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  • Writer's pictureChristine Myers Certified VA

Office Clutter: Chaos or a Sign You are a Genius?

man holding help sign above files

Where do you rank on the office clutter continuum? 

Do you clear off your desk at the end of every day or do you work with unlimited piles on the desk and floor? 

Now rank your productivity. Do you know where everything is in your messy confines or does the clutter take your breath away?

Experts have often disagreed about which is better for productivity and there are two differing thoughts. One group believes that clutter is a sign of internal struggle in a different area of your life while another group believes that clutter indicates your creative ability to think outside the box. 

A Messy Office May Indicate Personal Turmoil

According to professional organizer and author Ranka Burzan, “People who constantly live in a state of chaos are prone to procrastination and an inability to commit to work or relationships. They get anxious and overwhelmed with change and usually give up before they even start the project. Their finances and time are wasted; they feel stuck and bad about themselves."

If you’re a person with clutter, think about how you feel entering your cluttered room. Does it feel heavy to you, or difficult to breathe? Do you feel the weight of the clutter on your shoulders? For myself, I notice a definite change in energy, to the point where I open the door and immediately want to close it again.

When a Messy Desk Spurs Creativity

Some very significant geniuses were famous for working in messy quarters. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs are just three such brilliant minds who could be creative and change the world in a messy environment. In fact, Einstein is credited with this quote, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"

Researchers at the University of Minnesota studied the messy vs clean desk conundrum and published their findings in Psychological Science. Their subjects were divided into two groups: One group filled out questionnaires in a clean, tidy environment while the second group filled out their questionnaires in a messy environment.

Those in the clean surroundings tended to do good things, such as eat healthier foods, donate to charity, and basically do what was expected of them. However, all was not lost on those who filled out their questionnaires in a messy environment. 

In a separate experiment, researchers asked participants to develop new uses for a ping pong ball. Again, two groups participated and brainstormed, one in a clean environment and the other in a messy room. While both groups developed new ideas, those who sat in a messy room contributed more innovative and creative ideas according to impartial judges.

So, Which is Better: Messy or Clean?

Basically, the answer is to work in an environment that best suits you. I know, that’s boring, but your productivity is based upon your own work habits and your abilities to tune out distractions. If you know where everything is among your 20 piles of paper, don’t stress over it.

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