For most people cleaning and tidying mean the same thing. Both are about bringing order to a space. However, there is a subtle but important difference between the words that can be transformational. In fact, it is not possible to clean successfully without tidying first!
Let’s break it down. Cleaning in one context simply means to remove dirt, dust, and other grime. The other definition is that cleaning means to put objects back into drawers, closets, or other designated areas when we are done using them. Unfortunately, if the objects do not have a designated storage space they will be placed in the first available space. This can create an ongoing underlying tension as the items are never truly cleaned up, only constantly rearranged.
Tidying happens when a space is cleared of clutter and the remaining objects are assigned a designated place. Once a place is assigned for each item the act of cleaning simply returns them to their proper home. This understanding is important to the secret of successful implementation of any organization system, whether it be GTD in the office or Konmari at home. The act of tidying is a conscious and deliberate effort to set up a space and everything in it. After that is done, all that remains is to maintain it at that standard.
So, remember this simple formula to success in organization: tidy once – clean regularly.