If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk? — Albert Einstein
I’m not naturally an organized person. It seems there is some set point of disorder and clutter that occurs around me; if I de-clutter and organize, things quickly return to their disordered set point. I find those pictures of minimalist workspaces and homes very aesthetically pleasing. I love the look of them, but I fail to achieve anything close. From a personal productivity approach I think I’ve tried about every system and I can never stick with them. For whatever reason, it seems I’m just not wired to work that way.
I recently picked up a delightful bargain book called A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place. The authors make a compelling argument that the time spent on organizing, planning, and keeping things uncluttered is simply not worth it; that you spend more time organizing than you save as a result of being organized.
They go further and argue that in many cases messiness and disorder is a good thing. They give interesting examples like Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin because his lab was a dirty, messy, and cluttered place; something that would not have happened in a clean and organized lab. Some of my favorite examples were messy and unorganized small business like hardware stores or bookstores that make more profit than nearby highly ordered and organized megastores.
The argument is basically that organization is inflexible and resistant to new information, changing circumstances, and unexpected events. On the other hand messy systems are flexible and allow more creative connections of apparently unrelated information. This really resonated with me. They describe 12 kinds of messiness: clutter, mixture, time sprawl, improvisation, inconsistency, blur, noise, distraction, bounce, convolution, inclusion, and distortion.
This book was an enjoyable read and made some excellent points. The message I took from this book was to accept your natural tendencies. Don’t be pressured by the culture to change. Starting with your parents’ demands to clean up your room and continuing with your regimented school and work lives, you are bombarded by the message that neat, planned, and organized is good and messy, unplanned, and disorganized is bad. Well maybe not. This may be an extreme minority view as it is the first time I have encountered it this way, but I loved it. I found it utterly compelling and convincing. From this day forward I am embracing my messy and disorganized self. What about you?
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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