The Psychology Behind Messy Rooms: Why The Most Creative People Flourish In Clutter

The Psychology Behind Messy Rooms: Why The Most Creative People Flourish In Clutter
Money
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

All our lives, we’ve been told to “be organized.” Organization has always been pegged as a direct key to success.

Whether at home, school or in your bunk at camp, organization is something that has been instilled in everyone pretty much from birth. On the other hand, being messy has been equally condemned and made to be a quick path to failure. And, honestly, no rebuttal could say otherwise.

I mean, what good can come from being disorganized, right? Perhaps more than you might think. More recent studies, conducted by the University of Minnesota last year, provide us with a new side of the debate. The pro-messy one.

There has always been this sort of “urban legend” that has floated around modern society deeming people with messy desks as having a high affinity for creative reasoning.

Frankly, I initially thought that people with “messy desks” had to be creative, out of necessity, to survive outside the boundaries of organization.

Last week’s take home test, still undone, in one corner. A page from last month’s Playboy ripped out and crumpled next to the bottle of cocoa butter in the other. Empty Arizona cans distributed across the surface, like a battlefield.

Your desk is a mess. Then again, it’s your mess, and thus, it feels very in-control. When you habitually fail to put things in their designated place, you’re bound to get creative figuring out ways to make everything, I don’t know, fit. And fit comfortably.

While it might look completely random to strangers, a lot of times, a person’s mess is very methodical – with respect to himself.

Psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, from the University of Minnesota, who set out to debunk this urban legend, didn’t confine her study to solely the desk. No, Vohs, clearly a creative mind, chose to think outside the desk. She just sounds messy. The creative kind of messy.

Using a paradigm consisting of one messy room and one tidy room, and a series of trials, Vohs concluded that messy rooms provoke more creative thinking – and provided scientific evidence!

The next question is, what exactly constitutes “creative thinking,” and how will your pig sty of a room help?

Creative thinking, in its purest form, is thinking outside the lines of “conventional” reasoning. When considering this, it should be no huge shock that messy rooms containing possessions misplaced from their “conventional” locations would promote creativity.

I suppose if you prefer to “lay,” and I use that term very loosely, your clean clothes on the floor of your bedroom, when the empty dresser is only a few feet away – you’re certainly thinking outside the lines of conventional reasoning. And that same concept could be applied to more abstract conception.

Consider this from Albert Einstein, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Obviously, Einstein’s desk looked like a spiteful ex-girlfriend had a mission to destroy his workspace, and executed it rather successfully. Yet, there’s no denying Einstein’s creativity.

Einstein wasn’t alone. Mark Twain, too, had a cluttered desk. Perhaps even more cluttered than that of Albert Einstein. Mark Twain was one of the most imaginative minds of his generation.

If the likes of Einstein and Mark Twain don’t catch the attention of Generation-Y, I give you Steve Jobs. No wonder he invented iBooks, it’s clear he had trouble maintaining his real life ones. His desk, and office alike, were f*cking disasters. I suppose this just added to his brilliance.

So what does this mean to you? Trash your desks, trash your rooms and hope for a touch of genius? Not exactly. The relationship between messiness and creativity is by no means causal. Being messy won’t find you waking up one morning more creative.

The two are, however, correlated. If you are “messy by nature,” perhaps finding a healthy medium between your usual mess and that urgency to clean, is optimal. By curbing your sloppy desk, room or tendencies, – keep in mind – you might also be curbing your overall creative tendencies.

Ultimately, the only way for you gauge the effectiveness of your mess-induced creativity is to go out and experiment for yourself. So, go ahead, make it rain with all your important files and paperwork, toss your clean clothes across the room, have a blast. See what you come up with, after.

PSA: If you have a roommate, tell him not to send me any hate mail if your dorm room turns into a zoo while you experiment with this. I am not liable for any of the future messes my readers may create.

Share Tweet
React
Like Us On Facebook
Like Us On Facebook

Dan Scotti

Dan Scotti is the Lifestyle Writer for Elite Daily. At Elite Daily, Dan's coverage focuses on the ins-and-outs of daily life, as a young adult. Dan was born and raised in Long Island, New York. Dan is also interested in covering topics surrounding Stamford Bridge, Roland Garros, Bob Weir, and J Peterman. Dan is a graduate of Binghamton University. Join the tweetsyle movement @scottipippen

More In Money

Also On Elite

World

Australia Police Were Able To Stop ISIS From Carrying Out A Public Beheading

In the most expansive anti-terrorism operation in Australia’s history, 15 people were detained and two were charged with “serious terrorism-related offenses” in connection to a planned public execution in Australia last night. Over 800 police officers raided approximately 25 homes in Sydney after Prime Minister Tony Abbot was told that a member of the public was to […]

Humor

High School Kid Demonstrates What We All Really Do On Bathroom Breaks (Video)

There are a number of thriving sub-communities on Vine, but a lot of the most popular videos tend to feature theater kids who look like they blow dry their hair every morning doing quirky things and gathering millions followers in the process. If I sound a little bitter, it’s probably because I am. I wasted […]

Strategy

5 Ways To Get Your Company Acquired, From An Entrepreneur Who Did It By 25

Getting acquired is a dream scenario for many startup CEOs. Getting there, however, is damn near impossible. According to Bloomberg, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. On the other hand, there are those entrepreneurs who move fast, decide faster and build something big. Katherine Hague is one of these […]

Envision

Best Dad Ever Creates Monstrous Art Using Freshly-Made Pancakes (Photos)

Food art goes beyond just sprinkles and cake frosting! We recently came across a collection of impressive photos showcasing one awesome dad’s knack for creating fine art with freshly-made pancakes. Imgur user “putuguk“ uploaded the collection of photos. So far, the food art has managed to rack up over 16,000 views, and for good reason! What’s better […]