Are you too messy? Instead of a filing cabinet, do you have piles of folders bursting to the seams? Is your Rolodex covered with doodles, while your drawers are full of loose business cards? Do memos arrive at your desk only to be tossed in an overstuffed trash can or linger in eternity amid a heap of their forgotten brethren?
We’re trained to think that messiness is evil and unproductive. But there might be a method to all that madness.
It turns out science can explain. There’s fairly robust psychological evidence that messiness isn’t just symptomatic of poor standards or effort, but might actually provoke creativity.
That’s the hypothesisis that, as psychologist Kathleen Vohs writes in the New York Times, “being around messiness would lead people away from convention, in favor of new directions.” To test this hypothesis, Vohs invited 188 adults to rooms that were either tidy or “messy, with papers and books strewn around haphazardly.” [read]