Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Vindication of a Messy Desk

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I have been vindicated! In the Rodale Organic Life magazine, on 21 January, 2016, Chris Michel writes about The Surprising Health Benefits of Clutter, then goes on to say Before You Start Purging, Find Out Whether That Messy Desk Is Good For You.

Well, as one who has a desk piled so high it’s sometimes hard to see over, I had to read the article. Basically, it says that clutter is not automatically bad, that clutter can – but not always – act as a starting point for creativity. Michel’s theory uses the example of a plethora of post-it notes, many of which will not work in the current project. If they are thrown away, he postulates, the idea is gone. If they are left, though, it is possible that something there will jump out and enrich your current work-in-progress.

Michel also says that being excessively neat becomes a time-sink and contra-indicative to creative thought, which in itself is somewhat chaotic. He says that “…environmental disorder actually stimulates creativity.”

If you want to read the entire article, you should be able to find it here.

I think it comes down to time. Do you want to spend time cleaning and tidying and de-cluttering, or do you want to spend as much time as you can writing? I plump for writing – though perhaps too much. Our house is a disaster and perhaps needs excavating more than cleaning. In our defense, though, we are in the process of cleaning out our last storage room and getting rid of stuff, which in its own way actually creates more clutter for a while. See? I can justify anything, but that doesn’t affect my desk, however; I think the dog might be hiding somewhere in those piles of books, papers, notes and I’m-not-sure-what-that-is.

As an additional gift, Michel also says that a cluttered house can be the sign of a well-lived life.

Well, if all that’s true, I’m destined to be a mega-best-seller and the happiest creature on earth!

By the way, if you’re in the Bonham, Texas area on this coming Saturday, 6 February, thirteen wonderful romance authors and I will be featured at the Eighth Biennial “Romance in Bonham” panel discussion/reader event. It will be held from 11am to 1 pm at the Bonham Public Library, 305 E. 5th Street. Please come by if you can – it’s free, of course.


  1. What a fun post. Okay, I have to admit to being a Marie Kondo fan - "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up", and yet, I definitely see the power of clutter too. As a person with ADD, my whole brain is a clutter of post-it notes. If I didn't have the clutter, (a.k.a. Ritalin), I would lose my creativity and life would be dull. So I don't. I keep my brain clutter, dance from one sparkly thing to the next, (which is probably why I am writing three books simultaneously), and fold my clothes using the "Marie Kondo method". But like your author, the desk is off-limits to too much tidying. Love me some post-it notes. :)

  2. Loved your post, and, yes, it did hit home. I may not be ADD as Sofie says she is, but I know I'm OCD about some things--except my office. I've written about that before. I need order, but for some reason I can't bring that order to my work area. Oh well. I think Susan vindicated many of us this morning. Thanks.

  3. I guess it's all right to confess here that my desk is presently, and usually, messy. From time to time, I get energized and straighten out my desk, but then go on hunts to find things. Nothing wants to stay put!

  4. Most of my clutter is confined to my kitchen table and (you guessed it) my desk. Unfortunately, I find it stressful, rather than inspiring ... which may be why most of my creative writing happens on the laptop, back firmly turned to the mess. Your post might make me reconsider, though. Maybe there are a few nuggets of inspiration hiding in the muddle.

  5. I have a sign on my desk: "Creative clutter is better than idle neatness." I think I've probably shared that before, but it's my vindication. Every now and then, it's gets out of hand and I straighten everything up. It's wonderful, but only last as long as I'm idle.

  6. Interesting blog! And it gives me hope. I too have a cluttered work space though when I do try and organize (about once a year) I find stuff that I thought I'd lost--not a good thing. But creativity-wise, from what you say, clutter makes sense!

  7. I work better without clutter, but this is not a good day for me to read this. My office at work (day job) and here at my home is such a mess. So many unfinished things all over the place. It's takes me twice as long to accomplish anything when it's like this. Loved the post.