How clean is my house?
December 29, 2006 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Do you worry about how clean your home is when people visit? Do you notice imperfect cleaning at others' homes?

It's the time of year for parties and visiting friends; I love to have people come over, but I feel rather obsessive about the cleanliness of my house, and I wonder how many people actually look closely at that kind of thing. When you visit people, do you notice whether they've dusted? If there are lingering cat-box smells? If the white carpet isn't quite white? Or do you just enjoy being there and visiting?

Because I was raised by a borderline-OCD neatfreak mother, I don't always know to what degree I have the same issues - am I normal to worry about these things or should I just relax and enjoy the company of my friends? Before people visit, I always make sure to vacuum, do dishes, and pick up; I clean fairly thoroughly, but because it stresses me out wondering whether it's enough, I don't invite people as often as I'd like. My husband's mother is much less interested in cleaning (and her house can be pretty messy when we visit), so he sometimes says I worry too much.

I hope this won't be called out as chatfilter; I am hoping for some honest input and am phrasing this the best I can.
posted by TochterAusElysium to Human Relations (54 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think people consciously notice such things (I don't), but the level of cleanliness can definitely affect one's enjoyment of a party. Personally I prefer neat but cluttered spaces - they're more inviting to me. So I guess it depends very much on the crowd you're trying to attract.
posted by sid at 3:11 PM on December 29, 2006

I find that I am much harder on myself than I am on other people. Things that would really freak me out if people saw them in my own home, don't bother me as much when I see them elsewhere.

Only in extreme cases (either dirty or clean) do I ever really remember someone's cleanliness level after I visit. But I empathize with you completely. My mom and aunt will be visiting me in about two weeks, and I am already freaking about about getting things "clean enough".
posted by kimdog at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2006

Yes, I worry. My mother worried, and I am always wondering if people noticed that I missed dusting the back of the curio cabinet. My husband is the opposite, and prone to be lax about house keeping, and forgetful of putting things back when he is done with them. I get stressed when his friends drop over unexpectedly, or with short notice.

When at someone else's house, I will notice if they are an all-out slob, but not little tiny bits. Like the dust in the back of the curio cabinet.
posted by kellyblah at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2006

I don't notice anything but clutter. Dusting? Who cares? Catbox smells? Well, I might notice those, but I wouldn't care. (I'm a cat person.) Mostly I just sit there and enjoy visiting. Clutter, though, is clutter, and even though I grew up in a cluttered house, it makes me uncomfortable. I don't care about dust or dirty floors, though. (My wife views this as a character flaw...)
posted by jdroth at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2006

I do worry about it too, and I too was raised by someone like your mother. But one day I calculated how many hours my mother had spent cleaning house (6 hrs every Friday plus 1 hour daily is equivalent to 56 twelve-hour days per year). My compromise is to clean when I can and not go crazy, plus spot-clean the stuff that would bother me if I was a guest in someone else's home. So, I am interested in this survey too.

Stuff that bothers me in others' homes: dirty hand towels in the bathroom, dirty toilet/bathroom sink, sticky/cruddy cutlery if we're eating. Dust is fine to look at, as is pet-hair, but I like to be offered a place to put my coat/bag/bum that is free of these things. I would notice cat smell just as I'd notice that you cooked chili, but it wouldn't bother me. Clutter doesn't bother me either.
posted by xo at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I do not go to someone's house to appraise how clean their house is or not. Unless there is cat faeces littered on the kitchen floor or a trail of sticky substance on the bathroom floor I doubt I would notice. No one likes to sit in squalor so unless the place was that bad I wouldn't turn my attention to the state of the place. Smells are worse than anything else so that is the only thing that might put me off relaxing.

My mother was obsessive about maintaining a clean house. So much so that it drove me to the other extreme. I now have someone that comes in once a week to do the cleaning but my messiness still seeps through. I hate to feel judged by the state of my house but I would hope people can differentiate between dirt and mess.
posted by mycapaciousbottega at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2006

Having grown up in a busy house with regular cleaning chores I know things get dirty, that's life. I do notice it if it seems out of place. I don't give a second thought to busy family's messy house. If they've crammed all the kid's toys and junk into another room then it's even more obvious that there's just too much to do, no one has enough time. Ditto if guests are over due to a tragedy, there are more important things to do than clean.

However, I notice it when I go to a house I expect would be clean. I have a friend who is well off and lives in a nice house. The house has been a mess for years, even to the point where the mess interferes with daily life. A solid layer of dust on the TV screen, not just the top. Trash and old dishes filling open spaces in the kitchen, old dried food on the floor. The noticeable smell of a litter box several rooms away that should have been cleaned long, long ago.

Really I only notice the cleanliness of a house when it makes me think "How can they (actually or functionally) live (or survive sometimes) this way?", whether that's because it's disgusting or too clean to actually enjoy for fear of breathing on something wrong. Anything in between is just life.
posted by Science! at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2006

If you come to my house and it is a mess, it's a compliment. It means I feel comfortable with you and close to you.

If you come to my house and it is immaculate, it means you freak me the f@ck out, your visit is causing me stress and I'm counting the moments until you leave.
posted by jrossi4r at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2006 [22 favorites]

On the opposite end of the spectrum I am not at all comfortable in places that are kept sterile and nearly furniture/life/soul/art free in an effort to maintain strict cleanliness.

I don't mind messiness and clutter and dust, in my own home or others, as long as it looks like real people actually live there.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2006

I love jrossi4r's response.

I try to keep my house pretty tidy in general, and definitely spruce it up when company is expected (this can range from stowing random bits of paper in the common areas of the house to a full-bore mop and dust), but I don't obsess if someone drops by and things aren't sparkly.

When visiting someone else's house, the place would have to look like a bomb hit or smell like something died there for me to really take notice.
posted by adamrice at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2006

As long as the place is sanitary, clutter doesn't bother me.
posted by Sangre Azul at 3:25 PM on December 29, 2006

I can relate to growing up with a mother with OCD. To this day my mom believes her house is always 'dirty' despite cleaning her house every single damned day. (With only her and my dad living there!) She even wanted to clean the house while we were moving them out of it. She was afraid the buyers would see it 'dirty' and back out.

Meanwhile, here on Planet Earth, unless there's crap covering the floor impeding my walkway or the smell makes me want to gag, I'm perfectly fine with it.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2006

If you clean and straighten your house regularly, it's clean enough for guests even without a special cleaning.

I keep my house decent. Bathroom gets cleaned frequently, dishes done (anything soaking is at least kept neat, with the sink rinsed), nothing smelly. I'm not always great about dusting or vaccuming, unless it's quite obvious. If there are clothes all over my bed, I'll just shut the bedroom door.

But yes, I do notice when people either didn't grow up being taught how to clean or somehow just don't care about basic tidying or cleaning. Bathrooms are the worst contenders -- I'm often surprised to find furballs of hair in the corners, a grimy layer of dust on top of the toilet tank, and dried toothpaste all over the sink. Often from people who are otherwise fairly clean.
posted by desuetude at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

What Sangre Azul said - I don't mind mess, but actual dirt...kinda bugs me, especially if there's food involved in the visit (i.e. that was prepared in a filthy kitchen) and the visit wasn't unexpected. Stinky cat litter would bother me (and I love cats and have owned six at once before), since it's not that difficult to keep the smell away if you scoop daily and use good litter.
posted by biscotti at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2006

On the opposite end of the spectrum I am not at all comfortable in places that are kept sterile and nearly furniture/life/soul/art free in an effort to maintain strict cleanliness.

This is worth reading again. Whenever I go to a house that is so clean, it makes me wonder if I'm allowed to go in the living room. Or if I should ask for a coaster before I sit my drink down or something.

My own feeling is that you should let your home reflect who you are. If you are a clean person, be clean. If you're a little scatterbrained, nobody's gonna care if they see quirky things laying around. Hell, it usually leads to interesting conversation.
posted by menace303 at 3:36 PM on December 29, 2006

This is a classic male/female divergence; there are, of course, exceptions, but in my experience (and in popular lore) men are loosey-goosey, "hey, as long as the leftover pizza isn't actually lying on the floor in plain sight it's cool" types, whereas women (having been trained by their mothers, who in turn were trained by their mothers) are paranoid about this and hate the idea of being seen not to keep a tidy house. I am not affixing my Seal of Approval to this situation, just noting it, hopefully for your comfort—yes, this could be called "borderline-OCD," but it's shared by vast numbers of your fellow females, so there's not much point worrying about it.
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2006

(I made a substantial wager with myself that when I clicked on menace303's name he would turn out to be a he, and I won.)
posted by languagehat at 3:40 PM on December 29, 2006

Curse you, languagehat!
posted by menace303 at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2006

You all will never know how much better you've made me feel today - both knowing that others feel as I do, and that my home doesn't have to be spotless to be comfortable. Thank you.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2006

This is a classic male/female divergence; there are, of course, exceptions, but in my experience (and in popular lore) men are loosey-goosey, "hey, as long as the leftover pizza isn't actually lying on the floor in plain sight it's cool" types, whereas women (having been trained by their mothers, who in turn were trained by their mothers) are paranoid about this and hate the idea of being seen not to keep a tidy house.

Heh. Unfortunately, I seem to have a talent for picking female roommates who are the exception to this rule. (Says the woman who fears that her roommate, 20 years from now, will have turned into one of those people who accidentally gets smothered to death by one of their random piles of junk toppling over.) I mean, god knows I've got no need for spotless, but I'm still a little unclear on the broken, rusty barbeque that's been under the dinner table for the past 2 years.

posted by scody at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2006

I'm only bothered by too-noticeable traces of the messier parts of humanity.

Thus: dirty toilets, unsanitary food what-not, dirty hand towels, reeking laundry, &c, are bad. Anything too personal, really -- I don't want to see your ointments.

But dust, falling-over towers of reading material, a pile-up of scarves and mittens by the front door, Lego scattered about: those are all fine. Even if it's getting to the point where it's slightly awkward to move around; so long as I don't have to worry too much about disturbing it, no problem.

I'm not comfortable either in too-tidy houses. I don't care how ratty a carpet is or how dusty your knick-knacks. A pet odour, while not great, would have to be quite bad to make me uncomfortable.
posted by kmennie at 4:02 PM on December 29, 2006

On the opposite end of the spectrum I am not at all comfortable in places that are kept sterile and nearly furniture/life/soul/art free in an effort to maintain strict cleanliness.

I always wonder about people like this (read: most of my family) and their understanding of how other people actually live, with, you know, stuff that they use on a more-or-less constant basis and that can't be all hid away at a moment's notice.

I usually make a distinction between messy and dirty. Messy I only notice when it makes moving around the house or sitting somewhere difficult; a reasonable amount of clutter just makes people seem normal. Crusty or dirty or gooey, however, even when it's minor attracts my attention.
posted by thisjax at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2006

I don't mind a little clutter, but I notice if the house is dirty - especially the bathroom. Eww.

I might be alone here, but I clean up before guests not because they freak me out, but because I see it as a sign of regard. Like, "Hey, your comfort and opinion is important to me! And I would rather focus on our time together than on the fact that there are dirty dishes in my sink."

So I extrapolate that into my visiting someone else's house. If it's trashed, then I kind of feel like they don't give a shit that I was coming over, which makes me feel disrespected for lack of a better term.

I'm not running around with white gloves, and I don't even notice dust, but I'd notice a stinky cat piss house and grimy floors or something (I mean, carpet is something that you can clean, but if it's in high-trafficked areas, there's not a whole lot you can do about the eventual dulling of it). And kitchens.

The cleaner the house, the more comfortable I feel, both entertaining, and being entertained.
posted by mckenney at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2006

I think that if you worry about cleanliness when people come over, you will notice it in other homes. I will surely notice--but it doesn't bother me. I clean obsessively when others are going to be here, and I notice things in other homes--but I would assume if you don't mind having a messy home when people visit, you probably wouldn't notice the same kind of messiness in the home of another.
posted by starbaby at 4:22 PM on December 29, 2006

My husband and I are quite messy. By default, we have dishes on the counter; clumps in the cat box; books, magazines and mail on the surfaces; dust on everything; clothes on the bedroom floor; and half-finished projects sitting on tables or floors.

We spend about an hour each weekend separately cleaning different areas of the house -- we sweep, vacuum, pick up the most egregious clutter, clean the toilet & tub, mop and clean off crumbs from counter tops. Maybe twice a week we clean the cat box and do dishes. We then each put in another three or four hours deep cleaning every few months.

We don't have guests over very much because I'm embarrassed about what they'll think. I know we don't meet cultural standards for cleanliness. But our messiness doesn't affect my quality of life. It's a sign that I live the relaxed lifestyle that works best for me.

When we do have people over, I tend to frantically straighten up, clean the cat box, vacuum and do dishes.

When I go to other people's homes, I notice grimy bathrooms and cigarette or dog odors, and I notice if I can't put my purse and coat down without getting them covered in animal hairs. Otherwise, I don't notice much in a negative way. If it's obsessively clean, I may have a brief negative "Ohmigawsh s/he's a neat freak"! thought. If it's moderately clean and moderately cluttered, I don't think much of it. I did once know a hoarder who had to travel through tunnels of trash to go from room to room, and had rat droppings on the floor, and that grossed me out.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:35 PM on December 29, 2006

Single dad of a teen here.
I was raised in a dirty cluttered home. In reaction, I like my home to be clean and presentable at all times, but of course that's not always the case.

If I know people are coming, I don't "worry" about it, but I make sure to tidy things up. I don't care if there are a few dishes in the sink, but I don't like clutter, or any obvious dirty / dusty surfaces. The bathrooms should be clean, but I don't mind if I have some things out on the counters.

I also like my place to look "pulled together" when I have guests, so they can tell I have actually spent some time decorating, not just throwing random pieces of furniture and pictures in there.

I don't feel the need to scrub everything down, so there can often be some areas that are not spotless.

However, very often I do have guests when my home is less than how I like it. I have never turned anyone away because of the condition of the place. I just greet them and tell them to not mind the mess, but I haven't gotten to it yet, and go about the evening.

In other people's homes, I do notice clutter, or non-matching decor, or things that look cheap. I also do notice dust, or dirty corners, because I am a detail oriented person. BUT it doesn't really cause me to have a bad opinion of the host.

We are all busy, and most of us don't have maids, so I think everyone understands that, and we have to give one another leeway to be casual and welcoming even if our homes are not perfect.
posted by The Deej at 4:51 PM on December 29, 2006

I love reading your answers, so please keep contributing. I want to mark them all as "best" because every point of view matters here - but I had to give jrossi4r's answer props because it made me smile (and it rings true).

My house is usually not too cluttered, except the fluctuating piles of to-be-read books on the dining room table and elsewhere, and I do clean the hairballs in the bathroom I think I can overcome those leftover echoes of my mother's voice in my head telling me things aren't clean enough.

I've always wished I could see what everyone else's house looks like when they haven't cleaned for company, and the responses here are giving me a little insight there. And lots of reassurance. Thanks again.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 4:52 PM on December 29, 2006

My house is fairly clean (but not necessarily tidy-- I'm a terrible stacker of books, for instance) in public areas.

My bedroom always looks like a bomb made of clothes, shoes and assorted other items went off quite recently. I'm just not naturally a neat person, and I can train myself to fake it in public to an extent, but I think it forces itself out in private. Heh.

It wouldn't occur to me to feel negatively about someone else's space unless it were unsanitary. Otherwise, spaces that are a little untidy make me feel more comfortable and relaxed than something that looks like a furniture showroom. I like seeing peoples' real-life houses.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:30 PM on December 29, 2006

I mostly notice extremes and don't like either.

I try to minimize the cleaning burden by owning a small amount of stuff (relatively) compared to the space it's in. (I have a LOT of space!)

I have public spaces, shared private spaces, personal private spaces and they differ in order, but not so much in cleanliness, which is above the median somewhere, but not anal.

I am three times as order driven as my wife, but we share the same level of clean/dirty tolerance. I think it's important to have compatibility in this area with one's partner(s).
posted by FauxScot at 5:34 PM on December 29, 2006

I always like it when I go to a friend's house and it's not extremely clean and orderly. It confirms a certain universality of modern life -- it's busy, it's messy, and we've all got lists (proverbially or literally) of things we'll get to someday. It also reassures me that my own mother really is that extreme in her cleanliness OCD.

However, I'm currently sitting in an unusually clean apartment, having had dinner guests last night. I've been consciously trying to slack my standards a bit, but it's especially hard for me the first time someone comes by. I fall into the whirlwind cleaning frenzy.

Normally when I look around I'll see hairballs and lint all over the floor, piles of books, mail, random detritus and clothes covering most horizontal surfaces, and crumbs around where we eat. I'm sure somewhere in between the two extremes is fine for informal entertaining, but I'm still trying to find the ideal.
posted by nadise at 5:45 PM on December 29, 2006

The most important thing for guests? Making sure there is a full roll of toilet paper. Not only is it such a bitch to run out while you're sitting there, it tells me as a guest that you were thoughtful about my visit. The lack of toilet paper would bother me ten times more than a filthy house.
posted by meerkatty at 5:50 PM on December 29, 2006

I like (I accidentally typed love, but I'm trying to restrain that feeling) for my kitchen and my floors to be clean.

And by clean, I mean, I can use a whole bottle of bleach in the cleaning of said kitchen. I have a Hoover FloorMate and I do that and THEN I use Swiffer WetJet pads to pick up the leftover water. I am slightly insane about my kitchen, and I, like another poster's wife above, view dirty floors to be a character flaw. Of mine. All mine, and I will conquer it. Your dirty floors? Would have to be truly nasty for me to notice. I've been cleaning this week too - for my truly great friends that are visiting for New Year's, and I know they wouldn't care if I had to clean up cat poop when they got here -- I want the house CLEAN. Because that's how you show respect you see.

It's twisted. I know. I'm working on it.

My mom is also a cleaner, and that's where I get the "bleach habit," so I can sympathize. My mother can keep her house clean with what seems like no effort, but she can also still see the dirt. I can't, so that makes me feel better about my house. I know, intellectually, that carpet is by definiton nasty, but other people aren't thinking about it.

It's a tough thing, this need to be clean based on our mothers' training. It has, in the past, gotten the best of me, but it doesn't have to. I find that since I've acknowledged that really, this whole "BLEACH ALL THINGS UNTIL THEY ARE PRISTINE" reaction I have is slightly crazy, I've felt a lot better about it. That, and the melt down I had over the kitchen about a year ago has convinced my husband that it really, really matters, and so he helps with more gusto on that count. It's like everything else I suppose - you know, and knowing is half the battle.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:54 PM on December 29, 2006

Medieval Maven, I like bleach and so did my mother. It's not clean without bleach.

I mostly notice that my friend's houses are super clean. Probably because they all have cleaners and I am usually there for get-togethers and parties. I am the type to clean like mad before people come over for a formal invitation. If they are just stopping by I don't get too obsessive, but I will always dust and make sure my floors and sink are clean. I do notice bad smells, gross sinks, and obvious grime in homes. But your garden variety dust or a coffee cup in the sink? I don't really notice. The one thing that bothers me is uncleaniness in the kitchen or dirty refrigerators.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to cleaning, which isn't a good thing. If it can't be done right I often give up and sit in a pile of dust and denial. As the years go by I am less stringent, and try to make an effort everyday. With two kids you cannot take a day off and expect a tidy home. If I do it all goes to hell quickly.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:45 PM on December 29, 2006


I can't spell today.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:49 PM on December 29, 2006

"I've always wished I could see what everyone else's house looks like when they haven't cleaned for company," says

Well... I have five cats, one toddler, and a DH who's a shedder. If you stopped by unannounced for a cup of coffee in my kitchen, you might find the following: a half-dozen pieces of silverware or dishes, rinsed, but not scrubbed, in the sink; a kitchen floor that would be clean (no spills or crumbs), but that would still benefit from a vacuuming; an empty dish rack; clean handtowel; tidy surfaces (clear and scrubbed with a 50/50 vinegar/water spray); bits of kibble on the floor next to the cat food dish; windows that need cleaning; and a fridge that could use its shelves wiped. In other words: anything that can be scrubbed down or tidied with relative ease -- is, while anything that needs more intensive care just has to wait until I have a block of toddler-free time.

My own policy (mine; not that of DH or child) is that I need to improve one thing about a room on my way through it, so that I don't end up using my concentrated block of time to, say, put a new handtowel out. I usually end up doing about five things on each pass... and sometimes the big jobs just have to wait. It evens out. We won't talk about non-public areas like the basement or the attic, which are only about 50 percent orderly. I do tidy my bedroom and make my bed every day; clutter is put away, laundry goes in the hamper, and toys are redistributed accordingly. I always need to vacuum. The hard part is that the best time to do so is when DH and child are asleep... and sweeping is only a partial solution.

My downfall is truly the bathroom. DH won't clean it, toddler is potty training, and I consider it a pretty good day if towels are clean and hung up, the sink has been rinsed clean, and the big and little potties aren't gross. Like I said -- tidy, but in need of the big projects.

But when company's been announced in advance, I do go a little nuts. My house then is as clean as I can make it (short of doing the windows).

As other commenters have said, I am harder on myself than I am on friends in terms of judging cleanliness because I don't always know what their schedules have been like. I assume they would tidy up a little, but if there's a mess, I assume that there have been extenuating circumstances and I ignore it. My friends have done things that worry me a lot more than their housekeeping -- I'm glad that they will talk with me about what really matters, and I don't care that they didn't hire Merry Maids so that they could be comfortable enough to have a cup of coffee with me.

I always wish my house were cleaner, because I think it reflects poorly on my housekeeping skills, mental state, time management, and coping abilities. My real friends say, "We understand that it's mainly about shoveling against the tide, and we don't care. Now pass the coffee pot."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:49 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Messy houses/personal spaces don't bother me at all unless they actually interfere with my own functioning in some way.

On the other hand, I will notice if somebody's place is messy, but there's no judgment attached to my noticing.
posted by number9dream at 7:03 PM on December 29, 2006

Neither I nor my SO inherited a clean gene. Unexpected guests really throw me into a deep funk. This makes me take unexpectedly glee in finding cobwebs and dust present when we visit other people. I in no way think less of anyone for how they keep their own house. If they like me enough to have me other, I grant them full immunity for half eaten pizzas and piles of laundry.
posted by stormygrey at 7:10 PM on December 29, 2006

Unfortunately, I seem to have a talent for picking female roommates who are the exception to this rule.

You aren't alone at all. I was a res assistant in college, and I can absolutely confirm that young women tend to be messier than young men, at least in a dorm. Whenever we needed a show room for a student tour, it was always a guy's room. Most girl's rooms were knee deep in clothes.
posted by cabingirl at 7:34 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm cluttered, but I have the personal/private space divide and public spaces of my house are usually decent and bathrooms are always full o' toilet paper and soap etc. If I invite people over, I try to clean the place to what I think acceptable levels are (and usually botch it, at my last party I forgot to put hand towels in the downstairs bathroom and was embarassed about that). If you stop by when you're not expected, then I don't really mind if my place is messy as long as it's not a slovenly pit, stinky, etc.

I feel a little weird going over to people's places where they apologize over and over again for the "mess" when 1) their place is ten times cleaner than mine, and 2) I don't care, at all, how clean their place is as long as there is a place to sit and the things I need to use are usable. I have a few friends who have places that are messy to the point that they're unfun to be in [think: overflowing cat box, rotten food fridge, bugs, unopened mail every place, no place to put a coffee mug on a flat surface] but they are the exception and not the rule. Unless your place is so messy that it smells funny, I probably won't notice at all.

I live alone and my basic feeling is if I had to choose between mess and friends I'd choose friends every time, so whichever way I have to sway to make that work [clean more for tidy friends, not notice mess of messy friends, get over mess in my house so I can have friends] that's the way I want to go.
posted by jessamyn at 8:44 PM on December 29, 2006

Cabingirl, I lived on both coed--one with unisex bathrooms-- and single-sex floors in college. The unisex bathroom was MUCH cleaner than the ones used just by women. At the end of my semester at the University of Bridgeport, they were planning to have coed floors the next year and some guys were petitioning to stop it. I said no; the cleanliness factor was the reason why.
posted by brujita at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2006

I'm not the neatest person in the world, but I try to clean up a bit for guests. Depending on the guest, either just shoving things into corners, or full-on scouring the place.

Things I notice in other people's homes: Dirty sinks, dirty bathrooms. Clutter happens, I tend to ignore it. Dust doesn't really bother me. But dirty kitchens (and I mean, DIRTY, not just a few dishes) and dirty bathrooms (it amazes me how many friends I have who never wash their tubs), they kinda gross me out.

I may have stacks of laundry a mile high, but my kitchen is clean enough to eat off of.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:19 PM on December 29, 2006

I would notice clutter, but not much else. My home is usually highly organized but undusted & unscrubbed.
posted by aerotive at 10:30 PM on December 29, 2006

Usually I'm so busy visiting that I wouldn't notice. The only place I might notice is the bathroom - that's where I've got a moment alone and would notice details. Speaking of the bathroom, PLEASE put out extra toilet paper or make it obvious where you keep the extra rolls (hopefully there's at least one extra roll in the bathroom, not the closet down the hall!)

Oh yeah, and a sink overflowing with dirty dishes would probably gross me out. Especially if I'm eating at your house and then am expected to put my own dishes in the sink. Make sure I have room to do so, without juggling dirty dishes, please.

And empty your garbage regularly. Overflowing cans stink, and it's really hard to fit more in there if I need to.

Other than that major kind of stuff, I wouldn't pay attention to clutter or whether the fixtures are polished.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:14 AM on December 30, 2006

I wish my home to be absolutely immaculate. When visiting, cleanliness is important to me, but I don't care about clutter.
posted by trevyn at 2:34 AM on December 30, 2006

As with most things, Clean is relative. I'll wager that your house is absolutely filthy compared to a hospital lobby which is absolutely filthy compared to a hospital room which is absolutely filthy compared to an operating room which is absolutely filthy compared to a Silicon Valley clean room which is absolutely filthy compared to Outer Space...which we all know is littered with space junk.

So you see, you far down the scale of Clean so that we are all already living in a veritable pig sties. Has anyone mentioned bedding, dead skin and dust mites?
posted by choragus at 6:16 AM on December 30, 2006

Just to deal with the dorm-room thing: plenty of women who were slobs in college magically turn into neat freaks when they move in with someone and become hostesses. Sharing pizza with classmates is one thing, Having People Over is very much another.
posted by languagehat at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2006

I am the untidiest person I know - I really struggle to keep my place clean, even though it's small. But I'll make an effort if someone's coming round. My philosophy is a little different from jrossi4's - I don't clean my place because the people freak me out, it's because I think they deserve respect and, in that regard, shouldn't be sitting in a hovel when they come to my place. I'd have to be *really very comfortable* to let them in when my place was a mess, and even then, I'd feel guilty. This is why hardly anyone comes to my place.
posted by TheDonF at 9:40 AM on December 30, 2006

I clean. And I notice. But it's because I find clutter and dirt limiting, if that makes sense. It's harder to move around. It makes me not want to touch things. It makes me sad. Then again, I'd be the first to admit I'm kinda OCD.
posted by dame at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2006

A peak into the mess you'd find if you dropped by my home right now (3 kids, 2 adults + 2 guests, no pets) :

*The family room has a still decorated xmas tree, a candy wrapper on the piano bench, a stack of boxes holding kids books that I want to sort & a xmas bow on the floor;

*The dining room has a toy car on the floor and a stack of books on the buffet;

*The living room has mussed up furniture slipcovers, several toys on the floor, a xmas stocking that fell off the fireplace mantel, a hair bow, kids cup, and lotions on an end table - AND a wooden dresser & writing table we just bought & still need to stain before putting into the right rooms;

*The kitchen has drawings my kids made yesterday, art supplies, duct tape?!, & the newspaper on the counter, + a towel tossed on the stove and a few dishes drying next to the sink;

*The hallway has another candy wrapper on the floor & a basket of laundry waiting to be washed;

*The kids bathroom (guest bath as well) is too scary to even think about. 4 boys & 2 men have been using it all week and I haven't dared to enter - every once in a while I simply beg, "Use one of those cleaning wipes while you're in there, Plleeaase????"

*Most of my floors are tiled and they need swept & mopped. They were swept yesterday & mopped a week ago, but they still look as if someone threw a party with sand, dirt & crumbs.

I have more guests due in tonight. I dusted last week but will do so again today - and I'll clean those floors, too. I'll ask the guys to clean that bathroom, then go in after them and *really* clean it. I'll also clean door & cupboard handles/knobs, light switch plates, the fridge doors & shelves, and check for any mystery smudges on the walls.

Normally I wouldn't do all this cleaning in one day - keeping up with the day to day messes is difficult enough & the 'deep' cleaning gets done a little every day. So, unless you're staying overnight, you'll never see everything in my home completely cleaned at the same time. And if you stay more than one night, or are simply coming by for the evening, then you get what passes for 'normal' around here.

I used to be exactly like you until I had kids.
posted by LadyBonita at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2006

Things I notice about a house that may otherwise seem clean: smell of dogs, cats or any animals - food or oil residue on any dishes or silverware - pet hair all over everything, getting all over me - grubby bathroom our kitchen counter - stuff on the floor (crumbs etc.) that stick to my bare or socked feet
posted by youngergirl44 at 12:16 PM on December 30, 2006

I also clean, but I'm house-proud. I want people to enjoy being in my space and find it an interesting place to explore, so I clean to make sure that they see all my cool books and junk, *not* dust and old food.

I notice the cleanliness in other people's houses, but I actually really like clutter. It makes a place feel lived in and used. Maybe it also depends on the context - just hanging out, I would feel uncomfortable in a room with nothing but empty surfaces and no life-clutter (books, mail, etc.), but if a party were being held there, I'd be grateful for more spots to put my drink.

I cut a lot of slack for other people's cleanliness and try to consider that everyone's lives and priorities are different. That said, here are cleaning-related things that tend to make me uncomfortable:

* Laundry and clothing - I should not have to move your bra to sit down!
* Old dishes, especially with food or dried tea bags in them
* Half-completed creative projects taking over most of the hang-out space - I worry about wrecking or spilling tea on them
* No obvious towels for visitors to use in the bathroom - I'm not sure I want to use your same shower towel for my hands after I'm done pooping
* Walkways too cluttered to use easily
posted by cadge at 3:31 PM on December 30, 2006

I notice filth more than clutter. Clutter's friendly, and if it's dusted, it's okay. But we have a young guy friend (not that all young guys are slobs, I'm not saying that) who's been renting the same house with a rotating roster of his fellow bachelors for years. It shows. The filth is almost palpable as you move through the air in that house.

If it were me, before any party I'd just make sure that the kitchen and bathroom were spotless. Last year I had to use their rest room and was grossed out by the presence of a coating of dust in the little soapholder thing built into the edge of the sinkbowl. It only takes a couple of minutes to swipe that clean.

Clean floors create an overall impression of spotlessness, maybe because they take up a lot of visual space. Just vacuum the living room and scrub the kitchen floor. You'll be good to go.
posted by frosty_hut at 3:56 PM on December 30, 2006

I've been to people's houses where I have turned down a drink because I don't believe that anything in the house is clean enough to touch with my lips.

I also had friends who had a kitchen so filled with junk that they only ate take away food. It would have been cleaner to eat food by hand or with pencils - chopstick style, than to eat off any of the cutlery. It smelled bad, it was unpleasant to look at, and apparently each of the four residents thought it was someone else's job.

Once day I visited and the kitchen was free of clutter. `I'm impressed!' I told them, then someone said `look in the bathtub'. Yep, they'd filled it with filthy crockery.

So in short - clutter acceptable, health hazard = bad news.
posted by tomble at 11:39 PM on December 31, 2006

Having in the last five years crawled out from under a case of clutter/children's stuff lying around, I've become serious about a cleaning schedule (though nothing excessive: bathroom once a week, bathtub thoroughly scrubbed once a month, floors swiffed and kitchen floor mopped once a week, clean towels and sheets at least once a week, keeping on top of the dishes so that they are at least rinsed and not filling the sink, fridge cleaned weekly, windows washed twice a year, and finally dusting done more or less continually-- I live in an old, by West Coast standards, apartment building, and dust falleth like the rain). The place is comfortably full, but not cluttered; there's an issue with a couple of hundred books on my bedroom floor because I need new bookcases and I've kind of run out of places to put any more, but overall I'm actually both happy and proud of the place, and I think it looks lovely. That's me. If I come to your place, I will notice if the bathroom isn't clean, but I likely won't think any less of you for it. If your kitchen is full of dishes with caked on food, and the place smells funny, I will definitely notice, and I may just think less of you (unless you have small children, in which case anything short of outright health hazards is both understandable and acceptable).

However-- I am very allergic to cats (dogs as well, but cats are the worst), and I'm not alone. If there are clumps of cat hair everywhere, or if you haven't opened the windows since early fall, or if the litterbox is noticeable, or all of those, I'm not going to able to last long while I visit you. Best case scenario is that I'm sneezing, I'm coming out in hives, and my eyes are itching; worst is that I'm on the way to a serious asthma attack. But anything else-- stuff all over, unmade beds, laundry everywhere-- I could not care less about. We're friends, right?
posted by jokeefe at 1:59 PM on January 2, 2007

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