The other day I watched a program on TV where they took a look at people who were extremely “messy”. The people they interviewed were the opposite of everything the Martha Stewart brand stands for. Picture rooms stacked to the ceiling with vast accumulations of “stuff“. In some cases the rooms were so jammed you could barely move around. One guy had four apartments just like it in different cities.

Some made the argument that the time others spend cleaning and tidying they spend on being productive or creative. Others claimed they were highly visual people and needed to “see” everything they were working on. Some were masters of the mess (organized mess) and some the mess mastered them (no idea where most things were). Note that there is also a huge difference between clutter type messes and actual health hazards (garbage).

The stereotypes on this subject are powerful. Slob, pig, absent minded professor, etc… all personal judgments of character. Somehow, a messy person is measured as less than a tidy person.

The interesting part is that the list of messy people included lots of very successful and productive people.

In a way, extreme tidiness is just as bad of a habit. How much time does one really need to spend cleaning at the expense of getting things done? But extremely tidy is in. Look all the shows and magazines about homes and offices… tidying up and decorating. People don’t seem to actually live or work there, at least not real people. But so many people strive for this visual result.

Tidiness seems to stem from a desire to control part of the world or make it appear better. You can’t control the weather, the world politics or financial markets, but at least you can control your part of the world. But control is an illusion. Does it really matter that you have the neatest workspace in the world. It does not guarantee success.

The majority of people are somewhere in between… neither totally messy nor totally neat but often torn one way or the other with the associated guilt.

One mixed extreme messy and tidy couple worked together in the same office and lived in the same house. The solution is to set boundaries. Messy does not cross tidy’s line.

Perhaps the key is to judge people by what they accomplish and produce. This is a universal measuring stick. Maybe messy people do have more time to get things done or are more creative. In any event, they are probably more laid back about appearances.

Maybe under all the clutter, is a gem waiting to be discovered… someone who gets things done or your next creative genius. Just be sure to set boundaries… and understand yours.