By in Writing

Phrase Origins: A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

ABSTRACT: Are you a neatnik? I'm not, but chances are that if you are a neatnik, you use the phrase "a place for everything and everything in its place." Have you ever stopped to wonder about the origin, though? If so, or if not, read to find out more!


I associated the phrase, "a place for everything and everything in its place" with people who are called "neatniks" or "clean freaks." I am, by no stretch of the imagination, not one of these people. There are only a few things which make me wonder why this one thing isn't here or there.

It is also difficult to give "a place for everything and everything in it's place" with a sister who has Asperger's. It's not that she doesn't try to keep things neat. There's just something that makes it so she doesn't recognize things are a mess.

Then, of course, with my scoliosis, it is hard for me to clean anything for any amount of time. My sister had scoliosis surgery, so it is hard for her and my mom also has scoliosis (though it was never diagnosed, I can see the curve in her back and it explains why our grandpa would always tell her to stand up straight) and narrowing of the spine.

Anyway, the point is that "a place for everything and everything in it's place is not used often in my household." Saying that it is never used certainly isn't true. There are reasons for it to be used at times.

I've never thought about the origin of the phrase, though. However, if people say it, it had to originate somewhere.

The Oxford Book of Quotations says that it comes from the 17 th century, but there doesn't seem to be any written references of "a place for everything and everything in it's place" from the 1600s. Instead, the earliest written evidence of the phrase seems to be from 1799.

The original phrase was a bit different as it was referring to a person who had found "a place for everything and put everything in its place." This is from The Naughty Girl Won which was published by the Religious Tract Society.

By 1841, the current form of the phrase had been used in Maryland's Haggerstown Mail .

It was thought that it was probably made popular starting in 1842 because of its use in naval literature and the nautical world as things had to be put at certain places to be sure ships could easily sail and items were not lost.


Martin, G. (n.d.). A place for everything and everything in its place . The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases . Retrieved December 13, 2010, from

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