Are Messy People Better With Money?


messy people money

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?


First Impressions

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.


time moneyAs 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.  


Messy People

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.


messy people moneyOne 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.  


Trippin’ Thomas

messy people moneyThomas 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.


messy people moneyI 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. 


messy people moneyDuring 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?

messy people moneyThe 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.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. Wow, “Thomas” sounds like a bit of a character. And a creepy one at that.

    The study you posted is interesting. In my opinion, it’s not the environment that leads you to being more creative, i.e. throw a bunch of crap around your office and all of a sudden creative ideas start rushing to your head. I think it’s the opposite way around. Creative people in general are less structured and don’t care for order as much. Therefore, it’s more likely they will be more on the messy side.

    As for me, my desk is usually a mess, but I link to think of it as organized chaos. Everytime I clean and organize it, I can’t find anything!
    Go Finance Yourself! recently posted…Devils Advocate: The Argument for Tactical InvestingMy Profile

  2. While I don’t have the giant paperwork mountain on my desk, nor the petrified cake an animals, I definitely lean towards the messier side. I make myself feel better with the personal excuse it looks like I’m too busy so I haven’t gotten to it. I realize that’s an excuse but I also realize this is something about me that won’t change.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Account Simplicity, Escheatment and other ConcernsMy Profile

    • I’m sure for some people if they see a clean desk that the person doesn’t have enough work and they can give them more while the messy desks looks like someone that is really busy. Interesting thought 🙂

  3. Very interesting story!

    I myself tend to lean towards the messier side, although not to the extent of Thomas. I do have stray books, pens, notebooks, and documents around my desk, but at least they’re not stacked towards the ceiling 🙂

    I guess I am quite lazy to tighten up, but most of the time I’m just too focused on actually working (at least that’s my excuse). We rarely have clients or anything over so I think that’s contributed to the messiness of my desk.

    And too make myself feel better I heard Einstein kept a messy desk…in fact here is one of his quotes haha:

    “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
    Andrew recently posted…Are Collectibles Good Investments?My Profile

  4. Really makes you think, good article. After reading it I started to think of neat people being all organized even in their head and maybe having less room for flexible thinking and thus creativity. Messy people might think out of the box more. Don’t know if it’s this black and white (probably not), and everybody needs to find there way. I do believe creativity is something that you can train to become better in it though.
    Divnomics recently posted…New watchlist addition: Allergan $AGNMy Profile

    • That reminds me of a quote by Conor McGregor, “There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all equal as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that is that. I am not talented, I am obsessed.”

  5. The cake part was incredible! I’ve seen some bad ones in my day too. It seems like IT folks are particularly bad, myself included. I’ve been told though that if you keep it too clean, it looks like you aren’t doing anything 🙂
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Time Well WastedMy Profile

  6. Interesting study! We also have a super messy colleague at the office. He is in quite senior position, his desk is full of papers and garbage (even has a huge dead cactus in the middle), just bought a car from the late 90s which is also full of stuff by now. He obviously doesn’t spend his money on cars (or on himself), so maybe it goes for some financially smart thing. Yes, messy people might be good with money… 🙂
    Roadrunner recently posted…What Trump Means for Your Investments?My Profile

    • Isn’t it amazing what we think of senior level folks appearing like and what they actually look like.

      When I was growing up I imagined clean cut executives with super organized offices.

      I see most of the time the opposite thing. I wonder what that says about my views 🙂

    • I searched and searched to see if there were any studies. If they are out there I couldn’t find them. With that said, I’m not sure research professors are known for being super organized so I’m not sure it’s even crossed their mind to do a study on it 🙂

  7. I bet the story about Thomas isn’t even the most interesting story of your fellow workers in government. My friends in government are always telling me about the interesting characters they work with.

    For me – it is all about organization and balance. I’m not a neat freak but being organized saves a ton of time and helps me think. Missing details can really mess up your finance so I recommend being organized and efficient with your financial information and approach.
    PatientWealth recently posted…Habitat for Humanity: A Great CharityMy Profile

    • Oh man there are definitely some really “interesting” people in the government. I am somewhat cautious with the stories I share here because I don’t want too folks to get offended 🙂

      I definitely agree with you that you need to be organized with your finances otherwise missing payments or losing bills will be a huge detriment.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. I know someone at work who keeps literal stacks of paper all over their office. I would go crazy working in that environment, and I think it’s a bit of a fire hazard too. As for my desk, I try to clean up papers and consolidate my notes/to do list every week. Otherwise I get a little antsy about the mess. I’m not an overly neat person by nature but I do like to have things organized.
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…The Most Important Work from Home Tip – Be ClearMy Profile

    • I am with you Liz. I can deal with a little bit of mess on my desk throughout the day but like to have a clean desk for when I get back into the office the next day.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  9. I think it depends what works for you, if you are messy and have a system in place, it shouldn’t hinder too much. I tend to be more neat than average. Money neatness and desk neatness are too separate things I feel. One thing is for sure the majority of people are pretty bad with money, as statistics show, and I’m still waiting on a neatness report from the government. LOL.
    EL recently posted…What is the Secret to Becoming Rich?My Profile

  10. Haha I enjoyed this. At my previous job there were so many people with messy desks! But they all had some kind of method to their madness, and were all (mostly) good working employees. I do miss that job sometimes for the people. However, I cannot stand anything out of order, and so I can’t work with a messy desk. It just depends on the person and what works for them.

    • Hi Jessica – I definitely agree with you. In all that chaos messy people seem to have some sort of order. What that is, only they can say but they do seem to have it down.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing Dividends Down Under. You are absolutely correct when you say it’s more important to be organized with some things than others.

      I have yet to meet an unorganized person with their finances that is winning with money although I’m sure there are a few 🙂

  11. I always find it funny how some super messy people still have a system and know where things are. I’m pretty organized which has been super useful working for myself. Makes it easier to keep track of tax forms, estimated tax payments, etc.

    • I’m with you I find it much easier to stay organized especially with finances if I’m not really messy. I don’t have a system for the mess but kudos to those that do.

  12. Love the article because I find myself on the messier desk side of the equation. Am I more creative? That’s a different story haha Each person has a method to their madness, so I’m a believer in you have to figure out what is the best system for you. In finance terms, some people are in the “track every penny” mentality and some people subscribe to the “ish” mentality. Not surprisingly, I’m in the latter piece. I think the issue is when you try to force your self to the other side of the equation instead of embracing the method that works best for you.

    Thanks for the fun read!


    • You are totally right. I think you should embrace what you are and if you are organized in the chaos that’s awesome. It’s really only a problem when you can’t find it whether your organized or not.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  13. My father is the messiest person I know, and also one of the most brilliant. That has coloured my perception of messy people, and I tend not to have a bad first impression of messy folks.
    I used to obsess about keeping my house spick and span all the time. I’ve stopped doing that now, and I am happier. If e.g. I put away laundry once every 4-5 days instead of everyday, and spend that extra time reading or writing or playing with my child, I find that I am that much happier.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Your 529 on Steroids: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to SuperfundingMy Profile

    • I can totally relate. My sister is brilliant and as an artist and I like to think that she has other things preoccupying her mind 🙂

      Thanks for sharing and glad to hear that you found the right balance for you 🙂

  14. Hi MSM,
    Definitely on the messy side here. My desk at work is reasonably clear but only because “A clean desk is a sign of a cluttered desk drawer.”
    In my case I prioritize my time / energy more about results, so if something isn’t organized / tidy enough that it’s slowing me down then it’s time to organize a bit.
    Best wishes,
    Dividend Life recently posted…UK Dividend Champions November 2016 UpdateMy Profile

  15. As I posted about in my tweet, my business partner runs the finances for the company and he’s definitely messy. He’s also creative not in an artistic way but in a way that he sees many different possible ways to solve the same problem and tries to figure out which will work best.

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