Everything about your home and office—from your books and music to your pantry—gives the observant visitor clues to your psyche.

Everything about your home and office—from your books and music to your pantry—gives the observant visitor clues to your psyche.

By Sally Wadyka for MSN Health & Fitness

What Your Space Says About You // Woman decorating a wall (© Jens Lucking/Getty Images)

When you walk into a home or office, you can’t help but make some immediate assumptions about its occupants. Not just the obvious stuff—like whether they’re messy or neat—but deeper impressions about what sort of person inhabits the space, what they’re like, and even whether you’d want to be friends with them. But be careful not to jump to too many conclusions. “One of the biggest mistakes snoopers make is trying to interpret a single object,” says Samuel Gosling, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” (Basic Books, 2008). “You have to look for themes to get a real clue to someone’s personality.”

In his research, Gosling has decoded the clues that indicate the five big personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Here are some of the signals you may be sending—consciously or not—to your visitors.

What Your Space Says About You // Home library with chair (© Heather Weston/Getty Images)

Your books

Something as simple as your book shelf can reveal a surprising amount of information about you. Do you have a noticeably diverse library, with everything from pulp fiction to weighty non-fiction tomes? That’s a sign that of openness, and indicates that you are creative, imaginative, and willing to try new experiences. And if your collection is incredibly well-organized—neatly shelved and categorized by genre and author—you are bound to rate high on the scale of conscientiousness.

What Your Space Says About You // Man listening to music on earphones (© Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images)

Your music

A peek at your CD collection or playlists can yield more information about you than whether or not you’re a fan of Top 40. “We’ve found that extroverts tend to prefer music with vocals because they connect well with people, while introverts often favor instrumental music,” says Gosling says.

In his experiments of asking students to rank personality traits based on music lists, he found that those whose taste tended toward jazz and classical were thought to be more refined and intelligent, while rock and rap music fans were judged more likely to be less agreeable, and more likely to indulge in drugs and alcohol.

What Your Space Says About You // Mantel filled with framed photos (© moodboard/Corbis)

Your photos

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, turns out that the pictures you choose to display in your home or office—and the way in which you display them—speak volumes about your personality. Extroverts are people who love people, and they make that obvious by displaying lots of photos of themselves enjoying good times with their wide circle of friends. Introverts, on the other hand, are more likely to use pictures of objects or scenery to decorate their space.

Where your pictures sit—especially in your office—is also very telling. Photos of your spouse or kids that sit on your desk where you can see them are what Gosling calls “feeling regulators”—little mementos that make us feel better when we look at them. But if those same photos are pointing away from you and toward your visitors, you’re announcing, “Look at my gorgeous spouse and beautiful kids.” “The same photo can serve very different purposes,” says Gosling says.

What Your Space Says About You // Wall of contemporary art (© Jeffrey Green/Corbis)

Your artwork

According to Gosling, those who rate highest in openness tend to be creative, imaginative, artistic types. So if you walk into someone’s home and see it decorated with unique, original artwork, you can be fairly certain that’s the type of personality you’re dealing with. And by artwork, that can also mean any sort of distinctive, you’ve-never-seen-one-before object, like a lamp made out of a vodka bottle and filled with Prozac tablets (something Gosling’s snoops really did see!).

What Your Space Says About You // Messy drawer (© Ross M. Horowitz/Getty Images)

Messy or neat

If you walk into someone’s office and the desk looks incredibly clean, neat and organized, your instinct will be to judge the person whose office it is as highly conscientious and very on top of things. But before you make that call, you need to dig a little deeper. “Look inside the desk drawers,” advises Gosling says. “If the person is truly, deeply, structurally tidy [and thus conscientious], the drawers will also be neatly organized.” But maybe the desk top is clean only because the person swept all their her junk into the drawers right before you walked in. In that case, the person would actually rank very low on conscientiousness.

What Your Space Says About You // Wall with notes and letters (© Gunilla Lundstrom/Getty Images)

The notes, letters and messages you keep

Written messages—especially those you choose to display in places where both you and others can see them—offer interesting clues to your inner workings. Postcards from far-flung friends are a sign of an extrovert. You’re a person who has a large circle of friends and loves to stay in touch with every one of them. Those who rank high in agreeableness also value maintaining connections to people—but in a more sentimental way. Look for things like thank-you notes and heart-felt birthday cards. Someone who has inspirational quotes and motivational mantras on display most likely falls under the personality trait of neuroticism. “These are thought and feeling regulators that someone who is neurotic, anxious and worried will use to self-medicate,” says Gosling says.

What Your Space Says About You // Cluttered desktop (© Adam Friedberg/Corbis)


The word conjures up images of homes made nearly uninhabitable by the sheer volume of stuff that’s piled up absolutely everywhere. But as with most environmental evidence, hoarding can be a sign of several different personality traits. Eric Abrahamson, a Columbia University professor and author of “A Perfect Mess,”  divides hoarders into three categories. The “utilitarian hoarders” are those who hold onto anything and everything they think they might need to use someday. One who collects old letters, bills, receipts, and other records of their his life he calls a “narcissistic hoarder.” And those who save mementos of meaningful experiences—like childhood toys, vacation souvenirs, or a favorite plate that’s now broken—Abrahamson calls “sentimental hoarders.”

What Your Space Says About You // Organized kitchen pantry (© Don Farrall/Getty Images)

Your pantry

There are those whose cupboards are filled with half-empty boxes and containers; people who are likely to not realize they’re low on supplies until the last drop of milk or flake of cereal has been poured out. And then there are the highly conscientious types whose pantries are not only well-organized, but perpetually well-stocked. If you aren’t one of these people, you’ll want to have one as a neighbor—they’ll always have extra rolls of toilet paper or cans of tomato sauce handy if you run out.



What Your Space Says About You // Home office (© Peter Anderson/Getty Images)

Your furniture arrangement

Is your office set up for one, or made to accommodate a crowd? Introverts will set up their spaces for their own comfort, but might not even have a spare chair to offer visitors (because, to be honest, they’d rather no one visited). But extroverts will go out of their way to create spaces that foster social interaction. The door is always open. There might be a candy dish out to lure in guests, and there will definitely be comfy chairs to encourage visitors to linger longer.

Originally presented at http://health.msn.com/healthy-living/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100253788&imageindex=1