think of it as a pigsty, and grin. Or you may have a friend or loved one whose house feels so cluttered or dirty to you that the thought of eating anything that came from their kitchen, or even of visiting, brings you anxiety. But is it wrong for them to live that way? Can you keep yourself from judging, from giving your unsolicited opinion?
Folks who are extremely fussy and meticulously neat are also the subject of our speculations. If a home feels too sterile and impersonal, too clean, too tightly controlled, guests can feel uncomfortable sitting on the furniture or using a glass. Maybe we make snarky comments about how anal and perfectionist they are. Maybe we just assume they are dull. Houses that seem like hotels feel unloved, and we assume the owners are unloving. It is difficult to relax when your host is picking invisible hairs from the sofa next to you, or pulling out a vacuum to pick up the crumbs in the kitchen before you've started eating your lunch. But perhaps they feel right to the person living there. Can we let our expectations go? Can we visit and relax?
We wonder: how can they live like that?
We all have days when we feel more or less in control of our environments, and want to look around at other people's lives to see how we measure up. Maybe we'll take a Facebook test or pass along a meme that "proves" messy desks are a sign of creativity or that neatness is a source of calm and contentment. Maybe we'll open a fancy decorating magazine, or if we want to feel pious, watch that TV show Hoarders and be glad we aren't those wretched people. (As an aside I absolutely loathe that show.) But it's harder to judge another person's mental state through their home than you might assume: some people have chaotic, kind of scary messes everywhere and are simply too happy and busy with other more exciting projects to be bothered, or who cycle through their homes with a joyous ebb and flow of cleanliness oblivious to other people's standards. Some people with gorgeous spare, perfect looking homes have confessed to me that they obsessively pare down their lives for fear of becoming chaotic and were uncomfortably fidgety, living disconnected from their own homes, afraid of their own natures. We don't ever really know what's going on in someone else's mind when they are home (or anywhere else, for that matter). It's natural to wonder if our homes reflect more than we think they do of our internal lives, to try and ascribe different values to different styles and states; but it's wrong to assume we can read the homes of others any more than we can read their minds.