Unfuck Your Habitat: tidy advice for messy people

I've been really enjoying "Unfuck Your Habitat," which offers advice and community for messy people who struggle to stay organized and tidy. I especially like the before and after shots of messy rooms that have been successfully put to rights. I'm a super-tidy neat-freak, and compulsive enough about it that I annoy my family with it -- but for most of my early life, I was a total slob. Basically, I got into a somewhat rigid habit of cleaning up continuously and it became a kind of low-grade mania for me.

At least once a day, someone asks: “Why should I make my bed? Isn’t it kind of pointless?”

Well, there are a few reasons, as far as I’m concerned:

* It’s a habit that’s relatively easy to form, and helps to make way to form other habits that are beneficial. If you spend 30 seconds making your bed every morning, 20 minutes doing housework in the evening isn’t such a difficult thing to conquer.
* A messy bed tends to give a room an overall sense of chaos, whereas a made bed can make even a messy room seem more put together.
* It’s a small but tangible form of control over one’s environment. So many people let their homes get and stay in states of disarray, messiness, and chaos because it seems like the mess has more power than we do. If you can’t do everything, you can’t do anything, right? Wrong. You can make your bed.
* Because I said so.

Unfuck Your Habitat (via Beth Pratt)


  1. Let me gently suggest that using words like “compulsive” and “mania” to describe this misses or at least distorts the point. Feng Shui is not some mystical New Age bullshit; it’s just common sense, the kind of common sense that characters like Einstein showed us. For just as mass and energy are equal entities even though they are experienced differently, so are inner and outer. And that’s the one-line point of Feng Shui: order within makes order without; order without encourages order within, because within and without are not two separate spaces; it is possible that they are not even one, but merely indivisible. 

      1. Messy desk? The man couldn’t even be bothered to put socks on. I don’t know what the hell the grandparent post is going on about.

        1.  Tidy minds is another way to say empty minds.

          I think you can be neat and thoughtful, but I think when you more concerned with the space than the minds you really focusing your energy on control rather than creativity.  All well and good if you are a factory manager.

  2. How can you “unfuck your habitat” if you “make your bed”? That’s gonna get messy.

    1.  Me, I leave the bed unmade (that is, with the covers mostly off) so that the mattress can dry out and air out.

      1. I used to do that. Especially after having a futon more or less rot right below the ass sweat radiant. Now I have a bed where the mattress sits directly on metal mesh, so it gets free air flow underneath.

    1. I can’t think if I’m in an untidy space.  Although I have no particular problem with a thick coating of dust on everything.

  3. To me, the bedroom has always seemed one of the least important places to clean.  As long as your bedroom is behind a closed door, and y0u’re not inviting a guest into it, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of clearing off a table or counter top.  You should clean the room you spend the most (conscious) time in, because you will appreciate it more. If you cook for yourself a lot, the kitchen is a good candidate, since cooking around a mess is awful.

    I’m on board with the 20 min a day aspect, though.  Cleaning a tiny space every day adds up quick.

    1. I second that. I sleep in the bedroom. At the morning I put up the blankets and pillow so they can air.  When we work not at home, it’s totally sufficient to close the windows and leave it be. We will not be in that room in the meantime, unless we need to chase the cat. So why bother.

      The kitchen, which is in constant use and where perishable goods are being handled is a much more obvious target. 

      And every other place where you work, of course. 

      Edit: I’m assuming separate rooms, of course. If the bedroom doubles as a living room or office or kitchen and living room aren’t separated, keeping it tidy becomes more important.

      1. We more than doubled our square footage when we moved a year and a half ago.  Suddenly we had a discrete bedroom, discrete guest bedrooms, discrete offices for each of our pursuits, discrete library, discrete dining room, discrete movie room, discrete family room, and discrete pantry storage separate from the kitchen.

        So far we’ve managed to keep the dining room, library, pantry, movie room, and the guest bedrooms clean and mostly clutter free over the long term.  We still have some trouble with the family room, our bedroom (mostly making the bed and some stuff on the dresser tops) and one particular counter in the kitchen that’s located right in from the garage.  By and large though, isolating spaces for their purposes makes it a lot easier to keep things neat.

      2.  Well, most people think of making the bed as pulling the sheets and bedcovers up to the pillows, what if we instead changed the standard. What if a ‘made’ bed had the pillows stacked on top of the bedclothes rolled up at the foot of the bed to air the mattress?

        1. Well, there are climates where the stuff dries fast. (Usually not over here.)

          Letting the bedclothes lie isn’t really an option, that’s why we have a rack for them. The pillows go over the woodframe, so the mattress can air nicely. 

          Which reminds me that we need to turn them.

    2. Forsooth.  I regret spending a few hundred dollars on window blinds for my bedroom; since I am never in there during the day, said blinds have barely moved at all.

  4. I’ll often start cleaning, until I find a half-finished project. You realise that it’d be more effective to finish the project and then clean up all detritus around it, and then a few hours later it’s time to go to bed.

    I’m just to efficient to clean properly, I guess.

  5. I agree with making the bed daily.  It totally distracts the eye from all the dirty clothes on the floor (sounds stupid, but it’s true) and has the added benefit of equalizing the sheet/blanket distribution.  If I don’t make the bed Mr. Cover Hog will leave me freezing my arse off at some point in the middle of the night. 

    1. Buahaha. I totally thought „There’s probably some money to be made with an app for that.“

      Well, ‘s not for me. Gamification doesn’t work for me and I already have a todo list. But if it works for others, good for them. It seems to be reasonably priced.

  6. I read that as “unfuck your hobbit,” to which my response is:

    a) that’s sort of like unringing a bell, and
    b) stay the hell out of my personal life, BB.

  7. Cory Doctorow, I like your books, but I’m distrusting. If it takes 30 secs to make your bed, you don’t have a cat.  If you believed the “before” and “after” photos above, you get a new countertop when you clean one up.  This didn’t work.

      1. If you have a cat-shaped lump, you need a new feather bead. The cat should sink to the bottom.

  8. >A messy bed tends to give a room an overall sense of chaos, whereas a made bed can make even a messy room seem more put together.

    Basically the broken windows theory applied on the micro level.

    1. Euaaagh, the next step in that study is to put mites in the beds of 36 families and see what happens!

      1.  We should re-shape the idea of a ‘made’ bed into one that has the bedcovers neatly folded or rolled up at the foot, exposing the mattress and lower sheet to air and sunlight

  9. My place is messy and my bed was unmade.

    Cory, you just made me make my bed.

    Um… could you tell me to get a job as well? I seem to listen to you.


  10. Okay I made my bed. Proverbial wisdom is that I now have to lie in it. At which point, aren’t I commited to repeat this whole exercise? Seems like some sort of logical time trap.

  11. I think a lot of people feel like they don’t care, or they like being messy. You know where everything is anyway, right?

    My response is: don’t knock it until you try it. I used to be messy, and I knew where everything was. Putting things away is annoying, right – why not just leave it out so it’s easier to access when you need it?

    But I also have a compulsion to keep things tidy, and have had it since I was a kid. It’s a lazy compulsion, though… I let things get to the point of no return before deciding to tidy up, and then it never gets done because it’s too much work.

    I have pretty much been following the same system this blog advocates, which is doing a little bit at a time. Basically, you just want to avoid getting to that point of no return. That doesn’t mean keeping things perfect at all times – it’s a middle ground. If I showed you a photo of my living space right now, you would not call it tidy. But there’s almost nothing on the floor besides my shoes, all my clothes are hanging up or in a laundry bin, and most of my desk surface is clear. Never mind that I have shelves all around piled high with overflowing stuff, it’s off the floor and off my desk and other surfaces and that’s what counts.

    It’s just so nice to not have piles of stuff all over the place. No more digging around looking for things, and no more pushing things aside in order to put something down. It sometimes feels like wasted space, but it’s very pleasant to have a lot of empty floor space to walk around in, and empty space on your surfaces without things getting in the way (that goes for bathroom and kitchen counters and your desk especially, but every surface is a good candidate for keeping generally clear).

    As for making your bed, well… I think it helps some people to get into the tidiness mindset. I don’t need that and I don’t bother. I also don’t typically sleep with top sheets or even a blanket though.

  12. BB must really like this website, because I think this is the third time I’ve read a post about it.

    For me, the best use of my time is getting rid of things (which can mean recycling, gifting, etc.).  It feels good, and leaves a lot more space….more space to mess ratio makes everything look better.

  13. Am I the only one bothered by the grotesque overuse of the tackiest animated gifs? 
    Nice job on the kitchen and bed, but they should declutter the website next.

  14. “If you spend 30 seconds making your bed every morning, 20 minutes doing housework in the evening isn’t such a difficult thing to conquer.”
    30 seconds making your bed in the morning x 75-year lifespan=228 hours or 9.5 days

    20 minutes doing housework every evening x 75-year lifespan=9125 hours or 380 days or 54.3 weeks or 1.04 years.

    I wonder, how many people die wishing they’d done more housework? Studies show people who spend their time and money on experiences rather than stuff are happier.

    Some counter-advice: fuck “unfucking your habitat”–which is Sisyphean–and use the YEAR of your life you would’ve wasted to DO something. 

    Take a class in pottery or archery or ballroom dancing. Mentor a troubled kid. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Coach a youth soccer team. See Europe or Asia. Write a novel. Watch that movie you keep bumping down your Netflix queue. Call or visit your grandparents or parents or children. Learn to program. Take a walk on Sunday mornings. Make a nice dinner. Make love.

    1. Your basic idea is correct, I think, but is based on the premise that the mess doesn’t have detrimental effects. 

      Some people do not mind at all and not even societal pressure (good for them!) can make them feel about living in a mess.  Some of those do not even lose productivity, since they uncannily know where everything  is and they can get it literally with one hand movement.   Many, in my observation, severely overestimate their ability in this matter and lose a lot of time. More importantly: They often waster others’ time as well.

      Also, one needs to substract all the people who have a mess everywhere, but outsource the tidying up. They are either a burden on their parents and partners or they pay for it. Granted, since they often make more money than their cleaners in the same time, they come up ahead.

      More importantly, though: Lots of people do not *want* to live in such a mess. It hinders the enjoyment of their living space and they get in a cycle of frustration, similar to people who have become fat mostly due to bad eating habits and no physical work/sports.

      Telling them “Just don’t worry” is about as helpful as “Don’t worry, be happy” to a depressed person. 

      1. You can’t equate someone who doesn’t “want” to live in a messy house with someone with clinical depression, unless their neatness is a compulsion–in which case they are not the target audience for that website, and need therapy, not housework.

        From the pictures, most of the peoples’ problem is too much junk. The one attached to this BB post has a lava lamp on the kitchen counter. WTF? Why do they even have a lava lamp at all? They need to have a yard sale, not devote a large chunk of their life to bailing water.

  15. I’m naturally a pretty organized person. My stuff is neat, I clean regularly, I very rarely misplace things. I will never, ever make my bed. That’s what the Blanket of Concealment is for.

  16.  Clean and tidy houses give me the creeps, they feel cold as if the people aren’t actually living there (which I suppose is true in some cases).

  17. If they can live with a messy website layout – in Safari it looks ugly as fuck – I can live with a unmade bed. 

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