Monday, November 29, 2010

Snoop, by Sam Gosling

4 out of 5 stars
Total read in 2010 so far: 140
(Also posted on my Goodreads profile here.)

I am a cluttered person. Even if I didn't live with a packrat of a husband, I would still be at least a little cluttered. I very much like surrounding myself with things like pictures, stuffed animals, little figurines and knickknacks. And I prefer it when other people's homes are cluttered, too; it feels as though life is really lived in the place, and it gives me something to look at. One of my friends, in particular, always has something new at her house, some weird quirky thing like a chess set with specially molded pieces to look like her family members, a tiny plastic violin that plays on its own, and other interesting things.

Besides being cluttered, another thing I am is a snoop. Not so much in real life - I don't go poking in other people's things, not even their medicine cabinet - but in my mind and online. I like to read home design blogs in preparation for the house we will hopefully own someday, even though I know since I am cluttered and he is a packrat our house will never look anything like the pretty, carefully designed homes in photos online. But I seriously doubt any of the pretty rooms online actually remain looking pretty. I like to imagine boxes piled with stuff just off to the left of the camera and a screaming baby on the other side being held by somebody who just does not get why everything needs to be photographed.

Take this photo, for example, from Apartment Therapy.

Now I assume at least one of those stockings is for a kid. In every house I've ever been in that has kids, everything on that pointless ladder (is it for cleaning the tops of the windows?) would be immediately ripped off and the ladder made into a jungle gym. From the ladder you can try to jump perfectly into that chair, or climb onto that display cabinet and upset those UFOs on the top, and then laugh while the family dog tries to walk through the strings and paper lanterns that are now on the floor and gets hopelessly tangled up.

My point is, that room is really unrealistic unless it's for 3 adults, so no room is ever actually going to look like that. It even looks kinda silly if it's for adults, I think (that's why my house will never look like it belongs in a magazine). So, not being a snoop, I get kind of an unrealistic view of other people's houses. But photos that other people take for decorating blogs give you another way of snooping. If they're trying to show off a particular paint color, a mirror, a frame they made themselves from reclaimed wood, or a collage, what do the other objects they put in the photo tell you about them? Or, what can you see in the backgrounds of photos, in other rooms with the doors open? It's just like snooping as described in this book.

As you can imagine, I definitely enjoyed this book. It wasn't quite the five stars of awesomeness that it could have been, but it was up there. The author uses psychology to analyze the objects in people's rooms and try to find out what it tells him about their personalities. (For example, having sports memorabilia up means you might lean conservative politically; having maps up means you are probably open-minded in your day to day life.) You can extrapolate some of what he writes about easily to people you know. Somebody who is always trying to be on top of things might have their bedroom relatively organized and the CDs all in one place, but if you look closely you might see they're not in any particular order, the discs are missing from some of the cases, they're all mixed up, etc. Or, if somebody has photos all around their computer monitor, whether the photos face the person or visitors to their office tells you something.

This book doesn't exactly give you a list of stuff and how it correlates to personality. It doesn't go, "okay, if they have a sock sticking out of their drawer it tells you this, and if they have a stuffed pig on their desk it tells you this," but it does give you information you can use. It helps you break down areas where people live and figure out how their stuff relates to them. I have never really had occasion to walk into somebody's office or bedroom or bathroom and systematically tackle their personality, and especially I have never done this for a stranger; I think the best way to figure out somebody's personality is to actually talk to them, or rather listen to them talk. But, I like the information nonetheless.

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