Monday, August 12, 2013

An Upside to Messiness?

by Kate Collins

I don't know how you operate, but I don't work well if there is clutter on or around my desk. It distracts me. But I know people who don't seem to be bothered by a messy desk and I've often wondered how they manage.

Turns out, a new study snows that a messy work environment can bring out a person's creativity and lead to the birth of bold, new ideas. A less- than-perfect work environment can make a person more likely to think out of the box.

According to the findings, "Orderly environments would encourage adherence to social convention and overall conservatism, whereas disorderly environments would encourage people to seek novelty and unconventional routes."

"Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe."
This is just one study, so I'm not taking it that seriously. If you've read any of the Flower Shop Mysteries, you know that my main character, Abby Knight, always thinks outside the box. She's very inventive when it comes to solving a murder case, and what she invents comes directly from my head. And I'm a neat freak. 
My theory is that there are people who do their best work in tidy environments and those who don't really pay attention to what's around them, so do their best work wherever. I have to keep so many details in my head -- all the intricacies of my main characters, all of the suspects and their means, motives, and opportunities, all the subpots and minor characters, not to mention my personal appointments, bills to pay, etc. --   that I need to keep my immediate environment bare. That way I can focus on the clutter in my head, and make sense of it.
That's not to say a cluttered desk is bad. According to this study. something good can come from either setting. A tidy workplace may help people walk a straight line. A messy desk may help them figure out a new way to keep from walking at all.
Which type are you?



9 comments:

Merry Lu said...

Messy with a capital 'M'.

Aurian said...

Lol I try to keep my desk tidy, as in I know where everything is in which pile, and hope that at the end of the workday, everything has been handled so my desk is bare. Unfortunately, that never happens. A clean desk never stays that way for more than a day at home either.

Aislynn T said...

I'm a bit of both. At work I need my desk tidy, organized and everything in it's place. At home my desk is messy, piles everywhere... and I know exactly where everything is.

Kate Collins said...

I'm like you, Aislynn. I have two desks -- one where I write, which is ultra neat, and one where I pay bills, open mail, etc. and that one is always a mess.

Ramona said...

Organized chaos....I do several different things (writing, editing, teaching) and each seems to demand its own pile. The past few months, when I want to write only, I take my laptop into the guest room, which is always neat. It's more serene than my office, and I've discovered I like that, a lot.

Suekrek said...

This is perfect timing for me. I have been at our cottage in Northern Michigan all summer. When I needed an employee number to fill in a form, I asked my husband to look for it on my desk downstate. I was on the phone suggesting where it might be on my admittedly messy desk. He was muttering and complaining the entire time. Then, the next day on FB, someone quoted Einstein saying something like "A cluttered desk shows a mind full of ideas. What then, does an empty desk show?" I sent it to my husband right away, saying I
must be an Einstein! (That quote is not exact, BTW.)

Barbara said...

My desk looks like a tornado just went through and I must admit I don't know where anything is. Thus, the simplest request or need for a form sets me off on a frantic search which may or may not find the object I require. I keep saying I'll clean it off and see what a tidy desk can do for me, but that's all I do about it - say I'll clean it, maybe tomorrow.

Joanie said...

I always have a lot going on, and at least three big projects running concurrently--and don't even get me started about the household stuff I take care of without even thinking about it. So, to everyone in my family my space looks, well, shall we say "overfilled?" I know where everything is, and can lay hands on anything important in a second, but it doesn't match the expectations of others. However, every project I have--either with my writing business or household tasks--is color-coded. That helps me quickly narrow down "like" items and is probably one of the reasons I can find things so quickly, regardless of how much is sitting on my desk or in drawers, etc.

Sue said...

Don't touch a thing on my messy desk---I know where everything is located.