With the increasing popularity of Marie Kondo's tidying methods and the prevalence of TV shows about hoarding, it looks like plenty of people are eager to wage a war on clutter. But does everyone react to messy homes or work spaces the same way? As it turns out, there may be some different ways clutter affects the male and female brain. Some people are just more sensitive to the sight of messy spaces.
For the most part, though, a person's reaction to clutter depends heavily on the individual. "A cluttered home or work space affects everyone differently whether they are a man or a woman," says Dr. Dara Bushman, a licensed clinical psychologist. Often, a person's feelings about messy homes involve their particular upbringing. "If you grew up with parents teaching you mess was equivalent to being a 'bad girl' or 'bad boy,' then you either became perfectionistic about cleaning your mess or you completely rebelled." However, there do appear to be some interesting generalizations about the way males and females react to cluttered home or work spaces. Read on to see how messy areas tend to affect people differently, and whether these generalities play out for the people in your own life.
1. Clutter Affects Females More Overall
Again, a person's individual tolerance for messiness depends on many factors. But there do appear to be some overall trends for the ways males and females react to clutter. "Generalizing as a whole, women are much more affected by a cluttered home or work space," says Dr. Bushman. Their overall awareness of clutter seems to be higher.
2. Females Take Clutter Personally
For some females, a cluttered home reflects badly on them personally. "Women, actually, their minds connect an emotional attachment to mess as meaning the clutter makes them less than or not good enough. Women’s perception of mess attaches an identity and meaning to it," Dr. Bushman says. They might feel like a messy home indicates a messy life, for instance.
3. Males Just See It As Clutter
Males are less likely to view messy spaces as indicative of their identity or self worth. "Men’s minds just see it as a mess. They do not attach meaning or see urgency," according to Dr. Bushman. A cluttered closet or messy bookshelf isn't as big of a deal.
4. Clutter Tends To Stress Out Females
For the most part, females find cluttered homes pretty stressful. Women who described their own homes as cluttered also displayed cortisol patterns that suggested a higher level of stress, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It might be more difficult for these females to relax and unwind in such environments.
5. Males Have A Lower 'Standard' For Clutter
It's important to remember that there is no universal standard for the difference between a tidy or messy home. "Clutter is in the eye of the beholder," said Dr. Darby Saxbe in the New York Times. He was lead author of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study. "The people who talked about it were the ones who had the cortisol response." In general, females were more likely to notice and talk about clutter, and remain stressed out by it throughout the day, as Dr. Saxbe further explained. In general, it looks like the idea of a tidy space is often more important to females.