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Have you ever walked into an office at work or into somebody’s home and wanted to turn around immediately because of the mess or filth? I have run into this situation multiple times recently, and it got me thinking. Do messy people have any sort of advantage or disadvantage financially? If someone is prone to being messy, should they strive to be neat and organized?
What kind of image do you present of yourself to clients, if your work space resembles that of a hoarder? How can you convince a client that you are dependable and the best person for the job if you can’t take the time to clean your own desk? Whether it’s fair or not, first impressions matter a whole lot more than you might think, and neat people appear to be more reliable, whether they truly are or not.
As the old adage goes, “time is money”. When you have to spend an hour looking for something, whether it’s your keys, wallet, or crucial paperwork, you waste your most valuable resource, time.
Think about the people that you know that constantly run late to meetings, appointments and even dinner dates. I have a friend in sales that actually got fired because he couldn’t get organized and was always late to work. Let’s just say it was an eye-opening wake-up call for him.
One of my former bosses had one of the messiest desks I had ever seen. She had piles upon piles of paper stacked on her desk. When I needed to drop off a document for her to sign, there was literally no where to put it on her desk. So I was either forced to leave it on her chair or wait until she returned to her office. On one occasion, I learned the hard way when I dropped off an urgent document to be signed on her desk, and it got “lost.”
Other people’s messy desks bother me as well. I use to have a messy desk, but that all changed when I met “Thomas”. For the record, this is not his real name. I literally met him once. He most likely has no idea who I am, but he left enough of an impression for me to share this story.
Thomas is a legend around my offices as he had papers that nearly touched the ceiling. I wish he had been one of those geniuses that actually had some sort of order to the mayhem. He wasn’t. It was complete chaos. He would have to search long and hard through tons of papers to finally find whatever he was looking for. It was a huge time-waster.
On top of that, he had some “interesting” things that he kept in his office. Two of these things that really stood out were the dead cicadas. Yes, the disgusting critters that plague us every few years. He would keep them in a dixie cup and would show them off whenever someone new would stop by. Who knew that dead bugs were first impression conversational pieces? I’m grossed out even remembering this.
In addition, whenever someone in the office would throw a birthday party, they would offer Thomas a piece of cake. He would always say “No, No, I have a piece here,” and with a laugh, he would pull out a paper plate with a moldy petrified slice of cake that had been sitting on his desk for who knows how long. I’ll spare you the picture of a moldy piece of cake this instance.
I honestly felt bad for him. No matter how excellent his work was, and it was excellent, he was known as the terribly messy guy with the dead bugs and rotting piece of cake. His messiness created a stigma that he couldn’t rid himself of. Quickly after my experiences with him, I purposed not to become a Thomas, and I’ve kept my desk straightened and clean ever since.
Messiness Isn’t Always Bad
So then messy people/desks are a bad thing, right? No, not really. A recent study out the University of Minnesota, concluded that messy people and tidy people generate the same amount of ideas, but people who work in a cluttered environment tend to produce the most creative and interesting content. Studies have also shown a connection between increased intelligence and a messy desk.
During the study, researchers put a group of participants into messy and clean conference rooms and then asked them to brainstorm. What they found was that while both groups came up with a similar number of ideas, the group in the messy came up with more “highly creative” ideas.
“Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity,” says Kathleen Vohs.
Previous studies have suggested that a clean environment promoted values such as generosity, consideration, and following rules. In this experiment, participants who worked in the test environment with clean desks chose healthier snacks and donated more of their own money to charity.
“If a clean environment is all about doing what’s expected, then what does it mean to be doing things people don’t expect of you?” says lead author Kathleen Vohs, in an interview with New York Daily News. “That sounded like a loose definition of innovation and creativity.”
So Which Is Better?
The answer, like with many questions, is both. Ideally, according to this study, the office would be comprised of both neat-freaks and clutterbugs. This would provide clean spaces for attention-detailed tasks and messy spaces for innovation and creative thinking.
Financially speaking, you may wonder which type of person handles their finances better. The answer is again, both. Messy people seem to spend less time on cleaning-related tasks and more time on other areas. Many times, this can lead to increased financial gains. On the flip side, neat people are highly-organized and track their financial situations closely. They also appear to give off great first impressions, which might also lead to financial benefits.
All that to say, whether you’re messy or neat you can be successful with your finances. So you have no excuse! 🙂
What do you all think? Please share your thoughts below.