A Tidy Desk is a Sign of a Sick Mind

My third year heat transfer prof was one of the, perhaps the, tidiest men I’ve ever known. There was nothing out of place in his office, on his desk, heck, even his pocket protector looked to be organized.

We students made a lot of jokes that anyone that locked down, that neat and tidy, had to be hiding some dark, terrible secret.

“A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind” was our operating assumption.

It’s bullshit. Christians would point out the opposite, that “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” A tidy desk is an act of virtue, not insanity.

You create your environment to reflect your personality and preferences. Orderliness as a sign of mental illness is a lie that slobs tell themselves because they are aware that they are the ones in the wrong.

While the above is true, you are also not a slave to it. In Presuasion, Robert Cialdini shows that your environment has a profound effect on your work. In other words, your environment creates your mental state.

  • All nature naturally descends into chaos.
  • Life is the temporary imposition of order on that chaos.
  • Cleaning, tidying, ordering, these are affirmations of life itself.

I’ve written a bit on the topic of letting go of the physical and mental burdens of your past.

Cleaning your desk is one way to do that, and improve your productivity at the same time you’re improving your mental health.