Messy people everywhere, scientists have incredibly good news for you…

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Kayleigh Dray
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Back in the old days, everyone thought it was a terrible thing to be lazy or perpetually late. But, thanks to the tireless work of scientists from all over the world, we’ve learned that our so-called bad habits are actually a key indicator that we’re winning at life.

That’s right: unpunctuality is a common trait of “successful” people. Lazy folks are apparently more intelligent than their hard-working counterparts. And now researchers have revealed that, despite everything your mum told you, it’s better to be messy, too.

Well, it is if you’re hoping to forge ahead and break boundaries in your career, anyway.

A team of scientists at the University of Minnesota (clearly inspired by their own cluttered desks) hypothesised that there must be some higher, more noble reason for our chaotic clutter – and, after a little hard work, they came up with the idea that messy people are far more likely to be creative and imaginative than those who are inherently neat.

Kathleen Vohs, who led the study, told Science Daily: “Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity.

“We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.”

Vohs and her team conducted several experiments, in which they asked participants to come up with new uses for ping pong balls. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in a seriously messy one (think papers strewn everywhere, office supplies scattered across the floor, and dirty coffee cups all over the desks).

It quickly became apparent that participants in the messy room were coming up with far more interesting and creative ideas than their clean room counterparts – and were far more likely to embrace a novel, more unconventional product idea, too.

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” said Vohs.

“Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

It’s definitely a study we can get on board with (if you could see our desk, you’d understand why) – especially as it echoes the sentiments of some of history’s greatest minds.

After all, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” And Albert Einstein, similarly, rocked our worlds when he declared: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Time to get those quotes emblazoned on a mug, so we can flaunt it in the face of the next person who complains about our less-than-organised workspace…

Images: iStock/Clueless


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.