Archive for September, 2013

Clutter: Creativity:: Cleanliness: Conventionality. Cool.

IMG_8050Two weeks into the Fall semester, and my workspace is a mess already! I tidy up at the end of each term, but it never takes long for the [not-so]comfortably hectic piles to grow, sometimes, it seems, of their accord. Indeed, there are days when I am secretly envious of my colleagues who keep their offices in a constant state of order. I’ve always been this way, and there are times when the mess makes me a little crazy. Yet, there are also times when the mess feels just about right.

Given my ambivalence about the state of my workspace, you can image my delight when I came across a summary of recent research examining – experimentally no less – relations between a tidy (vs messy) workspace and outcome variables like creativity and conventionality. In the press release titled “Tidy Desk or Messy Desk, Each has its Benefits” the current “take away” from the set of studies published to date is that:

  • Messy work spaces stimulate creative solutions to unusual problems
  • Tidy work spaces stimulate conventionality and “doing what’s right”

So maybe that’s why I feel compelled to clean house before I sit down to pay the monthly bills (or clean the kitchen before planning the shopping list, or, you get the idea….)! And now I’ve got a new view on that quirk of mine too, that I really don’t mind the mess at work too much, yet, I really do prefer my home to be neat-and-tidy (despite the fact that it is often a bit of a mess too). It all makes so much sense now. Thanks, Dr. Vohs, for this happy bit of insight.

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