• Jessica Sherry

8+ Writing Ideas on Messy Homes?

A cluttered house is a cluttered mind. Or desk. Or whatever version you’ve heard. When developing characters for your future bestseller, consider how a person’s living environment reflects mental state and the character’s psychology.

1.) A messy, cluttered house could be an act of rebellion (even subconscious) against a parent/guardian who:

a. Used housework as punishment (nod to Cinderella)

b. Had white-gloved expectations and she’s never satisfied *singing Prince’s When Doves Cry*

c. Never let the child get dirty for fear of germs, acid rain, pesticides, ticks, whatever.

d. Had OCD.


2.) Or rebellion against an institution or workplace that enforces rigorous cleaning. Military school. Prison. Hospitals. Doctor’s offices. Laboratories. A cleaning service.


3.) Or a subconscious barrier put up to keep the world out. You can’t have guests if the house is a mess. Hello, self-alienation, loneliness, and social anxiety.


4.) Or, bless this mess! It could reflect a carefree, happy-go-lucky upbringing, an homage to parents who believed there was more to life than doing the dishes.


5.) Or, simply, a clutter-dome for a home could mean someone’s overworked. The character has no time to clean. Logically, the busier we are, the more likely to let some things, like housework, slide.


Time to think crime… yay!


Could a killer be caught simply by the way he keeps his house?


Ah, yeah. Remember Silence of the Lambs? When Agent Starling goes to the home of “Jack Gordan” for some background on Buffalo Bill’s first victim, she doesn’t realize she’s walking into the home of a killer. While the creepy vibe makes her uneasy—it’s not just cluttered, but dark, dreary, and gross—it’s not until she sees the moth land on a spool that she knows he’s the killer. Had he been a better housekeeper and kept better track of his pets, then perhaps Starling wouldn’t have caught on.


Try this... An investigator enters a victim or suspect’s home. What questions arise based on what she finds or how it’s kept? What could be something entirely eerie about it—like family pictures hanging upside down on the walls or a jar of dried worms in the spice rack or a collection of doll heads where the TV should be?


Okay, okay... it doesn't have to be sinister. Many unique house-finds could reveal characters. How about a pencil holder filled with Twizzlers or pretzel sticks? Or more cat furniture than actual furniture? Or stacks of mail with overdue notice stamps on them? You can say a lot about someone looking around their house... with fewer words than explaining.


Oh, here's another one...


What about a conscientious robber? She’s cased a home for weeks, followed the owners, knows their routines. Though she’s never been inside the home, her experience tells her that it’s a goldmine. Only she breaks in to discover the house is a freaking disaster! Junk and clutter everywhere! She can barely move around without stepping on something, let alone finding the good stuff. *This could easily be a comedy* Will the homeowners even notice they’ve been robbed? Or *being sinister music*… what secrets might our robber discover about her targets? And what might they do to her if they come home early?


Da, da, da.


Here's a great article on what your home says about you... some things I hadn't considered.


So, what’s your take on messy abodes? Share your junk drawers and story ideas below!


Want more writing ideas? Check out www.coffeebrained.com

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