Why Your Room is Messy: a Theory

Haley Nahman | April 5, 2017

Where The F Do You Put Your Not-Quite-Dirty Clothes? Man Repeller-01

It seems like simple math, doesn’t it? When you’re finished with a piece of clothing, you put it away and move on with your life. This way, your bedroom is always tidy. This way, clothes never pile up until they resemble a cotton monster more ominous than the sum of their parts. Bite-sized exertions of effort equal a lifetime of payoff, plus a superiority complex. Maybe you’ll even start drinking green juice.

I’m here to declare these unrealistic bedroom standards. It is my personal belief that the order of our rooms is not solely at the behest of our own self-discipline. Because such a way of thinking implicates the togetherness of our shit and ignores the true culprit: PURGATORY CLOTHES.


purgatory clothes
[pur-guh-tohr-ee klohz]

1. Garments that are not dirty enough to go in the hamper, but are not clean enough to go back in the closet or dresser.

2. Garments that you are open to wearing again should the need arise, but you also wouldn’t mind throwing in with your next load of laundry should that be happening soon.

Welcome to my room, feel free to step around a mountain of my purgatory clothes.


Purgatory clothing storage can take many forms, one of the most popular being The Chair. The Chair is a piece of furniture which you bought with the intention of perching upon it daintily, perhaps while lacing up your shoes in the morning. However, the last time you actually sat in The Chair you were young, naive and exhausted from move-in day. So lost is the true purpose of The Chair, you hardly even remember what it looks like.

Maybe one day you moved The Chair out of your bedroom, unfairly vilifying it as a mess enabler — when really the issue was the lack of modern solutions for purgatory clothes — and now, in its place, is The Top of Your Dresser, The Frame of Your Bed, The Floor or any number of surfaces in your bedroom that, frankly, you haven’t seen in years.

It’s time we brought this issue out of the dark and into the light. If you suffer from this plight, it’s not your fault. Unburden yourself in the comments about where your purgatory clothes colonize. And if you don’t, find it in your heart to outline, in great detail, who you are, your wicked ways and why you’ve been keeping this a secret for so long. These are desperate times. WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Photo by Print Collector via Getty Images; collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.

  • Adrianna

    If I’d wear a piece of clothing again, I just put it back into the dresser or closet. Sometimes I’ll febreeze the garment first. If it’s too dirty to place it on top of other clothing, then it’s too dirty to wear again.

    Another solution is hiding ‘purgatory’ clothing under my comforter on my bed. I do this because I wear purgatory clothing as pajamas. (I live in NYC, therefore don’t waste storage space with actual pajamas)

    • k

      But it’s not black and white clean vs. dirty, there’s a continuum of clean-not unclean-has a few wears-could be time to wash. I need to keep clothes I’ve already worn separated from the actually clean ones to keep track. I have a basket for these. For underwear and enfilthened clothing I have a standard-size baggu that I hang on the bathroom door that I use as a laundry bag (it’s washable and has a pretty large capacity).

      • Adrianna

        I think living in smaller spaces limited how obsessive I can get about my clothing. If it doesn’t smell, it’s going back in the closet.

      • Tatiana

        Yeah but the clothes you’ve worn that aren’t actually clean will just get musty if they are kept in a basket. Keeping them on the floor ensures aeration.

  • Abby

    If I wore my clothes out of the house, they’re dirty. Everything goes right in the hamper after it’s worn. Drives my husband nuts, cause I put his purgatory clothes in there too, but anything to avoid a messy bedroom since that’s my calm and happy place!

  • Well … I even went and invented one (!) purgatory chair for both of us … which I even succeed in emptying from time to time.
    Sometimes I think it would have been useful to be catholic 🙂

  • Charlotte Dallin

    I refuse to put anything back in my wardrobe if I’ve worn it. However, I ditched ‘The Chair’ a few years back in favour of an over-the-door-multi-hook. Too gross to wear again = laundry basket. Not gross enough to wash yet = ON THE DOOR.

    • Meg S

      Going to steal this strategy. I don’t just have a chair. I have a chair in my bedroom, and two chairs in my living space. One is my “coat chair” that I no longer need because spring is finally here and I can go the light cardigan route that walks me into summer. The other is for purgatory clothes. I’ve recently spread out into using floor space for purgatory clothes. I’m going to try and reign it in a little.

    • _lauristia

      Mastered the door hook about a month ago, need to make more space at my closet, have so many clothes I don’t use or need.

  • I have a very chic pouf that is supposed to just have 2 fashion magazines perched atop it and my current favored, most-fabulous shoes next to it. But instead it’s piled high with half folded purgatory clothes and my hair iron and sometimes a random, ugly shoe.

  • Cherylann Pasha

    YES! I have a white fur chair which I placed in the corner that I naively called my reading nook. I have literally never sat in it. It is covered with a monstrous pile of purgatory clothes.

  • Shwetha

    This has always been me. More so now post having my daughter. Hey a crib is a great place for the purgatory clothes/laundered clothes that need folding etc… My biggest issue is folding, I simply HATE it! I always wish there was a machine to do just that. Recently I adopted the Konmari method to organize, let’s see how far that goes!

    • Tatiana

      try podcasting while folding. unflappable improvement.

  • Megan

    Oh gosh this is so accurate. And it’s 10% boyfriend, 90% me.

  • Maren Douglas

    “Maybe I’ll put my clothes away and sit in my chair and read a book” .. – things I think as I am eating in my bed while watching Netflix

  • Jaya

    I bought a small rolling clothes rack and that is now my purgatory area. No more messy chair/room!

  • cHspalds

    I definitely have The Chair. And I also have The Side Of The Bed On Which I Don’t Sleep because #singlelife.

  • Ola

    I have a wide sort of bamboo ladder and that’s my designated purgatory area! Highly recommend it, takes super little space but you can throw a bunch of things on it.

  • robert

    I do regularly pile my clothes in a corner of the room for a long time and I let this disorder grow until it becomes a fairly high mountain to fill my 2 explorer backpacks so that when i go to the laundry I feel like taking a hike in the Andes.
    http://www.vivaguides.com/

  • G De Siena

    Clothes On Chair, ongoing installation, North London https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c16dd3f39e9f6c7d3cb8a5a66f7daec0de6fb42ab82b5ef09eb3583ac07341c.png

    (PS: this photo is of my former room, I have now upgraded to a leather armchair that quickly became the Clean-Clothes-Waiting-To-Be-Folded-Chair. Can’t remember the last time I sat on it )

  • Beccy E.

    “Back of Couch” for this girl. Since it’s right next to my tiny closet in my tiny apartment in Brooklyn. I’d put my purgatory clothes back in my dresser if I had room/if I wasn’t lazy.

  • Nidhi

    LOL. story of my life! I had once created a special basket, separate from my laundry basket for these special need garments. Now there are hooks and a dresser top inside my (small) walk-in closet where I regularly house purg. clothes. Maybe the lack of a chair in my room led to some of these innovative solutions 🙂

  • Nadine Benny

    Sometimes I temporarily move the purgatory clothes from The Chair onto the bed so I can sit in The Chair just to see what it feels like. Full disclosure though, The Chair was in fact purchased for this reason. We are realistic about our habits. I believe the bottom layer of purgatory clothes on The Chair are actually maternity dresses (PS our youngest child is 2).

  • My purgatory clothes go on the floor. I’ve tried a basket, but that got pushed to the back of my closet and I forgot about it. I’ve also tried being more diligent about what is honestly dirty, and if it isn’t, it goes back in the drawer or closet. Moving to a 1 bedroom apartment and sharing a closet with my husband has helped me to improve. But still, some items are just purgatory clothes!

  • Kirby

    my purgatory clothes just go right back into the closet/dresser..people always think its weird but i rarely ever think of my clothes as “dirty” unless there is noticeable dirt on it…is that gross?

    • Adrianna

      I’m with you. Reading these comments I’m trying to understand where this perception of unclean is coming from. It’s similar to how Americans won’t wear the same pair of pants two days in a row, compared to Chinese employees in my office who will wear the same outfit all week.

  • Emily Dallam

    It’s actually officially called a Chairdrobe. Expected more from you, MR!

  • missmg

    Hahah this is so good. I had a chair in my old room at my rents house and it was ALWAYS covered in clothes then I moved into my own place and purposely refused to put a chair in my bedroom which had plenty of space for it because I didn’t want to enable my bad habit turns out it wasn’t the bloody chairs fault it’s meeee I just pile all the purgatory clothes on top of my dresser which was meant to artfully display hardback books and marble photo frames but haven’t seen these items in months. I hate people who are like “Just put your clothes away straight away” but why waste time doing that when the bed is right there and you can lovingly drape your clothes on it and then when you go to sleep move said clothes to your dresser/chair/…? Duh

  • Arianna Aguilar
    • Rachel

      My solution too! I don’t always put stuff on it immediately but at least I have a semi-organized option now.

  • Hayley

    I hang my purgatory clothes on the (oft-neglected for intended use) pull-up bar to air out for a day, and if they still smell, then they go in the hamper.

  • Ash

    I have perfected the art of the “purgatory clothes hamper.” I have a hamper solely for dirty clothes and then bought one more I can throw my jeans, hoodies, whatever I might want to wear again into. Sure, they might get a little wrinkled, but nothing a quick spin in the dryer can’t take care of.

    • Tracy Jenkins

      yes! I have the same method. It works very well until both hampers become over full and then there is a grey line mixture on the floor that eventually has to all go in the dirty one and be washed. Then the washed ones stay in the hamper and I don’t wind up putting it away. repeat cycle.

  • Tatiana

    The clothes-creep starts along the walls. Once I cannot make it to bed in the dark I know things have gone too far.

  • nathaliea

    On point especially in transitional weather! These days I change three to six times before leaving the house to ensure I won’t be too hot or too cold, and leave a strew of potential layers behind me, amalgamated on the chair. This problem is usually resolved in the dead of summer or winter, or when (like in the fall) I love an outfit so much I wear it a few times in a row. Woops!

  • Lindsey Trent

    I’m so glad I’m not alone! We have a trunk with blankets in it at the end of the bed and my “purgatory clothes” have a nice little pile there. That thing is never clean!

  • Semilore Oluwatayo

    lool mine is literally a chair