By November 15, 2012 Read More →

Tidy desk, tidy mind?

Do you work better with a tidy desk?

Work from Home Wisdom home offices - Rebecca Harvey's tidy desk‘Tidy desk, tidy mind’ is how the conventional wisdom goes. It was of course contradicted by Einstein who asked, ‘If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?’ An empty mind, presumably. And German research recently discovered that being surrounded by mess forces people to simplify their thoughts so that they think more clearly.

I find that my desk goes through a predictable cycle – it gets cluttered as I tackle a project, then as the project nears completion the desk gets clearer and finally I give it a good clean-up so I can embark on the next major piece of work with a tidy desk. I’ve stopped worrying about the mess since I realised that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from talking to so many home workers over the last few years it’s that we all do things differently. And maybe it depends on what we do – the photo above is of Rebecca Harvey’s exceptionally tidy desk. Rebecca is a VA and regards a tidy desk as a mark of her professionalism, and with a business called Let Me Organise You, she doesn’t really have much choice!

Stephanie Guimond is an artist and when I spotted some photos of her studio and work in progress on her blog, I asked if she would share one on the Home Office Gallery. I love the colourful sprawl of materials over her art table and I doubt Stephanie would be as creative if she tried to keep a tidy desk at the same time!

You can see Stephanie’s table and read what both she and Rebecca say about their home offices in the Spare room home offices gallery. Are you bothered whether you have a tidy desk or not? What are your own personal benchmarks and limits?

Posted in: Home offices

23 Comments on "Tidy desk, tidy mind?"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. I like a tidy desk although I don’t think there is an association with minds, tidy or otherwise. It’s more about having it the way that helps you work best.

  2. Paul Graves says:

    I love having a tidy desk. No seriously I do. And I will tidy my desk up sometime soon … when I have a bit of spare time!

  3. I love having a tidy desk and is mine isn’t orderly then something has gone very wrong in my cluttered mind. It helps me focus if I only have the one thing I am working on with me, if there’s too much else it is distracting and stressful for sure.

  4. Judy says:

    So in your case, Melanie, it’s a case of tidy desk, cluttered mind! These ‘rules’ of (home) working never stand up to investigation, do they?

  5. I read an article recently that suggested that there were two main types of organisation. People who like an ordered space need order and structure in their surroundings,because a calm and organised environment helps them to mentally sort through their thoughts and then there are people who don’t mind clutter because they have a sort of mental filing cabinet in their brain and can file anything to recall later as long as they can remember the context of what they were thinking about and it’s not dependent on order or structure or quiet.

    Regardless, I’m definitely more of a cluttered desk sort of worker, but as Rosie said earlier, it’s all about finding the way of working that suits you best.

    • That makes sense. I’m in the first camp. Once my office reaches a certain level of clutter I have to tidy it up before I can carry on working. There are many pathes to successful home working!