Stop Being So Neat — Why A Messy Desk Is Best

I’m a perfectionist — a total Type A who can’t stand stacks of paper, piles of clutter, or even a rogue dust bunny hiding under my couch. But when it comes to my writing workspace, you’ll discover something entirely different.

My desk is a disaster zone. It’s cluttered in personal effects (a few candles, framed photos, and the like) as well as piles of notebooks that are half scribbled in, receipts and bills both paid and ignored, a sweater or two in need of dry cleaning… the list goes on and on. And this isn’t just the case with my home office. You’ll find the exact same scenario at my real, everyday office — and quite a few coworkers have laughed at the fact that I keep a minimum of five chapsticks, two water bottles, and a blanket on my desk.

When it’s time for me to write, messiness no longer matters. The mess almost reminds me of my brain when I’m trying to turn ideas into words on a document: jumbled and scattered, but with everything I need just an arm’s length away. I can form dialogue better, take a boring automotive article to new heights, even suddenly snap together the pieces of a Valentine’s day article that’s been sitting in draft format for two months. And it’s all thanks to my messy desk.

Is your desk messy? Maybe it’s neat and organized. No matter its current state, you should consider going full on slob and making your most productive area a little less neat.

Messy Desk
Go ahead, toss some clutter across your desk! Frans Van Heerden / Shutterstock

A messy workspace is a form of fidgeting. You don’t have to move a single thing — this fidget works in your brain in a slightly different manner. Instead of letting your body move around and stimulate your brain while you work on something particularly dull, a messy workspace gives you a visual break. Look away from your computer screen when your mind starts stalling or wandering, and you’ll give your brain a visual feast of interesting sights. Your eyes can check out the stack of papers messily stacked in one corner, or the collection of gadgets and cords piled in another. The surrounding mess essentially reinvigorates your mind, giving you something more engaging and intriguing to stare at for a few seconds.

Surrounding yourself with mess isn’t a new concept. I first wrote about the scientific research behind cluttered workspaces at WonderHowTo, and it’s one of the “Sight” fidgets I included in my book, Fidget!. But few people actually keep their desks, offices, and other workspaces messy — after all, clutter and disarray have long been associated with messy minds and a lack of productivity.

But a messy desk doesn’t mean you aren’t focused. It also doesn’t mean you’re slacking off or lazing around your office. Rather, it’s the perfect way to motivate yourself a little more every day, and you don’t even have to move around to perfect this fidget. Just let yourself be a little messy, a little disorganized!

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