Do you look in the medicine cabinet when you are in the bathroom at a friend's house? Do you survey bookshelves and pictures on the wall? Do you make quick judgements about them? Does a clean house give you the impression that a person is neurotic or open to new ideas? If you were to survey a strangers bedroom - would you be able to tell if that person were male or female or extraverted, for that matter?
Why do I ask, you ask?
I recently finished the book Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. The author, Sam Gosling, has researched personality and how we interpret or display our attributes through our stuff. Where we put our stuff, in what rooms of our homes and where on our work desks we place family photos (if we do at all).
While many people would say that "stuff" is not important, it is interesting to research why we hang on to things and how we decide what to do with them. If you think about it, decorating the spaces around us is very unnecessary. Paint color on the wall doesn't make it safer or more sturdy. Hanging pictures is then actually destructive to those same walls! Do we need fancy patterned sheets or to keep books after we have finished them? All of these aesthetic efforts are part of our overall effort for self-expression.
Duh, I know. But not everyone realizes why exactly they conform their spaces to make it feel more like "home". It is either an important form of displaying your values or just a perfunctory duty to put stuff in a room. I have seen people in cheesy furniture showrooms who literally bought everything on display: down to the weird napkin rings and stock art. Personally, that would be a nightmare. I couldn't think of anything less welcoming. Yes - I always oooh and aahhh at the Ikea displays and take note of how the colors are mixed together. But I realize that it's important to me to have a high percentage of personal items on display, things that the author would call mood regulators. Reflections of my family and my experiences make me happy. Prints of random flowers and beach scenes do not.
The book reads much like a textbook because the author gives an overall recap of personality research. Studies of hoarders. personal websites, office spaces, front porches and bathroom cabinets. It's fascinating what you can tell about a person if you are looking for the right clues. Think about a world where you wouldn't interview for a job, but the potential company would come and inspect your bedroom. They would be able to tell if you were agreeable or honest based on your bedside table.
One of the more interesting sections was about the types of quotes that people include at the bottom of emails. (I know this was a more popular thing to do five years ago, all of this research was done before Facebook exploded.) You can tell a lot about a person in that simple gesture.
So, if you are like me and stay up way too late reading at night, this is an interesting read!