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5 Reasons Not To Follow The Messy Trend

By April 3, 2023May 27th, 20247 Comments

One of my organizing friends sent me the article from the New York Times “This Trend Is A Mess” and asked me what I thought about it. My first thought was that it upset me. I work with people who struggle to become organized. Why would someone purposefully create a mess in their home and then create a video of it to post on TikTok? The answer, of course, is to get followers. This article talks about a young social media influencer who creates messes in their homes. I was so annoyed that I decided to reach out to some of my other organizing friends from around the world to get their thoughts about the Messy Trend.

What professional organizers think about the Messy Trend

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a professional organizer. My specialty is in working with people challenged by Chronic Disorganization, ADD, and hoarding tendencies. I am a subscriber of ICD and a member of NAPO. I am also an ICD® Master Trainer, a CPO-CD®, and a CPO®. Everyone I asked to share their opinion is also a subscriber of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD®). All these organizers are Certified Professional Organizers in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®), and some are also ICD® Master Trainers. Many of them are also members of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and are Certified Professional Organizers (CPO®). I have used part of their quote in this post. If you are interested, you can read their entire quote here.

Ever since I began my organizing business in 2005, I have held the belief that a person’s home should be their place of refuge. I work with clients to help them curate their belongings, so they keep what they love, need, and use. Once that is done, we work together to remove the things that have no meaning or purpose and are simply taking up space because they don’t know what to do with them. The goal is to create the home they envision for themselves. Organized as much or as little as makes them feel comfortable.

Embrace your space

My friend Linda Samuels from New York takes this a step further and says, “… I’m all for embracing your space to reflect who you are, what you need, and how you prefer to live. So, if mess and chaos work for you, live that way without shame or apology. And if, instead, you like to color coordinate and have neatly stacked and labeled bins, then run with it. No right or wrong. No judgment. Be you.”

Linda is not encouraging people to decorate with trash, she is agreeing with our friend, Wendy Hanes from Australia who says, “As professional organisers, our role is to help our clients find their own personal healthy spot where they can live safely, in an environment that is pleasing to them and supports their goals.” 

Have disarray and clutter

The very idea that a social media influencer would intentionally mess up her home and encourage critters and cockroaches by leaving empty containers of yogurt on the floor and then show this to the world as a trend to follow is truly appalling. I love what my friend, Nacho Eguiarte from Mexico said. “…. The other thing is you can have disarray and clutter but that doesn’t mean you can’t put trash in the garbage bin. We need to agree that being organized and having a clean space is not about the images on Instagram or Pinterest…”

5 Reasons Not To Follow The Messy Trend

  1. It is difficult to find what you are looking for when everything is in disarray. You will waste time moving things from one place to the other while you play hide ‘n seek with the thing you need in the moment. If you’re in a hurry, looking for one specific thing in a messy space can create anxiety.

2. Clutter creates stress. As Laurene Livesey Park says, While I certainly believe that people should find the level of mess, or organization, or tidiness that is comfortable to them, we know, and research supports the fact, that living in cluttered spaces causes stress.”

3. Excessive clutter causes CHAOS.  CHAOS stands for the Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. People feel this way when they are embarrassed to open their door to friends and/or delivery people. They don’t like the way their home looks and don’t want anyone else to see it that way.

4. Messiness creates a feeling of being overwhelmed. When your home is messy, it is hard to know where to start creating order or to know what to do first. It is overwhelming. Sometimes it is easier to close the door and try to forget about it. The problem is that it will never go away on its own.

5. You cannot relax in a messy home. Things strewn about your home in piles here, there, and everywhere create a tense atmosphere. It is not possible to unwind and relax in a place where everywhere you look there are random piles of clutter.

Magazine photos are staged

I believe this social media influencer was trying to make a point. They did not need to purposefully trash their home to show how someone really lives. Ask any professional organizer and they will tell you that the picture perfect photos in magazines are staged. No one lives in those photos and, yes, they can be sterile. I suggest that instead of trashing their home, this influencer show how it is without either messing or tidying it up. That, at least, would be honest.

“Media has always promoted impossible standards, ultra slim models, perfect families, beautiful and orderly homes. Backlash is normal, and promoting the other extreme gets attention.” Wendy Hanes

Is this messy trend the right kind of attention?

I do not think it is.

I think it makes people who struggle with disorganization shake their heads in disbelief. They wonder why would anyone do that?

Ask a busy family about how hard it is to create and maintain order. They will tell you they don’t need any help messing up their home. Living life does that for them.

My friend, Alice Price sums it up nicely when she says, “Like so many issues today the messy/minimalist issue is presented as an either/or binary choice.  The reality is that this issue, like so many others, exist on a bell curve with both extremes being problematic.

This article is the pendulum swing to the other extreme.

Posts that present creating homes for cockroaches or finding sticky tabletops acceptable or floors so strewn with clutter that there are no clear paths through rooms due to clutter of any kind encourages unsanitary and potentially dangerous situations.

Social media influencers create an illusion that their vision is the correct one and the one to strive for.  Impressionable followers can easily develop very stilted opinions of what defines messy, clutter, neat etc.”

Find the middle ground

There is a middle ground when it comes to organizing and your stuff. Too little and the space may look and feel sterile. Too much and the environment may be unsafe and promote stress. Decide what works for you. Surround yourself with things you love that you use, and that you need.

As Nate Berkus famously said, “Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love, brought together under one roof.

If organizing your belongings doesn’t come easily to you reach out to a professional organizer. You can work in-person or virtually or join a clutter support group. Reach out to me to talk through your options. But whatever you do, do not follow the messy trend.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

7 Comments

  • I love the ‘hot’ discussion about the NY Times article. Chords have been struck. Thank you so much for including me.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    The media just always needs a “hot new trend” to be covering. We don’t need to listen, on either end of that pendulum.

    I talk with clients about the fact that it isn’t about having a perfectly looking space. I mean, they are living there. It is about being able to put everything away if/when they want to. When they start to feel that they couldn’t do that, either because there is too much and/or because they wouldn’t know where “away” is, that is when it is time to reevaluate.

    Love all these expert voices, Diane!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    If it gives you any comfort at all, the NYT doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Yes, there are maybe a small handful of people on TikTok curating a messy look for the clicks and likes and comments (because a scathing comment is equal to, if not superior to a clicked heart on TikTok), but the vast majority of “clutter” you see in such videos isn’t designed to look that way. It’s generally either a) young people just living their messy youthful lives or b) busy families who aren’t prioritizing aesthetics over letting their kids play with their toys wherever. In other words, the “real” people aren’t intentionally living cluttered lives; there’s no real “trend,” no matter what the feature writing posits. There are 150 million TikTok accounts and a very, very few people making hay out of their clutter. The NYT is taking things out of context (shocking, I know!).

    That said, your point about magazine photos is apt. TikTok often reflects a backlash against the perfectly groomed bodies and perfectly curated homes one sees on Instagram, but it’s not House Beautiful vs. cockroaches, but rather the equivalent of airbrushed vs. natural blemishes and stretch marks.

    You’ve laid out an excellent argument for decluttering and organizing, and I love how you used supporting comments from our colleagues to drive the points home!

  • Wonderful blog! I love the input from professionals in our industry.

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