Monday, December 25, 2006

Disorder as the detritus of a creative mind...

This is the subtitle title of a recent essay in the New York Times, "Saying Yes to Mess", by Penelope Green. Being a tidy control freak (while my partner generates entropy and piles), I can't resist passing on some clips:

In the face of a booming home-organizing market (5.9 Billion last year), "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. It’s 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. "

David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson, in their forthcoming book "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," "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 Fleming’s laboratory that led to his discovery of penicillin, from a moldy bloom in a petri dish he had forgotten on his desk....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."

"In the semiotics of mess, desks may be the richest texts. Messy-desk research borrows from cognitive ergonomics, a field of study dealing with how a work environment supports productivity. Consider that desks, our work landscapes, are stand-ins for our brains, and so the piles we array on them are “cognitive artifacts,” or data cues, of our thoughts as we work.

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 Einstein’s oft-quoted remark, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Deric, I posted a rebuttal of sorts to that article on my blog, in case you are interested:

    http://www.its-not-about-your-stuff.com/2006/12/the_new_york_ti.html

    all the best!

    Jessica from It's Not About Your Stuff.

    ReplyDelete