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NYTimes article: a mess is a good thing

pink_overalls
December 23, 2006

Did anyone read the article from last Sunday's Times that mentions studies done by two guys indicating that messiness can be productive? Here's a link, which I hope doesn't screw up the margins. It's easy to sign up as a NYTimes subscriber to view the story. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/21/garden/21mess.html?em&ex=1167022800&en=95382c27abc54e7a&ei=5087%0A

Here are some quotes from the story:

"An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat "office landscapes") and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. Its a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands."

And

"Mr. Freedman is co-author, with Eric Abrahamson, of "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," out in two weeks from Little, Brown & Company. The book is a meandering, engaging tour of beneficial mess and the systems and individuals reaping those benefits, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose mess-for-success tips include never making a daily schedule.

"As a corollary, the bookÂs authors examine the high cost of neatness  measured in shame, mostly, and family fights, as well as wasted dollars  and generally have a fine time tipping over orthodoxies and poking fun at clutter busters and their ilk, and at the self-help tips they live or die by. They wonder: Why is it better to pack more activities into one day? By whose standards are procrastinators less effective than their well-scheduled peers? Why should children have to do chores to earn back their possessions if they leave them on the floor, as many professional organizers suggest?

"In their book Mr. Freedman and Mr. Abrahamson describe the properties of mess in loving terms. Mess has resonance, they write, which means it can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world. It was the overall scumminess of Alexander FlemingÂs laboratory that led to his discovery of penicillin, from a moldy bloom in a petri dish he had forgotten on his desk."

And

"Stop feeling bad, say the mess apologists. There are more urgent things to worry about. Irwin Kula is a rabbi based in Manhattan and author of "Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life," which was published by Hyperion in September. "Order can be profane and life-diminishing," he said the other day. "ItÂs a flippant remark, but if youÂve never had a messy kitchen, youÂve probably never had a home-cooked meal. Real life is very messy, but we need to have models about how that messiness works."

And

" To a professional organizer brandishing colored files and stackable trays, cluttered horizontal surfaces are a horror; to cognitive psychologists like Jay Brand, who works in the Ideation Group of Haworth Inc., the huge office furniture company, their peaks and valleys glow with intellectual intent and showcase a mind whirring away: sorting, linking, producing. (By extension, a clean desk can be seen as a dormant area, an indication that no thought or work is being undertaken.)

His studies and others, like a survey conducted last year by Ajilon Professional Staffing, in Saddle Brook, N.J., which linked messy desks to higher salaries (and neat ones to salaries under $35,000), answer EinsteinÂs oft-quoted remark, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?"

I say, It's all about balance. Comments?

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