Saturday, September 24, 2011

Messy Desk Debate

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?" 
                                                                                                     --(attributed to) Albert Einstein

This is a true story, I'm not making it up. I found myself drowning at my desk this week, it was so cluttered with papers, folders, research notes, old photos, writing books--you name it, it was piled up. I told myself I knew where everything was, and could find it when needed. But I knew the truth. The messies had gotten out of hand. And so I began a process to clear off my desk--filing, determining what to keep, what to throw away, reordering, prioritizing. (Do I get credit for the fact that my office is very, very small?)

Can you belive what I found at the bottom of the basket? Really, I did not stage this. This is what lay there, staring up at me:

Ummm, should I be embarrassed? I do not know how long this little book has been buried...

There are different thoughts on the subject of a cluttered desk. Some say it's a sign of creativity. Some say it hampers the creativity process. Some say it's a matter of balance. You can check out some of the discussion at:

Time Management Success: "Have You Got a Messy Desk?" Management: "What's Wrong with a Messy Desk?"
Career "Is a Messy Desk a Good Thing?"
Ian McKenzie: "10 Tips to Help Keep Your Desk Clean"

So, what do you say? Can you tolerate a messy desk or do you have to have it cleared off by the end of the day? Me? I'm thinking I'd better study Everything in Its Place. Creeping clutter, at least over this way, has interfered with the creative process--and a new week, a new approach, is calling my name.


  1. My desk is always cluttered like my mind. At any time there are thousand and one thoughts buzzing there.

  2. I think a somewhat cluttered mind is an occupational hazard for writers. How would we survive without the collection of minute life details that come to the forefront just when we need them?

    But a cluttered desk? I wish I could say mine was neat as a pin. I'd love working in that kind of atmosphere. But mine's a mess, hiding no great little neatness hints to make cleaning up worthwhile. Just for fun, I dug down to the bottom of one pile to see what was there. Lo and behold, I found the playbill for "Wicked" which I saw last year and placed on my desk to remind me of the importance of perspective. Maybe I'll clean up after all! :)

  3. The same thing happens to me. I've been on the offensive this past week to keep that from happening, because when the desk area, and especially my computer files, are uncluttered, my mind feels less cluttered.

    But you do have a saving grace, and it's the beautiful, uncluttered view from your window. I'd end up looking out the window often for "breathing space." I bet you do too. :)

  4. I'm messy while I'm working but as soon as I'm done, I clean up.

  5. Greetings! Thanks, everyone, for stopping in :-)

    Rachna--three cheers for all those thoughts buzzing around, it shows your imagination is going strong. Sounds good :-)

    Peggy--oh, the treasures we find at the bottom of our pile. Great hearing from you. I love the idea of leaving out a special item to remind us of perspective. I'll have to try that...

    Catherine--yes, the view from my window is a great plus, except when it's distracting. So far this year the parade of wildlife going by has included deer, turkeys, a skunk, groundhogs, and bouncing rabbits!

    Hannah--even after posting about clearing the clutter, I'm right back to a mess. Oh dear. I wish I could make myself clean up after each session!

  6. My solution was to ditch the desk. I found a claw-footed chaise lounge on Craigslist (free!), and next to it I have a little table with a couple of shelves. I still need help staying on top of paper piles, but the best thing about my new set up is that my neck pain is gone.


  7. That sounds like my desk! And yes, I think the clutter is distracting. BUT, I've learned to ignore a lot of it or I'd never write. :)

  8. I have an office desk where I work and a kitchen desk where I, in theory, sit to plan menus and write checks. In actuality, both are piled with papers I'll need soon or couldn't decide where they should be filed. When stuff won't balance and starts sliding to the floor, I stop and go through them and force myself to make decisions. But then I get no writing done, so which is better? Most of the time, I just live with the clutter.
    I love your quote from Einstein (possibly) about a clean desk!

  9. That is too funny! I prefer a neat desk, however, mine is rarely so. I usually have several projects going, plus I do the books for my husband's business. So most of the time it is organized chaos. Thanks for the links! :)

  10. I think this is funny.. but yes i Like what karen said.. Organized chaos is great way to put it. Contest factory is doing a contest on cluttered desks and cubicles. You should check it out!
    or look at their twitter to see if you might be right for it. twitter pimpmycubeCF