I'm a neat freak, but I'm not a clean freak. The difference is, while I spend time each day keeping things generally tidy around the house, I have no interest in how thick the exploded food goop is on the inside of the microwave.

My girlfriend is not a neat freak, but she is a sporadic clean freak. What I mean by "sporadic" is that she's just as likely to ignore the mildew on the bathtub as I am ... until there's company coming over. That's when the clean freak comes out.

In some ways, this is a good thing. It means the dog waste in the yard gets picked up. It means the stinky bag of soda and beer cans in the back hall gets moved to the garage. It means the green olives floating in a jar of bacteria finally makes it out of the refrigerator.

When my girlfriend is in clean freak mode, I am inevitably drafted into duty and told to help out. This is not something I willingly enlist for. It's not that I'm lazy or totally indifferent to filth, it's just that I disagree with the philosophy behind these missions.

I believe that when a group of people are coming to my home, the dumbest thing I could possibly do is clean it before they arrive. I mean, if I'm only going to vacuum once a month, why would I do it right before 15 people track dirt on it?

Does it make any sense at all to scrub a toilet until it's sparkling clean if it will be caked in stray urine and gonorrhea drippings a few hours later? I say no. Save the cleaning until after the party.

The worst part about the sporadic clean freak mentality is that it undermines my general tidiness. For some reason, things that are consistently useful around the house seem to get moved to the most inconvenient places.

A few hours before any guests arrive at our home, a conversation like this is inevitable:

Me: "Honey, have you seen my wallet and keys?"

Girlfriend: "Well, where did you leave them?"

Me: "On the table by the door like I always do."

Girlfriend: "Oh, I needed to get that stuff out of the way for the party so I put it in a storage unit I rented in Hermantown. Can you go get it on Monday?"

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is mail @ paullundgren.com.