A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder - How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-The-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

tags: self-help, behavior

A book which makes a wonderful claim: not everything has to be perfect. We spend our lives thinking we need to get everything organized, but this book argues that often, we just…don’t.

An early and establishing example from the book –

Two people are asked to find a specific playing card from a deck. One deck is ordered by number and suit, the other is unordered. Clearly, the person with the organized deck finds the card faster (but, surprisingly, not that much faster).

So, we naturally conclude, we should organize all this things!

Not so fast. First, the deck had to be pre-organized at some point, and that took time. Second, maintaining that organization takes time (you have to get the withdrawn card back in the right position). We often fail to consider those two things – we only look at the time we saved, not the time we spent in advance to save that time.

And this is the crux of the book. There is a “perfect mess,” meaning a mess that’s easy to maintain, yet inhibits us the least. There is a perfect level of mess. The trick is finding it.

Additionally, the book exalts some of the benefits of mess. There is a creative aspect to it – a mess often enables you to make connections between things you wouldn’t have otherwise put together. And organization sometimes pre-inhibits activities – we don’t want to do things we would otherwise do, because we don’t want to disrupt the established order, which was, ironically, created make it easier for us to do the thing we now don’t want to do.

Along the way, the book pokes a lot of fun at “professional organizers,” who seemingly capitalize on our neurosis. They charge us a lot of money to calm our minds of something we should ultimately be way, way less concerned about.

Organize where it helps. Otherwise, enjoy – and even celebrate – your mess.

Book Info