I have never been a neat freak, and with my husband and his “vertical filing” system (probably should be called a “piling” system), and two kids with all their stuff, things can get pretty cluttered! I clean frequently, but when I organize things they seem to find their way back out in a day or two. I always felt that I should spend more of my time keeping everything in it’s place, and my lack of interest in these tasks always felt like a failing on my part.
More recently, though, I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve come to see the really interesting games my kids come up with when they have different toys to play with. What if I didn’t let them play with the blocks and the legos at the same time? Would they come up with such creative ideas? And I see my desk the same way–of course you keep things organized well enough so you don’t have to spend all your time searching for things, but a completely spotless desk is too sterile and boring to me. I am always trying to come up with something new and different, which is more difficult (I reasoned) when everything is where it “belongs.”
Turns out it wasn’t just my rationalization! David H. Freedman has co-written a book called “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder,” and he comments on some of the drawbacks of being too neat in this recent article. “One, he says, is the loss of creativity. ‘If you make your environment very neat, you’re making everything predictable,’ he says. ‘You will lock out bad things — you’re less likely to be late, things are less likely to spill or break — but you’re also locking out luck.’ That messy desk or kitchen is more conducive to making the random connection that could lead to a scientific breakthrough or a new recipe.”
Even if I’ve decided not to feel guilty about something anymore, it always makes me feel better when an “expert” says it’s okay, too! So I’m not going to apologize anymore for being disorganized–I’ll keep everything clean, and a bit cluttered, too!