When you were young, your mother tried—and hopefully succeeded at—teaching you the importance of tidiness. Although you probably ignored her advice throughout your teenage and college years, especially during finals, you eventually acknowledged she was right. If not, you risk teasing or even criticism from your roommate, spouse or boss, or even dear old Mom when she comes to visit.
Still, some people are tidier than others, and given our natural human curiosity, we wanted to know who they are and where they live. Figuring that out, though, is no easy task. It’s time-consuming and embarrassing to knock on the neighbors’ doors and ask to inspect their desks and closets for clutter. It’s creepy and maybe even illegal to wait until they go on vacation and peek through their garage windows.
So we decided to skip doing anything that might brand us as the neighborhood kook or get us charged with trespassing. Instead, we collected and analyzed data to determine where the neatest, most organized Americans live.
Combing Through the Data
For the 100 most populated metro areas in the U.S., we looked at how much people spend, as a share of their income, on cleaning supplies; how many maids and housekeepers work in the area; and how many square feet of storage space is available per capita.
Next, we adjusted for some location-specific characteristics. For instance, Las Vegas has more than four times the number of maids and housekeepers as Kansas City, even though the two cities have roughly the same population. A large share of the discrepancy results from Las Vegas being home to the largest number of hotel rooms of any U.S. metro area. Those rooms need to be cleaned, and considering what sometimes happens in Vegas, they need to be cleaned thoroughly. The high number of maids and housekeepers in Las Vegas and other places with tourism-focused economies doesn’t necessarily mean the residents are tidy.
We focused our adjustments on just those cities where the tourism industry dominates. Cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all draw plenty of tourists every year, but they also all have more diverse economies than cities like Las Vegas, Orlando and Honolulu.
The 10 Tidiest Towns
The adjusted numbers resulted in SpareFoot’s ranking of the Tidiest Towns in America.
If you live in one of our 10 Tidiest Towns, take comfort in knowing your neighbors probably aren’t too likely to appear on “Hoarders” anytime soon. Here’s our list.
1. Albuquerque, NM: Our winner boasts nearly 11 square feet of storage space per person, and residents spend an average of $662 a year for housekeeping supplies on per capita income of $35,000.
Metro population: 901,700
Fast fact: Albuquerque enjoys sunshine 310 days of the year.
2. Little Rock, AR: This city has more storage space per person than Albuquerque—nearly 13 square feet—but residents spend less each year on housekeeping supplies and employ fewer maids and housekeepers.
Metro population: 717,666
Fast fact: The “cheese dog” was invented in Little Rock.
3. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL: This coastal area, a little more than an hour southeast of fellow top city Orlando, grabbed third place mainly because of its large amount of self-storage space: 13.6 square feet per person.
Metro population: 547,307
Fast fact: The region is known as the Space Coast, thanks to the presence of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
4. Chattanooga, TN: This city doesn’t stand out in any one category but instead got high scores across all metrics.
Metro population: 537,889
Fast fact: The Moon Pie was introduced in the area in 1917.
5. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL: Residents here spend almost as much as residents of Albuquerque do on housekeeping supplies, but they also average higher incomes, meaning the share of their income devoted to tidying up is smaller.
Metro population: 645,293
Fast fact: Thomas Edison spent many winters in Fort Myers.
6. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL: There’s more storage space per person here than there is in Albuquerque, but there also are fewer maids and housekeepers.
Metro population: 595,309
Fast fact: The first Daytona 500 race took place in 1959.
7. Baton Rouge, LA: This city scores seventh in large part because of its above-average number of maids and housekeepers and its ample storage space.
Metro population: 815,298
Fast fact: Baton Rouge is home to Louisiana State University.
8. Charleston, SC: Charleston and Orlando nearly tied in the rankings, but Charleston grabs eighth place because of the amount of storage space there.
Metro population: 697,439
Fast fact: The first game of golf played in the U.S. happened in Charleston.
9. Orlando, FL: Even after adjusting for the large number of maids and housekeepers working in the tourism industry, Orlando remains in the top 10, thanks to above-average scores on the other metrics.
Metro population: 2,223,674
Fast fact: The Disney World complex opened near Orlando in 1971.
10. Spokane, WA: Spokane rounds out the top 10 thanks in part to the amount of money residents spend on cleaning supplies.
Metro population: 532,253
Fast fact: Spokane hosted the World’s Fair in 1974.
‘There’s No Place to Hide It’
One reason for Albuquerque’s victory may be the local architecture. Residences don’t have attics or basements, boosting the popularity of self-storage, said Liz Davenport of Albuquerque, a professional organizer who owns Order from Chaos.
“One of the other side effects of not having attics and basements is your clutter is right in front of you,” she said. “There’s no place to hide it, and because it’s right there, it bugs you.”
The Least Tidy Towns
If you live in one of the least tidy cities, however, you may find there’s not much space to store your clutter. All these cities had far less than the national average storage space of 7.55 square feet per person. In fact, they averaged only about 4 square feet per person, which is all the more reason to consider getting help finding extra space.
Residents in the least tidy cities also were well below average in their spending, as a share of their income, on cleaning supplies. And these areas employ, on average, about half as many maids and housekeepers per person as first-place city Albuquerque does.
Here’s our list of the 10 least tidy cities.
91. Los Angeles: More than 30,000 people work as maids or housekeepers in the Los Angeles area, but when that’s spread out over the area’s large population, it doesn’t help its ranking much.
Metro population: 13,052,921
Fast fact: L.A. is the only North American city to be a two-time host of the Summer Olympics.
92. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA: Oxnard’s only about an hour northwest of L.A., and its residents spend significantly more than the average on housekeeping supplies, but the small number of maids and housekeepers here keep the area’s ranking low.
Metro population: 835,981
Fast fact: Oxnard was the first U.S. city to elect a mayor of Chinese descent.
93. Detroit: Detroit actually beats Oxnard in terms of maids and housekeepers per person but loses when it comes to storage space.
Metro population: 4,292,060
Fast fact: Detroit was the first U.S. city to install a traffic light.
94. Philadelphia: The only metric where Philadelphia is even close to the average is maids and housekeepers per person. For the others, it’s below average.
Metro population: 6,018,800
Fast fact: The country’s first daily newspaper was published in Philadelphia in 1784.
95. Boston: This city has close to the average number of maids and housekeepers per person, but its small amount of storage space per person—just over four square feet—does it no favors.
Metro population: 4,640,802
Fast fact: Harvard, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, was the first college established in North America.
96. San Jose, CA: San Jose boasts median household income of $61,000 a year, yet area residents still spend less on housekeeping and cleaning supplies than average.
Metro population: 1,894,388
Fast fact: More than half the adults in Silicon Valley have earned college degrees.
97. Baltimore: This city’s scarcity of storage space—barely more than 3.5 square feet per person—is the biggest drag on Baltimore‘s ranking.
Metro population: 2,753,149
Fast fact: Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was born in Baltimore.
98. Worcester, MA: Unlike its (sort of) neighbor Boston, it’s the small number of maids and housekeepers per person that keeps Worcester from being tidier.
Metro population: 923,762
Fast fact: The birth control pill was developed in Shrewsbury, a Worcester suburb.
99. New York City: Perhaps it’s no surprise, but New York City has the least storage space per person. That, combined with below-average spending on cleaning supplies, means it’s nearly in last place.
Metro population: 19,831,858
Fast fact: About one of every 38 U.S. residents lives in New York City.
100. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: Residents here have slightly more storage space available than their New York neighbors. But as a share of their income, they spend the least on cleaning supplies. It’s only fair to point out that per-capita income here is high. In fact, it’s more than $32,000 higher than Oxnard’s.
Despite the efforts of moms everywhere, though, tidiness is tough for some people to maintain. If you’re among them, don’t worry too much. You’re in the majority, according to Davenport.
Sixty percent of people acknowledge they’re disorganized, and some research suggests messy environments can foster creativity. Even Albert Einstein was skeptical of the value of tidiness, reportedly asking: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then is an empty desk a sign?”
We don’t know the answer to his question, but we do know where you’re most likely to find the people who make their moms proud by keeping not just their rooms but also their whole houses clean.
Data sources: Geographic Research Inc., 2013 Self-Storage Almanac, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau