Don’t get me wrong, I love my closet, but the truth is that it’s way too small to cram everything I need to fit in there. My apartment is already tiny AF, and the closet space isn’t exactly like something you’d see on Gossip Girl. Between my clothes, my luggage, my extra sheets and towels, and my shoes (which probably need a closet all to themselves), I can’t ever keep it looking organized… which is why I’m always wondering how much dates care about messy closets. I mean, I can try to shut the door (although sometimes it doesn’t even close), but the guy I’m seeing is bound to spot the chaos eventually, right?
I have to admit that when I go over to a new partner’s place, I care at least a little about how organized their space is. I’m a pretty Type A person, and I like to keep my room neat and tidy, so I hope any prospective partner has the same respect for general cleanliness. But when it comes to stuffing things in my closet, I’ll do so without abandon. After all, when something’s in the closet, it’s one less thing to clutter up your room — or at least, that’s how I justify it to myself. Really though, do I need to be worried about a guy seeing my mess?
I asked my friend Natalie — a fellow messy closet sufferer — to see how she handles this. She told me she usually makes sure her closet door is closed to avoid any awkward comments about the messiness. But once, a guy wanted to hang his work clothes in her closet… so she had to clean it up. He never saw it in its natural state of being. This is also how I like to approach the situation. Close the door, tidy up if necessary, and act like everything is normal. I’m afraid my messy closet will make it look like I have a messy life.
And according to dating coach Julie Spira, my intuition is right on the money. “Your partner will think your messy closet is a huge turn-off!,” she says. “First of all, it sends a message that your life isn’t in order. Second, if there isn’t space for your date to put their clothes or belongings for when there’s an overnight date, your date will feel like there’s no space for them in your life.”
Oh no… this is bad news for my chaotic closet situation. But Spira’s point is that the tidiness of your space can say a lot about whether you’re organized in other aspects of life. “Cleanliness at home also translates to good hygiene and the ability to take care of your health,” she explains, noting that your living space is a good indicator of how much you prioritize order and harmony. Your partner will want to feel important enough that you’ve created space for them to be comfortable in your home.
My friend Hannah knows all too well the tension messy closets can cause. She lives with her boyfriend, and they share a small closet, so they often have arguments when each other’s stuff is all over the place. “Whenever he’s in a cranky mood, he’ll tell me that my cleaning makes him concerned for our future,” she says. Cleaning styles play a bigger role than one might think in a relationship, and they can even have implications for how a date or partner might view long-term compatibility. Especially as a relationship gets more serious, it will become important to address the ways both of you manage your living spaces.
Don't freak out, though — there's a big difference between a few misplaced items and a closet that looks like a tornado just came through. “Partners do care that your place is clean,” Spira says. “That doesn’t mean you need to have every book and magazine neatly stacked up in your bookshelf.” She explains that if your space is organized for the most part, that’s the most important thing. No one is perfect! And it’s wrong to expect your SO’s space to look like the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. In fact, some studies have shown that a bit of clutter can actually signal a creative and flourishing mind.
Your cleaning system might work wonders for you, but you never know how a date will react — which is why doing a little cleanup (if you have the chance) will allay your stress. Putting in an effort to clean your space will show that you care about making a good impression. “If you know they’re coming over, I recommend that you take the time to straighten up your place so everyone is comfortable,” Spira suggests. She also assures that it’s normal to feel anxious about how someone will perceive your living space — almost everyone does this! Chances are, your dates have worried about what you’ll think of their closets, too.
At some point in the relationship, you’ll become comfortable enough to share your closet in its natural, cluttered state. But in the beginning, if cleaning makes you feel better, go for it! Closets usually don’t take too much time to straighten up, and that way you don’t have to be constantly stressing while you two are hanging out or hooking up. Or, do what Natalie does and shut the door — trust me, I know from experience it’s a foolproof solution.