Organized, Clean, Sanitary, Sterile: Defining the Terms

defining the terms
Heather says:

It dawned on me last night -because even in my head the clock is off- that after nearly three years of posting I have never described the difference between: clean, organized, sanitary, and sterile. Well… hang on because it isn’t that difficult.

I’ve got lots more easy to understand and very practical information in my book: Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living – Cook it, Clean it, Fix it, Wash it

A home can be organized and still be filthy. Organization is simply a matter of creating a place for all of your stuff. Sometimes that place is the landfill, recycling center, or thrift store.

A clean home can still be unsanitary. The act of cleaning only implies the removal of dirt.

home organizing tips

Click the picture for more tips!

Sanitary? That’s the killing or removal of microorganisms to an acceptably safe level. The legal version of this term depends on local health codes, here at I stick with the USDA’s guidelines. It’s possible to have a disorganized but clean and sanitary home, it’s just a pain in the butt.

And sterile? Sterile implies a state where all microorganisms have been killed or removed. Sterile is for operating rooms.

Got it?

Send your domestic questions to


  1. KJ's Mama on October 31, 2010 at 3:09 am

    I will share this post with my dad. His house is always very organized but not sanitized yet he complains about my sanitized but disorganized home.

  2. Megan on January 14, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Saw your old post on the Blissdom chat. Are you still looking for someone to drive with (I'm near Asheville)?
    Are you attending Thursday sessions?

  3. julie on January 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    OK not sure where the best place to post a question is but I have one for ya…….How is the best way to clean a mattress?? Dec 2008 I splurged and upgraded from a queen bed to a fabulously huge king size bedset.I'm wondering how is the best way to clean the mattress? I have a small "spot" cleaner by hoover (I think)-and I use that to get stains/spills-thank goodness there have only been a few.But I've been thinking how does everyone clean their mattresses? I've heard of putting it outside and letting it "air out" but that's not feesable where I live.Recently in a yoga catalog I saw a sanitizing "wand" sort of thing (uses UV I think) and have thought about getting that.Just curious as to what other people do…..THANKS


    • Ceci on January 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Wait, I'm supposed to clean the mattress?

      • Steven Berry on January 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

        mattresses need to be vacuumed at least to pull fibers and dust out of them. a good steam cleaner can do mattress tops, and some companies even do this service for you for a fee.

    • HeatherSolos on January 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      Great question, Julie. I turned it into a post.

  4. Lindsay on January 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Hmmm. I think my house is sanitary and organized on the day that I clean. And then a bit lived-in for the rest of the week. Sterile? Nope. Funny timing, I just posted my cleaning schedule on my blog today. But I don't have kids. I imagine when I do, my cleaning schedule will go down the drain with the rest of my spare time!

  5. Rebekka on January 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I need to move some of my neuroses from one area to another. Sheesh.

    Actually what's really sad is that I'm a nurse and (this is embarrassing, but I guess we can file it under an early Sunday confessional) I am privately such a slob. At work I tidy up, clean, sanitize, and occasionally sterilize ALL THE TIME since I work with cancer patients who have no immune system. We have a clean hand and an unclean hand when we do procedures, for example. Everyone gets their bed linens changed every day. Etc, etc. At home, notsomuch.

    I think I'm going to go change my sheets now.

  6. Mrs. Jen B on January 13, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I need to develop a neurosis when it comes to cleaning and organizing. I truly do. I'll leave it at that!

  7. CheleChestnut on January 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    That is great info actually! Thanks for posting!

  8. gracie on January 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    so my home is unorganized, semi-clean all the time (as i cycle thru clean up after 3 children), and my home is clean when guests arrive. My mother's home is sanitary 24/7/365 and sterile when guests arrive! — got it – rofl.

    • HeatherSolos on January 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

      Glad I could help you put it into perspective. I also have 3 kids. It's usually mostly organized, but that's because I'm neurotic. 😉

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.