The advent of Pinterest, the minimalism movement, and the popularity of books like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” have resulted in a new movement that places a significant amount of attention on the orderliness of our material surroundings. While aesthetics play an important role in this tidiness movement, there are other, deeper components to its appeal as well.
To determine the role personality type plays in organizational obsession, we asked our readers to agree or disagree that “Having a neat and clean home is among your top priorities.”
The data, as usual, provided a tremendous amount of information. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with the Judging trait were significantly more likely to agree with this statement than those with the Prospecting trait (75% vs. 37%). Judging personality types value order and structure, and get great satisfaction from checking items off of their to-do lists, so it makes sense that they would prioritize a clean home.
Observant types (61%) were also more apt to agree than Intuitive types (52%), which is likely due to a greater awareness of their environment. Observant personalities live in the here and now, while Intuitive types tend to dwell in the realm of possibilities, which can prevent them from noticing the dirty clothes on the floor (next to the hamper, of course) or the eternally unmade bed.
The way these traits are expressed among the different personality types will be discussed in (well-organized) detail below.
Sentinels (75% agreeing)
It’s not surprising that Sentinel personality types came in the lead here, with 75% agreeing. “A place for everything and everything in its place” could be the Sentinel’s motto. In all things, from work duties to home cleanliness, Sentinels operate the most effectively in situations where structure, logic, and order prevail. If any Role group takes to heart the idea that “cleanliness is next to godliness,” it’s the Sentinels; they can uphold such virtues with an almost religious fervor. With both Observant and Judging traits, Sentinels are sticklers for details, instantly recognizing disorder and taking steps to remedy the issue immediately. Chaos is unacceptable in life and in housekeeping, and these types will fully utilize their observational and organizational skills to make their home environment as clean and efficient as possible. For most Sentinels, orderliness is a matter of utility, in that it maximizes the functionality of their home. This is in contrast to Explorer personalities, who may prefer a tidy home for its aesthetic value.
The biggest sticklers for cleanliness are the Consuls (ESFJ), 78% of whom agreed that a clean home is among their top priorities. In addition to the Observant and Judging traits, which promote order and cleanliness, Consuls have the Extraverted and Feeling traits, which makes them more sensitive to the opinions of others. For Consuls, having a tidy home isn’t just about maintaining order; it’s also a measure of their social status and self-worth. People with this personality type thrive on social interaction, especially when they are being recognized for a job well done. A clean living space is another way for them to showcase their organizational skills, as well as their ability to take care of their home and family. Consuls are also perennially concerned with the comfort and happiness of everyone around them, and they view a tidy home as one way to show that they care.
Although they were the least likely Sentinels to agree, a solid majority (71%) of Logisticians (ISTJ) also agreed that a neat home is one of their top priorities. Logisticians strongly value order, duty, and responsibility, which manifests itself in a tidy and organized environment. While Extraverted personality types are slightly more likely than Introverts to prioritize a neat home, Introverts are more likely to be negatively affected by a cluttered or visually overwhelming environment. A tidy home for an Introvert is more of a means of mental tranquility as opposed to a way to impress others. Logisticians prefer a clean environment simply because it allows them to function more efficiently.
Diplomats and Analysts (53% and 50%)
Though a narrow majority of both Role groups agreed, Diplomats (53%) and Analysts (50%) are not neat freaks across the board. There were significant differences within each of these Roles, with the Judging types agreeing at a much higher rate. Both Diplomats and Analysts are Intuitive types, which makes them much less concerned about their external environment than their internal world of thoughts and ideas.
The Feeling trait that the Diplomats share creates deeply empathetic personalities, which motivates them to create an environment that is comforting to those around them. This is much more likely to translate into a clean home for the Judging types. Both Protagonists (ENFJ) (76% agreeing) and Advocates (INFJ) (73%) were significantly more likely to agree than their Prospecting counterparts, Campaigners (ENFP) (42%) and Mediators (INFP) (37%). The Judging trait clearly plays a very important role in the desire for a neat home, with a difference of more than 30 points between these traits among the Diplomats. While most Diplomats have a perfectionistic tendency, it manifests itself in different ways between Judging and Prospecting personality types.
Protagonists and Advocates, for example, are responsible and decisive, especially when they are fighting for a cause. Their idealism is balanced by tremendous capability in planning and carrying out tasks needed to accomplish their goals. This sense of orderliness and planning translates into other areas of their lives as well. A comfortable, organized home is the most conducive environment for these types to truly thrive.
Ever the idealists, Mediators tend to become completely absorbed in whatever cause they are focused on at the moment. These personalities can become so absorbed, in fact, that they completely neglect not only housekeeping, but basic necessities such as eating and sleeping. Practicality and organization are not a strong suit for Mediators, and they may see little value in focusing on such mundane tasks as constantly cleaning or tidying a home. Cleanliness is not a moving experience for Mediators, who might agree with Erma Bombeck when she stated, “Cleanliness is not close to godliness. It’s not even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.”
As with the Diplomats, Analysts have a tremendous difference between Judging and Prospecting personality types. Commanders (ENTJ), unsurprisingly, prefer an orderly and structured environment, with over three-quarters (76%) of Commanders agreeing that a tidy home is important to them. Logicians (INTP), on the other hand, are much less interested in tidiness, with only 28% agreeing that it is a priority for them.
It makes sense that a personality type with the leadership and planning skills of the Commander would prioritize order and tidiness in their homes as well. They have big ideas and run a tight ship, so keeping their environment well-organized helps to ensure that they are as efficient and effective as possible. If anyone can take an abstract concept and turn it into a workable idea, it is the Commander. Steve Jobs, an innovative and stubborn leader (who was likely an ENTJ-T), once said he believed that “...life is an intelligent thing: that things aren’t random.” Few types come close to the Commander’s ability to take the seemingly chaotic and turn it into order, and even elegant simplicity.
Not only is a tidy home not a priority for the vast majority of Logicians, it may be something that they actually seek to avoid. This personality type is uninterested in societal expectations, preferring to focus on creating an environment that is conducive to their intellectual pursuits. The Logician’s Prospecting trait not only decreases their desire for orderliness, it also makes them less susceptible to the expectations of those around them. Structure and order, especially when imposed on them by someone else, is abhorrent to Logicians, who feel stifled when they are unable to focus their time and energy on their current obsessions. The most well-known example of an “eccentric professor,” a label frequently bestowed on this type, is Albert Einstein – who so despised imposed order that he once said, “In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.”
Despite their Observant trait, Explorers are the least likely Role group to prioritize keeping a tidy home. While these personalities may be very aware of their surroundings, these types are unlikely to believe that maintaining a clean home is a necessary or exciting venture. Spontaneity is priority number one for Explorers, who find it difficult to live in the moment when they are encumbered with too many expectations or chores.
Always looking to make their guests comfortable, Entertainers (ESFP) (45%) are the Explorers who are most apt to prioritize a clean home. Neat and tidy may not be their main objective, though, as they are more focused on an inspiring and exciting entertaining space. An aesthetically pleasing home is the goal, with tidiness taking a back seat to beauty. Entertainers are very aware of, and sensitive to, their immediate environment. With their flair for the dramatic, Entertainers’ homes are likely to be filled with items that they find inspiring and stimulating, but will not necessarily be orderly or organized.
Virtuosos (ISTP) are the least likely of all personality types to be concerned with the cleanliness of their homes, with only about a quarter of Virtuosos (26%) indicating that they prioritize a tidy abode. With their mechanical, hands-on tendencies, Virtuosos are more likely to “decorate” their surroundings with tools, automotive parts or sports memorabilia than neatly arranged storage baskets or color-coded bookshelves. Their home is an extension of their passions, no matter how dirty or disorganized they may be. If you’re uncomfortable in the Virtuoso’s home environment, they’ll be more than happy to show you the door.
People Mastery (60%)
People Masters (Extraverted, Assertive personality types – 60% agreeing) are the ultimate hosts, using their meticulous people skills to provide a comfortable and entertaining environment for friends, family, and guests alike. This likely translates into their desire to maintain a neat and tidy living space. While they are not particularly concerned with other people’s opinions, People Masters are proud of their abilities and will not hesitate to showcase their social status when given the opportunity.
These Assertive personalities are confident in their skills and abilities, and likely view a clean and tidy home as a demonstration of their “having it all together” mentality. Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) (79%), Commanders (ENTJ-A), Protagonists (ENFJ-A), and Consuls (ESFJ-A) (all 78%) are prime examples of confident, Extraverted types who exude social competence and organizational skills. Think Mary Poppins (an ESFJ-A, perhaps?), nanny extraordinaire, effortlessly inspiring children and adults alike with her charismatic personality while also maintaining order and tidiness. “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun!” That spoonful of sugar certainly helped the medicine go down, and probably gave the children the boost of energy they needed to help tidy the playroom.
Social Engagement and Confident Individualism (57% and 55%)
A slim majority of both Social Engagers (Extraverted, Turbulent types – 57% agreeing) and Confident Individualists (Introverted, Assertive types – 55% agreeing) make having a clean home one of their top priorities, although for very different reasons.
Social Engagers may lack the confidence that their Assertive counterparts enjoy, but what these personality types lack in confidence they make up for in an eagerness to improve. The house may be cleaned in the moments before guests arrive, only to remain rather untidy in the days that follow. They may feel obligated to maintain a neat and orderly abode due to the expectations or judgments of those around them (including the often unrealistic world of social media). Pinterest-worthy organizational ideas are more likely to impact Social Engagers, as they are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves as well as their space.
A Turbulent Consul (ESFJ-T) (78% agreeing) is likely to be strongly influenced by the opinions of others. Not content to just meet the expectations of others, Consul personalities feel obligated to go above and beyond what is expected of them at every opportunity. They are also the most likely to be concerned with how others perceive them, both in terms of appearance and social status. Since they excel at creating structure and noticing even the most minute of details, Turbulent Consuls are likely to spend an extraordinary amount of time ensuring that their home exceeds everybody’s expectations.
Turbulent Debaters (ENTP-T) (40%), on the other hand, are unlikely to use Pinterest for anything other than witty quotes or the occasional pop-culture meme. Organization is not their strong suit, as this personality type is easily bored, especially when they are unable to see a logical reason for something to be done. For example, if their spouse asked a Turbulent Debater to tidy up their books before guests arrived, a response may go something like, “Why would I put my Game of Thrones books away? I like to reference them when I’m watching the show. Seriously, the crossover between the two is almost non-existent at this point...” They may utilize the classic why-make-the-bed argument, “Why would I make my bed if I’m just going to sleep in it again tonight? After I finish rereading A Clash of Kings for the third time, of course.” Debaters are unlikely to pursue tidiness if they see no logical value in expending their energy on something so mundane.
Confident Individualists are extraordinarily independent and often live in their own world. Whether that world is neat and tidy or not is highly dependent upon whether or not they have a Judging trait.
Interestingly, Assertive Advocates (INFJ-A) were actually more likely than the reigning tidiness champions (the Introverted Sentinels) to prefer a clean home, with 75% agreeing. To be fair, Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) and Defenders (ISFJ-A) were very close behind, with 73% of both personality types agreeing that they prefer their house to be tidy. These results vouch for the incredible determination that Advocates can exhibit when they are truly passionate about something – even when that something is a spotless home environment. They are exceptionally competent when they set their mind on achieving a certain goal, and they expect nothing less than perfection. In a world full of chaos, a tidy home helps Advocates to feel a semblance of control, allowing them to focus their energy on more important causes.
Assertive Virtuosos (ISTP-A) (27%) were decidedly uninterested in tidiness, likely viewing it as more of a hindrance than anything. These types live with (and through) their projects, and one shouldn’t be surprised if they see car parts on the Virtuoso’s kitchen table or a disassembled computer taking up the living room. Life is one big experience for this personality type, and they can’t be bothered with putting things away if they are planning on using them again. Besides, they might figure out a mechanical problem by osmosis if they keep their tools in the bedroom, right?
Constant Improvement (52%)
Constant Improvers (Introverted, Turbulent types) may be the least likely Strategy to agree that a clean home is a priority; however, the differences between types are not extreme in this case. While these personalities are more likely to be concerned with others’ opinions, this won’t necessarily translate into creating a tidier living space. Constant Improvers are more apt to expend their efforts on achieving their own personal and professional goals, as opposed to meeting the expectations of others.
This is not the case for Turbulent Defenders (ISFJ-T) (74%), however, as meeting others’ expectations is often this personality type’s number-one priority. Their supportive nature is their greatest strength, and they absolutely thrive on assisting anyone (and everyone) in need. If it helps their household run more smoothly and efficiently, Defenders will ensure that their space is neat and organized. If they are assisting someone with a project, Defenders will carefully color-code all of their binders to make sure that the relevant information is easy to access.
Turbulent Virtuosos (ISTP-T) (26%) and Logicians (INTP-T) (28%) remain the least likely personality types to give a *!%# about the cleanliness of their homes, with Turbulent Virtuosos being even less concerned about their external environment than their Assertive variations. Virtuosos seek out excitement, with Turbulent types being even more likely to engage in pleasure-seeking activities – the least pleasurable of which appears to be organizing their closet or pantry.
Despite what society says about a Pinterest- or Instagram-worthy home, a clean and tidy space can be a rather subjective concept. Some people may feel that decor of any kind is clutter, while others feel that their space is sterile and cold without their whimsical tchotchkes.
There are as many opinions regarding what constitutes a tidy space as there are spaces, most of which are a result of certain personality traits. Judging types, specifically, find satisfaction and contentment in an orderly environment. Prospecting types may appreciate and even strive for cleanliness, but they are much less likely to base their happiness on achieving an organized space. Intuitive types may be more focused on organizing their thoughts and ideas than their bedroom closet, while Observant personalities may get a thrill out of an exquisitely arranged gallery wall.
While many people will undoubtedly benefit from a clean and clutter-free space, it’s important not to pass judgment on those individuals who prefer a little bit of chaos to promote their creativity. Some of the most advanced and insightful minds have been less than tidy. If he had been more focused on cleaning his desk than contemplating relativity, we may never have heard some of Einstein’s greatest theories. He was famously quoted as saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Perhaps it’s fair to say that the benefit of tidiness is relative.
What about you? Does it drive you crazy if things are out of place, or are you happy as long as you can see (a part of) your floor? Let’s discuss it in the Comments section!