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Your Messy Desk Is a Sign That You’re Creative


Messy desk havers know that there’s no real point in debating the relative merits of a messy workspace and a clean one: if you’re inclined toward clutter, all the blog posts and expert opinions in the world won’t change your habits. But is it possible that a messy desk is a sign of a creative mind?

messy desk 

(Photo Credit: josephleenovak/Flickr)

The crew at Busy Building Things think so. In a recent blog post, syndicated to Lifehacker, they point out that some of the most creative minds of all time also had the messiest workspaces, among them, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Twain.

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They even quote Einstein’s famous opinion on the subject:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

The contents of famously creative people’s messy desks vary greatly, from the candy wrappers (?) and gift bags of Mark Zuckerberg’s shared workspace, to the cowboy hats and stacks of books in Zappos’ Tony Hsieh’s cubicle.

There’s even scientific proof that messy desks encourage creativity. A 2013 article in Psychological Science presented a study from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, which found that working in a tidy space encouraged socially responsible behavior like eating well and giving to charity. Untidy work areas, on the other hand, promoted creative thought.

“Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity,” explains study author Kathleen Vohs. “We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.”

Tell Us What You Think

Is your workspace messy or clean? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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