Minimalism Game Days 18-20: Are you an Einstein or a Hughes?

Albert Einstein’s Desk

I’ve never been what you would consider a neat person.  Fastidious, anal retentive, or even well-ordered are adjectives I’ve never heard anyone use to describe me.  Tidy . . . maybe once or twice.  That is actually a lie of the dirty-rotten variety.  In all my years on the planet, I’ve never received a compliment (not even in the ballpark) that I was organized.

But am I messy?

Save for Oscar Madison or Oscar the Grouch (and maybe Pig Pen), most people would not readily admit they were messy.  In my younger days I might have shrugged or possibly given a wry smile if somebody called me that.  But in 2016, do I want the world-at-large to consider me a messy person?

Not that I’m admitting such a moniker applies.  I prefer to say that I’ve chosen a lifestyle of slight disarray.  And who’s to say you should go about your business being neat or messy, that one way is correct and the other wrong?

Well, turns out there’s actually a helluva lot of people.

There’s the famous quote by Einstein, who said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  While I don’t think Mr. E = mc2 actually admitting to being messy, it sounds like he didn’t think it was such a bad thing either.  Plenty of studies have shown that a messy desk (or disorder in your work space), makes a person more creative.  I’ve always liked that (f-you, ya tidy bastards), and have used it to justify my unkemptness (still not capitulating to being messy).

In the other camp, there’s a ton of information that shows a strong tie between being organized and being productive.  In my extensive research on this topic (fifteen minutes of Googling), I learned from an Office Max survey that 77% of workers said clutter damages their productivity, 50% believed it had a negative effect mentally, and 20% thought it made them look bad professionally.  I also came across a startling statistic.  There was a study done several years back (by some publication called Fast Company magazine) where they determined executives waste six weeks per year looking for lost documents.

Since I read it on the Internet it has to be true, right?  Well, even if it’s only somewhat true (let’s say it’s two weeks), that’s way too long to be looking for shit.  I often waste time rifling through my papers trying to find things, and same can be said of my electronic files.

Shortly after starting the Minimalism Game, I took a couple of hours at work and went through my office looking for paper to either recycle or shred (if it contained confidential info).  I found a lot.  Buried under my desk in a cardboard box was a veritable treasure trove of useless documents, and I was able to excavate more from drawers and cabinets.  When I finished purging, I felt downright gleeful.

So last Friday before leaving for the weekend, I went around my office (mostly in the nether regions underneath my desk) finding various things (other than paper) I could either recycle, donate, or throw away.  Since I spend five days a week in this space (and probably more waking hours there than my apartment), I decided to extend the Minimalism Game to my job.  It wasn’t hard to find the 57 items I needed for Days 18, 19, and 20.

Spring Cleaning in the Office

There were 28 magazines (mostly Human Resources or hotel industry related . . . far from the “Industry of Cool”), 8 pieces of clothing that belong to two different Halloween costumes (yes, that is a Poodle Skirt you see in the picture, please don’t ask), 6 HR books (three I never read, the others antiquated), 4 Kuikui Nut Leis (I still have a couple if needed), 3 more t-shirts (they must multiple on their own), 1 turtle cup, 1 mason jar, 1 Hawaii themed wine opener, 1 “Kiss Me I’m Irish” plastic necklace (362 days until next St. Paddy’s Day), 1 button down shirt that is now too big for me, 1 tub of cleaning solution, 1 Tori Richards bag (kept from a Christmas present), and 1 moped helmet (I got rid of the moped last month, poor planning on my part).

I’m never going transform my desk (or life) at home or at my office into being completely orderly, and there will always be an element of disaray.  So I won’t have to worry about becoming Howard Hughes bat-shit obsessed with cleanliness.  And if Einstein was right, I need not fear sacrificing any creativity in this Minimalism venture.  But in my three weeks at this game, I’ve become pretty sure that being better organized (maybe you could call it trending towards tidy) will be a good thing.

Einstein and Hughes
Hughes and Einstein


  1. I like to keep work surfaces clean. However, they never are. I have a tiny house and any flat surface inevitably gets piled up with stuff. That and its easier to set it there than actually putting it away. The worst are tools that should be in the garage. They get brought into the house after working in the garden (tape measures, the drill, jars of PVC glue, gloves….) and then left on the kitchen counter, or worst, the kitchen floor (as I’m looking at a pile right now).


  2. I’m the same way, Melissa. It’s so easy for things to pile up around us, and then it just becomes the norm and you don’t really even notice it anymore. I’m trying to be better at this!


  3. I am opting for the opinion that a cluttered desk/work area inspires creativity. 😉 I should be cleaning/packing…but it’s late and I need to sleep. (Gasp! My insomnia is showing! I’m so embarrassed.) (Not that I read your blog to lull me to sleep. It’s just late at night when i have time to get to it…)


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