This week in the Journal of Consumer Research, a new paper gives us a peek into the housekeeping habits of 25 people. The researchers wanted to find out the rules people keep for themselves about tidiness, and when and why they decide to break them.
It’s weirdly voyeuristic. There’s something irresistible about getting to spy on the ways people tidy their homes (or don’t), and the ways they justify their messes. You’ll probably recognize yourself in one of the characters the researchers uncovered:
The Workweek Slob:
In the bathroom everything is on the ﬂoor. When I have a shower, I take off my clothes, and I leave them in a heap. I don’t tidy up every day. The bath towel is also on the ﬂoor. Basically, it doesn’t worry me too much to leave things lying around and not tidying up everyday. I tidy up more on the weekend. … What with work and tiredness in the evening, even if it’s not tidy, you can’t be bothered, you really don’t want to. On the other hand, on the weekend, you take the time because you feel better in your space once it’s tidy.
The Neat Freak With the Chaotic Desk:
My desk is the only place that is never very tidy. Because I need to see the things I have to do, so I don’t forget them. So, if I’ve got letters to send, I leave them out where I can see them, because that reminds me that I need to send them. And that gives me the impression that I’m working. But a tidy desk, that means I’ve got nothing to do.
The Hot Mess With the Tidy Relative:
Once my sister-in-law came to stay for a few days. I left her on her own at home one morning. When I came back, I noticed she had tidied my kitchen cupboards, and washed them. I was ashamed because she’d really made me face up to reality: that my tidying-up is superficial, and therefore, I’m a superficial person. I can tell you I felt pathetic. Obviously, I thanked her, but without letting it show that I was hurt that someone had told me implicitly that my home was untidy.
Confession: That first lady is basically me. My desk is currently in Thursday-afternoon-chaos mode, but as of Friday evening, it’ll be neat and clean again; I figure a clear desk on Monday morning will help clear my mind, too. But there I go, justifying my own cleaning habits!