Why Having A Messy Desk Can Be A Good Thing

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messy desk guy working

bark via flickr

Is a cluttered or clean desk better for the workplace?

A new study published in Psychological Science concluded that it's most beneficial to have a messy desk at the beginning of a project and a clean one at the end.

A messy environment promotes creative thinking and unconventional new ideas, whereas a clean desk will help your mind focus on order and expectations. The move away from chaos (the messy desk) will help you finish your project.

In one experiment, the researchers from the University of Minnesota asked participants with tidy and cluttered desks to fill out questionnaires while in their workspaces. The results showed that those with cleaner desks tend to donate more to charity, choose healthier snacks, and make better choices altogether compared to their messier peers.

"Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them," Kathleen Vohs, lead researcher, said in an article published in the ScienceDaily.

In the second experiment, participants were asked to come up with ways to use a ping pong ball and found that those with messy desks were able to come up with more ideas.

"Disorderly environments stimulated creativity, which has widespread importance for culture, business, and the arts," the researchers said in the study.

The research concluded that both environments are beneficial and have different psychological consequences:

"There exists a large and growing industry around instilling environmental orderliness. Proponents claim that people see measurable life improvements from becoming neat and tidy, and they can point to multiple billions of dollars in annual revenue as evidence of success. In contrast, many creative individuals with Nobel prizes and other ultra-prestigious awards prefer — and in fact cultivate — messy environments as an aid to their work."

Below are the desks used in the experiment:

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study desks

University of Minnesota



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