10 Reasons Why I Shouldn’t Tidy my House

March 2, 2011

This blog post is dedicated to the ardent denialists of the Local Schools Network.

Looking around my house, I really think it is a mess. I haven’t vacuumed upstairs for months. There are bags of worksheets I intended to file just left on the floor in the spare room. Letters from the NUT and the GTC sit unopened on my doormat. In the kitchen there is washing up waiting to be done and let’s not even mention the state of the bathroom.

Looking around the education system I really think it is broken. Behaviour is out of control. Academic aspirations are sidelined. Managers actively obstruct effective teaching. Now, plenty of people have told me that I am wrong about this. Perhaps I should consider the possibility that I am also wrong about the state of my house. Perhaps there are good reasons to think I don’t need to tidy up.

1) As an anonymous blogger I cannot be believed when I say my house is a mess. If it was true that my house was a mess I would be willing to say who I am and where my house is.

2) Wanting a tidy house is an unrealistic aspiration. It might seem plausible to the privileged middle classes but it is not actually practical to tidy it.

3) There hasn’t been any peer reviewed academic research that says my house needs tidying and anecdotal evidence is worthless and should be ignored.

4) There is nothing new about people saying my house needs tidying. People have been saying it for years. In fact a recently discovered, but unverified, quotation from Socrates says “Andrew’s house really is a mess. That lazy bastard should just tidy up”. This proves that fear about the tidiness of my house is a moral panic started by the Daily Mail and not a real problem.

5) Just because I am experiencing a mess where I am now, it doesn’t mean the whole of the house is messy. I have probably just tipped the bin over on the floor in front of me, and rather than taking responsibility for my own actions I am seeking to make out that it is a more general problem.

6) Other people have visited my house in the last few years and many of them have said it isn’t messy. This is particularly true of people who gave me advance notice and who didn’t go upstairs (or use the bathroom).

7) I am obviously writing with a particular ideological agenda. If I wasn’t biased by ideology then I would see that my house is actually still clean and tidy.

8) Moaning about how messy my house is won’t solve anything. It is just negativity, and my negativity is probably what causes any mess that I observe.

9) I may have experienced tidy houses when I was growing up but this was in an outdated world. Technology and social change have changed the meaning of “tidying” and will continue to change it for years to come and I simply need to adjust to progress and abandoned archaic nineteenth century notions like being able to see the carpet.

10) A house where you know where everything is, and where everything is clean, is a form of totalitarianism. I need to allow the dirt and clutter to clear itself up and stop being so intolerant of differences between where everything is and where I want it to be.



  1. Isn’t the issue that simply because you are in an untidy house, and maybe even your friends are in untidy houses, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all houses are untidy?

    Or am I taking this metaphor too far?

    • No, I think you are just missing the point. I have never said all education systems are broken, so the analogy does not extend to all houses.

      But if I see messy rooms in my house, I will happily say I have a messy house even though the upstairs landing is spotless. The situation where somebody declares that what I see is unrepresentative is covered by point 5.

  2. Have you considered joining Untidy People Voice? It allows people like you to sit in and observe while tidy people tell untidy people to tidy up. You then critique the approach of the tidy people, assessing how well they persuaded the untidy, and whether their methods were ‘fun’. Participating in something like this might motivate you and get to the root of why you’re untidy.

  3. On a side note, this blog is getting me into trouble at work. Because I print excerpts out and pass them round certain sections of the staff room (‘Rewriting The Dictionary’ and ‘The Driving Lesson’ are particularly popular), and because you echo my opinions so unerringly, SMT seem to have got the impression that I am writing this blog!

    I am posting this partly to try and convince the snooping bastards that I am not.

  4. Have you considered becoming a tidying consultant?

  5. I love point 6! We need to have an accurate view of how every school, department etc. is actually doing, if we are going to make improvements. In every school there is good and bad practice, motivated and disaffected students, effective and pointless leadership. However, ignoring the problems is not the answer, just as forcing all teachers down a proscriptive route will never work. I favour an approach where those teachers and schools getting it right (based on appropriate expectations) are left alone, and those getting it wrong are helped to help themselves. All schools need to tidy up, but some need Kim and Aggie.

  6. Excellent, well observed and funny post.

  7. To be fair, point 5 is right. You can’t know that the rest of the house is untidy just because the room you are in is untidy. And hence you could be being unrepresentative unless you’ve also visited all the other rooms in the house. And I’m assuming that you haven’t actually visited all the other rooms in the house, right?

    This doesn’t mean you caused the mess though. I expect you take great care not to tip over bins.

    • You don’t have to visit all the rooms in a house to declare the house untidy.

  8. Genius! Pure genius!

  9. Laughed actually really out loud at “abandoned archaic nineteenth century notions like being able to see the carpet.”

    You shouldn’t be so judgemental. Judging your house as untidy is doing nothing for your self-esteem. Remember, it’s the HOUSE that’s untidy, not YOU.

  10. Tracy Emin has an unmade bed. Despite the evidence and testimonies of other people who have seen the bed she shouldn’t be believed, as telling us about the bed is making her famous, therefore she must be exagerating and the bed must actually be made.

    Also, other people have experienced tidy houses, but these houses were tidied through a very gradual iterative process and evolved slowly into the tidiness that one can now experience. Under no circumstances should you try and urgently address the untidiness; if that is how other houses became tidy then that is the only way a house can become tidy. In fact, any solution you try, such as tidying a small proportion of one room, will only add to the problem as you will be creating a disparity in terms of neatnes. It is absolutely vital that all visitors, no matter which room they visit, have an identical experience. Your shed is tidy, go mess it up now!!

  11. So who is going to start tidying? Where do we start?

  12. Just had a look at the Local Schools Network. “Group hug everyone – it’s all going to be fine because my kids are doing really well – yay!”

  13. “Who is going start tidying? Where do we start”.
    Put paper slips in envelopes, marked with “hoover” “carpet” “fishtank” “empty”. and spend ten minutes matching the task to the item.
    First task: Pupil chooses a task, and writes a plan on paper to demonstrate how to achieve it. I will circulate, moving on the less able, and checking understanding.
    Mini plenary based on rich questioning, differentiated as to ability – e.g.
    “Andrew, where do you think you will plug the hoover in”….”
    and for the extended question:
    “Philip – do you need an extension for the hoover? How long? Where is it kept”
    Working in pairs, Andrew and Philip will then do the hoovering (well, Philip will do it, while Andrew watches).
    2nd Task:
    Group discussion exploring the concept of changing the hoover bag. I will circulate, explaining the environmental aspects of dumping the full bag in landfill.
    leading to…
    A discussion in groups about global warming, and an attempt to recycle the contents of the bag into an art collage.

    Literacy: Reading the bag removal instructions
    Numeracy: measuring and estimating the extension lead
    Citizenship: pupils encouraged to switch to a bagless cleaner

    • You forgot the risk assessment

  14. Great post and comments. I can’t resist having a go:

    When comparing your house with other houses you should make an allowance for differences in house contents. You see, other people have stuff which is much easier to keep tidy. By applying a Content Variation Adjustment, I think you will find that your house in indeed 25% more tidy than other houses. So relax – you have done enough!

  15. Isn’t carpet elitist?

  16. […] those positions) is so absurd that it is probably best met with satire, and I have done my best here to parody those who are most desperate to doubt what I say. However, I think it is probably best to […]

  17. […] those positions) is so absurd that it is probably best met with satire, and I have done my best here to parody those who are most desperate to doubt what I say. However, I think it is probably best to […]

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