Being A Neat Freak Is Fine If It Makes You Happy

The fact that the phrase "neat freak" even exists highlights that getting organised is not something everyone readily embraces. But you know what? That doesn't mean that it's automatically terrible behaviour deserving of condemnation.

Picture by William Hook

Writer Oliver Burkeman sums up this reality very neatly in a recent column for the Guardian:

It's important to distinguish neat-freakery from obsessive-compulsive disorder: what makes OCD a disorder is that the sufferer doesn't enjoy their rituals, that they get in the way. True, pleasure-in-neatness can also be taken too far, bordering at its extremes on something more sinister. Somehow, it's unsurprising to learn that Melvil Dewey, the library categoriser who changed his name from "Melville" because the excess letters bothered him, was also racist: he loved orderly dividing lines of the bigoted variety, too. We more moderate neatniks, psychologists suggest, are driven by a desire to assuage anxiety and feel in control, but so what? The fact that a behaviour has a hidden cause doesn't automatically mean it's bad.

At Lifehacker, organisation is obviously a big deal; we have a whole category for it. However, we've always tempered that enthusiasm with a clear recognition that being organised is a useful tool in achieving a goal, not an end in itself. If having a better organised desk makes you more productive, it's worth pursuing. If you enjoy the process, so much the better. But if you have a happy life and can do everything you want while keeping stuff stacked on your desk with no method whatsoever, that's fine too. You don't need me freaking out about your utensils drawer — but I don't need you freaking out about mine

This column will change your life: anal retentives of the world, unite! [The Guardian]


    I'm pretty neat (and a psychologist) and I fucking hate the implication that its because I want assuage anxiety. Its total aesthetics. Neat is symmetrical, and hence pleasing to the eye and to the psyche. JUST LIKE EVERY GOOD WEBSITE.

    If people are judging neat people simply for liking things tidy they should probably worry less about what other people do.

    However, I don't think that's why the phrase 'neat freaks' exists. Surely it's from shared-housing, where 'neat freaks' aren't content to simply be neat, but must impose their standards on everyone around them, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now