How much mess is good for your creativity?

On Monday I blogged about untidiness enhancing creativity, but also wasting time and creating frustration. Since then I’ve wondered what the ideal level of mess is to enhance creativity without it being outweighed by time lost hunting for stuff and the frustrations it causes.

Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could work it out by drawing a graph like this…

Creativity and Mess

And a graph like this….

Time wasted and Mess

I could then use these graphs to create an equation to calculate my optimum level of mess…

Creativity Equation

But wait a minute! There’s one more negative influence to add that I overlooked  on Monday. The psychologists I quoted only studied people spending a limited amount of time in the tidy/untidy conditions. In real life people can spend days, weeks, even years, living in the same (ever-growing?) mess.

The impact of living with long-term clutter – just like unfinished projects – is that it hangs in the corners of our awareness, stopping us give full attention to the jobs in hand and eroding creativity. I thought about adding this into my equation, but instead I put the equation where it belonged…

 Waste Paper Bin

Whilst it may be a fool’s errand attempting to work out an optimum level of mess for maximum creative output, I still want to make my environment less frustrating, less timewasting and more conducive to creativity. There are unquestionably untidy areas that are nagging me and sapping my creative energy. I know dealing with them long-term is going to involve rules – funny how working to improve creativity so often involves rules.

My first rule is to spend 10 minutes at the end of every day tidying up my nagging mess – I’ve deliberately made it a short time so it’s harder for me to make excuses to worm out of it. I’ve deliberately made it at the end of the day, so my ten minute burst doesn’t incite me to tidy the whole house first thing in the morning and waste the day tidying up.

I know more rules will emerge as I work on this, but for now one rule will get me started.

Want to tackle your mess? What rule(s)are you going to set?


8 thoughts on “How much mess is good for your creativity?

  1. I don’t think I could manage 10 minutes at the END of the day! Apart from necessary tidying up, I just want to flop and relax then. I’ve tried the ‘take a thing and put it away properly each time you walk past it’ but ended up doing more tidying than anything else. We have a dreadful amount of clutter here – books, magazines, fabric pieces, odd bits of wool – and I’m sure some could go. I just can’t bring myself to throw things out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I really mean 10 mins before the end of the end of the working day, so I’m still theoretically working and still needing to keep going and cook tea etc for a while after. Totally agree with the ‘take a thing as you walk past…’ taking over and I’m rubbish at throwing things away too, mostly because when I do, I usually find out I need them ten minutes after they’ve gone.


  2. I think ten minutes is a great idea, it means I can take my teacups into the kitchen, straighten up a little and it really is not too much of a commitment. The difference it can make starting a new day with a tidy space does feel more productive – I can get on with my day.

    I think the battle I struggle with most is the concept of housework – we are bombarded with unrealistic expectations about how our homes should look form the advertising pumped into our homes via our TV – that it makes me feel I really fall short.

    I have worked out a system that keeps it manageable – I can’t work in a mess – I have beautiful storage, I box everything up and I only keep projects I am working on – the rest goes away. I decide the level of tidiness that works for me – thankfully when I do tidy it is a blessing to have a small flat! it really doesn’t take that long to do because I usually get round to it when I feel its getting out of hand.

    Re-framing also helped me a lot –

    If I do housework imagining it is preventing my creativity then I will resent it instead I consider housework a fantastic way to give my creativity a chance to mull over what I am working on. I usually have a pen and notebook with me alongside my cleaning stuff. (waterproof ones haven’t been invented yet!) Washing up is usually the best place – I have lots of ideas then.

    -housework is where you put the love into your home, everything you have in your home you have brought there so it is part of caring for what you love. I have pretty china cups that are lovely to wash and they are so old I imagine the love and care someone else gave them through the years. If something isn’t what you want to lavish time on then why is it in your home? De-cluttering saves time spent on housework it makes sense!

    You may imagine my home is spotless but it isn’t – I have piles of books and a jumble of things about the place, but if a friend rang me to say they were coming I could pack it all away in ten minutes.

    there’s an idea…. how much can you get done in ten minutes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So agree about unrealistic expectations about how our homes should look and am a great believe in ‘shutting the door’ on mess so it doesn’t interfere until we’re ready to let it. Reframing is brilliant! It can free up so much energy. Good for you!


  3. Great blog Bekki Hill! I just discovered it and decided to subscribe (which I rarely do). fredthethread- we are on the same page about housework!! I completely relate to what you said about frame of mind, and thinking of it as a chance to put love into your home. That is exactly how I see it. I agree also that unrealistic expectations are imposed on us. It’s so important to be aware and develop your own style and way of keeping your space. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And thank you for subscribing – a real compliment as you don’t do it very often 🙂 On that note, I can’t see you coming up in my notifications. Maybe wordpress is just being slow, but if my blog subscription is misbehaving and ignoring you it would be great if you could let me know. As I’ve just commented to fredtheneedle, absolutely agree about loving your home and reframing. Also absolutely agree you should develop your own style. Individuality is so important.


  4. Very timely Bekki. Last week I bought a new (to me) desk and shelving and reorganised my work space. It was chaos for a couple of days but I’ve ditched so much stuff that I didn’t need but felt I couldn’t get rid of . I had been saving things in case I needed it ‘some day’ but realised I hadn’t touched it for years. I feel much more clarity and the room has a new energy. I’ll keep quiet about the rest of the house 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear your clutter clearing has helped you gain clarity and new energy. There’s always so much to do it’s hard to keep on top of everything. Having an oasis of one tidy, calm room can make a huge difference.


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