Ask UfYH: Inane Cleaning Lingo

Q: Why do you hate the word “decluttering”?

A: Bunch of reasons, really.

  • It’s unnecessarily cutesy.
  • It describes a pretty superficial act. “Decluttering” brings to mind a very specific type of cleaning: getting rid of extra items, but is often used as a synonym for “cleaning,” even though it excludes most of what cleaning actual entails.
  • Aspirational home and “lifestyle” magazines use it a lot. I’m not a fan of aspirational magazines, because I think they create unreasonable and often damaging expectations.
  • Because I’m somewhat of a linguistics nerd and I think that “clut” might be one of the ugliest combination of sounds in the English language. I know that directly contradicts the “cutesy” thing, but I contain multitudes. I’m a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a Magic Eraser.

I get that people need to get rid of their extra shit; it’s a pretty fundamental part of the whole unfucking process. I just really hate the term “decluttering” to describe it, because I feel like it trivializes the process, which can sometimes be stressful and emotional and painful, and it makes those whose cleaning issues are deeper and more serious than just some extra stuff around the house that needs to be dealt with. When you’re looking around at a task that seems daunting and overwhelming, “decluttering” kind of brushes off the magnitude of what you’re facing.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

2 thoughts on “Ask UfYH: Inane Cleaning Lingo”

  1. We had a house cleaner up until last year, and I found that using “tidy your room” instead of “clean your room” was much more effective with the offspring in getting them to clean the crap up off the floor. The cleaner was coming to clean, so why did they have to clean, hrrm?

    I’m in two minds about the word “decluttering” – to me, it’s tidying/culling the hidden mess (like tax assessments from 1988 that have been in a box through three house moves) and not about removing the crap other people leave laying about. People at my house beg to differ.

  2. This was unexpectedly interesting. (Words are exciting, I’ve just never given cleaning related words all that much thought!) I really like the word decluttering, but I’m also conscious that I use it in relation to our mess and our methods. Hmn, I shall have to ponder how to phrase my future cleaning related conversations!

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