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A Perfect Mess April 1, 2007

Posted by Brian Mulligan in environment, Workplaces.

I came across a book review in my search for interesting topic for a blog. I’m probably going to read this book, but thought the review for the book seems awesome for somebody who loves to be messy.

The title of the article is “Why Clean Up Your Desk? Delight in Disorder Instead.”

The article explains a lot about the book and how it is very similar to “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.” Basically, the book praises being messy. They use an example of a messy desk.

They say that it’s a great way to stay organized. The most important stuff is on the top and can be easily accessed in a time of need. The less important papers will make their way to the bottom of the stack. They also use Los Angeles as another example in the article.

They say that an unplanned city like LA makes it easier for people to access the most important establishments and restaurants. They also claim that it takes more time to be neat versus being messy and it may not be worth cleaning up all the time.

Do you think that its worth it? Do you like to be messy or neat? How does this effect an organization and it’s morals?



1. Stephanie - April 2, 2007

As someone who loves to clean and organize, I definitely don’t keep a messy desk. But I have learned not to criticize others for their techniques in keeping things together (although I usually offer my help if they want things in a more traditionally tidy fashion). I can see though how a messy desk in some round about way organizes papers through a somewhat natural selection process- as the important ones rise to the top and the others are lost and forgotten about. But this may not be the best situation. Eventually others – especially in the working environment- are going to need to locate something of yours when you’re not around, and if this needs to be done in a hurry, the natural approach of letting papers sort themselves may not cut it.

2. Elaine - April 3, 2007

That is such an interesting topic. Now I can legitimately argue my way out of a messy room, ha. Actually, I’m a neat person, but I’m just lazy. I do believe that I find things better sometimes when my room is a mess. I know exactly where I left everything. An organization, however, is way more complicated, and I believe it should be more orderly than not. I can’t see an organization getting very far when it is not conducted in a planned way.

3. Janine - April 3, 2007

I like to be neat. It is a way to control and order my life, and I would like to think that an organization would want to do the same thing. Think about it. There are many different componants, divisions, and groups within an organization. Therefore, how can one function properly if the people involved are a mess? Can a manager manage his or her responsibilities effectively if his or her desk and his tasks are unorganized?

Now, I can see where some of you may come off and say that a messy person knows where everything is. But, truthfully, how organized is that person, and do they really have control over things in their life?

4. Jordi - April 3, 2007

It is hard for me to imagine anything about LA being exemplary in terms of city planning to replicate. I am as messy as the next absent-minded knowledge worker, but that logic applied to transportation infrastructure seems to lead to massive congestion all the time as the people have to transport themselves by car everywhere all the time. If I can take ten minutes, clean off my messy desk, and then chuck the unimportant three inches, then there is no clear analogy for LA. How do you “get rid of” the layers of the transportation system that seem unimportant? Are those the ones that serve poorer or working class neighborhoods/ Does the messiness of LA exacerbate inequality or frustrate individuals trying to earn a living or improve their lot?

One reference: City of Quartz by Mike Davis:

5. Stacey Swift - April 3, 2007

I think organization is necessary sometimes, and city planning is definitely a time to be organized. Once planned, it is very difficult to change. I live outside D.C. and I constantly wish the Metro went to Georgetown, would it have been that difficult when it was built? Now it is too late. It is important to take the time and organize a city.
Personally, my desk is organized on the surface, but the drawers are a mess, I think because it takes too much time. Recently I have been losing everything, including my ipod (i found it later) and my goo goo dolls ticket. I now wish I took the time before to stay organized, cause it pays of in the end.

6. breichen - April 4, 2007

While many would argue that being organized is a greater virtue than being messy, I think that the value of being messy vs. being organized can only really be judged on an individual scale. For me, being messy works. This is only because I am organized within my messiness however. In terms of an organization though, I feel that the organization as whole needs to be “neat” rather than “messy”. When so many people are involved, so many connections are established, and so many channels of communication exist, messiness would cause for organizational failure.

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