The house is a mess. But the degree to which it is a mess makes a huge difference when it comes to how traumatic that state is. I have identified three degrees of messiness:
First Degree Messiness: The mess is shallow, consisting of things that have an obvious place to go and can be put there without much thought. Examples: one meal's worth of dishes; a pile of already-read newspapers; a bunch of toys that all go back in the same box. On the day after a party, the house tends to be in a first degree state of messiness (unless you have friends like my aunt's and they throw jello in the heat registers): a quick pick-up, and you can enjoy the Especially Clean pre-party state all to yourself. First degree messiness really isn't troubling, as long as one has a reasonable amount of physical energy to deal with it. No brainpower required.
Second Degree Messiness: This is a deeper mess, consisting of things that may have a place to go, but it's not entirely obvious or they have to be sorted out before they can get there or there's just so much it's overwhelming. Examples: a pile of bills; one weekend's worth of dishes; the still-packed luggage from a trip. Any first degree mess that sits around past your tolerance level (for me, about a day and a half) automatically becomes a second degree mess. Second degree messiness is probably the most depressing messiness because it is at once highly visible and requires both mental and physical energy to deal with it.
Third Degree Messiness: This is the mess that has dug in its heels and sits defiantly sticking its tongue out at you. The mess that has taken on a life of its own. It is a mess that has no legitimate place to go, until you make one for it, and usually it's sitting in the way of you making it. Examples: Boxes never unpacked from the last move; a pile of magazine clippings; whatever it is that's in the back of that closet you never look in. Everybody (except Martha Stewart) has a spot of third degree messiness somewhere in their life. Third degree messiness can be more easily ignored than the other two, both because it usually is somewhere outside the normal lines of vision and because you've adapted your life to ignore it. The downside is, third degree messiness tends to spawn greater second and first degree messiness, because it takes up space that belongs to something else. And it tends to grow on its own volition.
Most of the mess I'm annoyed by right now is a second degree post-trip messiness. But it's reminded me of all the third degree messiness that I've been wanting to deal with for months and been making very little headway on. What I should do is either deal with it or go take a nap. But it's so much more fun to analyze it.