I live in an uninhabitable ‘boy room’ – can a comedian save me from myself? | Homes

Snowboarding boots on the kitchen table. A steering wheel in the bedroom. And clothes absolutely everywhere, with no system to determine which, if any, are clean.

These are just a few of the sights that indicate you’re in a boy room. It’s a bedroom with no form and little function, inhabited by an adult male who doesn’t think much about either concept. The decor, if you can call it that, generally consists of arbitrary trinkets – a favorite old skateboard on the wall, a handful of childhood action figures on the windowsill. The floor is often difficult to see thanks to the density of piled-up sneakers or trash. The best you can say for the furniture is that there might be some; otherwise the resident sleeps on a bare mattress set directly on the floor, with a single pillow and a coverless duvet insert.

To an outsider, it may seem immature, even inhospitable. Now, the comedian Rachel Coster is investigating the phenomenon for her TikTok/Instagram series Boy Room.

In every episode, a twenty- or thirtysomething man living in New York City offers up his bedroom for anthropological study. Poking around the room, Coster asks the boys questions about their decor.

“What’s that down there?” she asks Luke, 24, pointing to a dirty container next to a stepstool. “It’s a bottle of bleach,” he replies.

“What’s with the hat?” she asks Jerome, 32, pointing to a baseball cap under the bed. “That’s the cat’s hat,” he explains.

Some videos have veered further into the surreal – one features a windowless room with its resident’s nickname painted on the wall like a horror film; another boy wears a nightcap and has an empty box of condoms taped to his wall.

Rachel Coster investigates a phenomenon familiar to many who have dated in New York. Photograph: Courtesy Gymnasium

Coster then offers extremely practical tips to improve the space. “My vision for Blake’s room is if we got him maybe a garbage bin,” she suggests. “I would put all of the clothing that’s on the floor on to the racks that are readily available.”

The boys in question mostly come off earnest and likable, if a little perplexed at the attention. As one Instagram commenter put it: “Blake seems like a really chill guy. I think we’d have a lot in common.”

The idea for Boy Room came from a friend of Coster’s who said his room was “scaring every girl I’ve ever brought over”. She said she could help him fix it in a matter of hours. Just five weeks after the show’s launch, Coster’s most-viewed video has 2.7m views on TikTok, where Boy Room has more than 121,000 followers.

Perhaps that’s because she’s found such a rich topic: socializing, and especially dating, can mean exposure to a wealth of unfamiliar homes and lifestyles. Young men’s domestic lives have received particular scrutiny. On TikTok for example, users have identified “three quintessential NYC boy apartments” (the elder frat bro, the “my dad has money” guy, and the guy with a fireplace who will hurt your feelings), and highlighted “things in my boyfriend’s apartment that just make sense” (example: a salvaged fire hydrant, for some reason).

Why, exactly, are boy rooms the way they are? Coster theorizes that girls are raised with the expectation that they’ll take care of a home some day, and they “police each other” when it comes to cleanliness, whereas “when boys go over to each other’s rooms, they’re not like, ‘Hey, dude, why don’t you have more than one pillow?’” And of course there’s relentless advertising, she says: “Men are marketed: ‘You need to be stronger. You need to be able to focus. You need to be able to stay hard.’ For girls, it’s: ‘You should be beautiful, clean, your house should be pretty.”’

Allow TikTok content?

This article includes content provided by TikTok. We ask for your permission before anything is loaded, as they may be using cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click ‘Allow and continue’.

My significant other, possibly trying to send a message, first alerted me to Boy Room. At barely 39 years old, I’m very much a boy, and I have a room that I have been told in no uncertain terms would qualify for the show. Coster kindly agreed to assess it over video chat, since I live on the other side of the country.

Her first question was how I get across my bedroom, since I have a TV stand at the foot of my bed and together they take up the length of the room. I explained that I have to scramble over the bed to reach the closet. “Awesome,” she said. “And all your clothing is shoved into the cubbies,” she said of the boxes in my closet where I jam my clothes (I don’t have a dresser, but I don’t need one because I have the cubbies).

Some of the posters in the writer’s room have not yet fallen. Photograph: The Guardian

She also eyed my keepsakes pile (formerly a keepsakes bag that overflowed). It’s where I put stuff that I can’t bear to throw away, like postcards, a magic wand from a Halloween costume seven years ago, and a brochure for a hang-glider museum in Texas I don’t remember going to. My grandfather’s electric chess set is also in the pile. “Yeah, right where he would want it,” Coster said. “How long has that all been sitting there?”

“Since I moved here a year and a half ago, maybe?”

“And how often do you look through that stuff and say, like, ‘Wow, thank God I have this ‘Hoppy Easter’ card?”

Coster is “a big fan of tossing stuff” that you don’t regularly use. “I would really rather have my noise-cancelling headphones than a million letters from my parents,” she said before adding: “Maybe if they were dead, I would feel differently.”

She also suggested I put the keepsakes into a chest, or at least organize the pile into smaller stacks: “You’d find that there’s a better shape for it than a lump on the side of your room.” Her other key recommendation was putting the posters that had fallen from my wall back up, but thought it might be good to vary the theme a little bit. I suffer from what might be diagnosed as extreme anglophilia, and my posters include two maps of the UK, a vintage Underground ad, and a view of London from overhead. She said she’d “introduce maybe France or some other white European country for you to be excited about”.

In the end, Boy Room is on the boys’ side. Photograph: Courtesy Gymnasium

I actually already have a discarded poster of France, but the simplicity of her other suggestions made me want to swing into action – which I did the following weekend, rehanging the posters and getting rid of a few of the most egregious keepsakes, including a pair of glasses broken into two monocles.

Coster understands that getting rid of things can be difficult. “I think sentimentality and peace of mind don’t really go hand in hand, because if you’re always thinking about the past and always trying to protect things, then it’s really hard to stay in the present.” That said, straightening up can also be rewarding: “Whenever I wake up to a clean room, I’m in total heaven.”

Boy Room is full of jokes, but what sets it apart from standard internet trolling is its fundamental warmth. Yes, we’re laughing at these boys’ rooms, but Coster, who works with a small team including the director/cinematographer/editor Sexy Damion, is very much on the boys’ side. As she told one Boy Room client: “None of this has anything to do with your personality. You’re wonderful. You just don’t know what you’re doing with your space.”

She, and by extension we, simply want what’s best for these men, starting with the ability to navigate from one side of the room to the other without tripping. “My true desire is that everyone loves themselves enough to take care of their space if they can,” she said.

Snowboarding boots on the kitchen table, a steering wheel in the bedroom, and clothes scattered everywhere without any organization to determine cleanliness – these are common sights in a boy room. The bedroom lacks form and function, inhabited by an adult male who doesn’t prioritize either concept. Decor consists of random trinkets like an old skateboard on the wall or childhood action figures on the windowsill. The floor is usually concealed under piles of sneakers or trash, with basic furniture like a mattress directly on the floor, often without proper bedding.

Comedian Rachel Coster delves into this phenomenon through her TikTok/Instagram series Boy Room. Each episode features a young man in New York City offering his bedroom for study. Coster investigates their decor choices, pointing out peculiar items like a bottle of bleach or a cat’s hat under the bed.

The series has showcased surreal rooms, from one with the resident’s nickname painted on the wall to another with an empty box of condoms taped to the wall. Coster provides practical tips for room improvement, such as adding a garbage bin and organizing clothing onto available racks.

While the boys featured in the series come across as earnest and likable, some viewers find them relatable. Boy Room originated from Coster’s friend who sought help to revamp his room that scared off potential dates. The series quickly gained popularity on TikTok, attracting thousands of followers.

Coster speculates that societal expectations play a role in the differences between boy and girl rooms. Girls are often raised with the expectation of homemaking, leading to a focus on cleanliness, while boys may not prioritize such aspects. Advertising also reinforces gender stereotypes, urging men to be strong and focused, while women are encouraged to be beautiful and maintain a clean home.

Overall, Boy Room offers a humorous yet warm approach to room makeovers, aiming to help these men create a more functional and inviting space. Coster’s ultimate goal is for everyone to love themselves enough to care for their living environment.