An (Im)perfect Mess

The new book, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder", is creating waves for its unorthodox acceptance — even approval — of mess at home and at the office.

But is messiness really beneficial?

I think the authors make an unfair distinction. On the one hand, you have order for order's sake. The authors argue that all those poor fools who arrange their pencils by hardness of lead are in love with order for no valid reason other than aesthetics. Or they're neurotic.

On the other hand, you have chaos in the service of creativity. The authors suggest that messiness enables people to get on with the really important things in their lives, rather than having their sock drawer arranged just right. And the time freed up by embracing chaos allows people to do wonderful things, like connecting two pieces of paper on their desks, and winning a Nobel Prize.

But they miss the point. Truly organized people aren't organized just for the sake of order. Rather, their organization is a RESULT of a process for dealing with all the stuff in their lives. These folks avoid interment in paper or email by having a clear methodology for handling all the personal and business responsibilities in their lives. By handling this stuff effectively, they avoid clutter and chaos.

So people shouldn't focus on getting organized. Rather, they should focus on a system for dealing with all the stuff that comes at them.

The authors of "A Perfect Mess" make much of the Nobel Prize that came about because someone connected two pieces of paper on his desk. I suppose you might be skillfully processing yourself out of the cure for cancer, or cold fusion. But that seems to me a bit like using the Powerball lottery as a retirement strategy. It *might* pay off. But most likely, you'll just be out a couple of bucks.

One thought on “An (Im)perfect Mess

  1. I haven’t read the particular book mentioned above but a few years back, in my previous company, i began to become somewhat alarmed at the general disarray of the office. At a certain point i managed to pull the operations manager into a conference room to see if there was some way to get the staff to keep things a little more presentable. My main argument being that i was particularly concerned that clients and potential clients might view the “messy-ness” as a sign of laziness or perhaps that we could simply not be taken seriously.

    To my surprise he then told me that the “messy-ness” was in fact a sign that the staff were working hard, as they were “so busy” working on our clients projects that they did not have the time to keep their desks in order. And then followed that up with the fact that every individual had their own way of keeping order and that some people simply “file horizontally”.

    So then i tried it, myself. I didn’t work.

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