Is clutter good for the soul?


With the New Year nearly here, many of us will celebrate the turn of the calendar with resolutions to diet, exercise, unplug, quit smoking, save money, etc. In the office, lots of people use the “quiet” time between Christmas and New Year’s getting organized. Not only will they clean out their voicemail and inboxes, they’ll bust out the compressed air and wipes and clean and organize their desks. But should we be worried about having a well-organized desk?

On one hand, it’s unhealthy (and gross) to work at a desk covered in crumbs and a not-so-thin layer of dust. Did you know that office desks carry more bacteria than toilet seats?

But on the other hand, are there actually benefits to having an organized desk? Or is the war on clutter much ado about nothing?

One of the major benefits of a clean desk is the perception it gives others. According to a survey by staffing firm Adecco, a majority of Americans (57%) admit they judge coworkers by how clean or dirty they keep their workspaces. And it’s not just perception. Another survey by OfficeMax found that 77% said clutter damages their productivity and more than half of all respondents said disorganization impairs their state of mind and motivation levels.

So is there a case for clutter? As the owner of the messy desk above, I’m glad you asked.

According to a University of Minnesota study, people with a messy desk were more prone to creativity and risk taking, while people at cleaner desks tended to follow strict rules and were less likely to try new things or take risks. However, the people with cleaner desks were more likely to make healthier choices (they opted for an apple as a snack over chocolate).

So, as Einstein famously said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Like most things in life, the ultimate answer lies somewhere in the middle and maybe the best approach is to clean your desk in moderation or with a purpose in mind. If you know you have a task that requires more concentration than creativity, prep your desk to help prepare your mind. Likewise, save those post-it notes, magazines and “flair” to serve as inspiration when more creative tasks beckon. But no matter what, always clean your crumbs and dust, because even Einstein wouldn’t argue against good hygiene!

About Kris Prusynski

Kris works on the Commercial Marketing team at TDS Telecom and helps TDS achieve their online objectives through digital marketing and website optimization. She has worked in the digital marketing space for over 15 years, in product categories as diverse as shoes, banking, beds and pig farming supplies (really!). Kris has both undergraduate degrees and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and therefore bleeds Badger red. She’s a veteran blogger on topics ranging from digital marketing to Wisconsin fish frys to the sweet necessity of ugly office sweaters. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find her on Twitter or Google+ trying to decipher the mysteries of A Song of Ice and Fire. In her spare time, you can find Kris kayaking, hanging out at the dog park, or thinking about lawn care.
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