’s best if you clean after you’ve organized.  It’s much easier to remove dirt and dust from a surface once you’ve emptied it of any unwanted clutter. It’s also simpler to vacuum the carpet after you’ve sorted, organized, and put away the clothes that have been lying on it for long periods of time.

While there is no hall monitor to ensure that you are using the correct term when referring to either one of the two tasks (organizing or cleaning), it can help to know how they are alike and how they differ so you get the best results. And if you still aren’t sure which one you need to be doing, feel free to give Team M2O a call. We offer both services and would love to help you bring order and cleanliness to any space!

And don’t forget to download our FREE Cleaning Checklist to make cleaning your spaces a breeze!

How can knowing that organizing and cleaning are the same, but different affect how you approach the two tasks?


  • Janet Barclay
    Posted January 8, 2021 3:45 pm 0Likes

    I’m not familiar with that phrase but I like it!

    • Liana George
      Posted January 14, 2021 4:15 pm 0Likes

      Us too! Thanks for taking the time to read, Janet!

  • Sabrina Quairoli
    Posted January 11, 2021 9:56 am 0Likes

    I totally agree! It is better to clean after you organize.

    I love organizing but do not like to clean. Cleaning is a chore, and you regularly clean the same places in your home no matter if it is organized. However, the organizing task is about one’s future goals, what they want to focus on, and modifications to get them there. It is totally different.

    • Liana George
      Posted January 14, 2021 4:15 pm 0Likes

      Really great way to put it into perspective, Sabrina! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • Linda Samuels
    Posted January 11, 2021 12:19 pm 0Likes

    The distinctions you make between cleaning and organizing are significant. While the organizing industry has been around for over three decades, people still get confused about what organizers do. And while we might wipe off a newly decluttered surface for our client, cleaning isn’t the focus of what we do. While I agree that it’s best to organize first and then clean, you might need to clean, organize, and then clean again in certain situations. It depends on the environment and what you encounter.

    • Liana George
      Posted January 14, 2021 4:14 pm 0Likes

      Definitely good points, Linda! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Melanie
    Posted January 11, 2021 9:23 pm 0Likes

    This is the perfect explanation to this topic!!! Thank you for sharing.

    • Liana George
      Posted January 14, 2021 4:14 pm 0Likes

      Thanks! Glad we could help clarify for you 🙂

  • Julie Bestry
    Posted January 14, 2021 8:18 pm 0Likes

    These are key distinctions you raise. There’s even overlap in the definitions, because “to be free from dirt, marks, or unwanted matter,” the hallmark of cleaning, has a crossover with the removal of “unwanted matter” when one purges excess or no-longer-needed items, and that’s the first step of organizing.

    Even as a professional organizer, I value the fact that I can tolerate what is disorganized far more easily than what is unclean (dirty, sticky, yucky). But one must organize in order to be able to clean effectively, and the effort that goes into cleaning is made so much lighter when approaching an organized space.

    I understand why people say, “I need you to help me clean up” but that’s the perfect opportunity to create understanding for them, and this piece does exactly that!

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