A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
Is being all neat and organized really all it’s cracked up to be? Are clichés really old hat? This book is not about clichés. It’s about messes and being a messy person. Does being messy really mean you’re less successful than that woman who has the Pinterest board solely dedicated to organizing her spice rack? It turns out that being messy isn’t actually that bad. There’s even scientific evidence to back it up.
Let’s say your house is a bit messy? So what? Do you know where everything is at? Does it work for you? Does it give you more time to do the things you want? If you check, checked, checked those boxes, then there’s no problem. The authors go on to explain that there is a social stigma about being messy. We tend to associate being messy with being unproductive members of society, but get ready for lots of examples of people who were messy and they did just fine, in fact, they’re a lot of really successful people.
People who have their own brand of mess are actually more productive at life than people who don’t. So let’s say you do spend a great deal of time organizing things. Does it ever pay off? Does the time, and money, you put into the organization ever pay off? If you organize something and it saves you lots of time, great! If you organize something and you spend a ton of time looking for your things in the organized stuff and it’s only saving you a few minutes, was it worth it to spend the time and money to organize it in the first place? Questions and more questions.
The authors then go on to talk about more aspects of life that people try to neaten up, like education. Teachers have said a great deal of their time is spent on trying to get children to adhere to rigid learning structures rather than learning the actual lessons. This model is compared to an education model where children learn at their own pace and learn what they’re interested in that day. They do fine, in fact, they do very well.
People spend a lot of time, and money, agonizing over being more organized, but really, does your label container need a label that says it’s a label container?
What I liked
This is a self-help book after my own heart. I am not a messy person, but I’m not a neat person either. If you walked into my house, right now, right this minute, you would find several cloth napkins on my couch, a space heater in the middle of the living room, five coats on one of my papasan chairs, and three empty soda cans on the table beside where I’m sitting right now. My house isn’t a total disorganized mess, but it’s organized in a way that makes sense to me, albeit much more organized than some people. I guess you could describe it as organized chaos, but maybe a degree or two removed from that, because I certainly do have organization systems. My spice drawer, although not alphabetized, is pretty freaking sweet.
I do think we place too much emphasis on this extreme organization trend. I don’t need a thousand dollars worth of stuff from Ikea to organize my socks, or whatever. If you’re spending a thousand dollars on stuff from Ikea to organize your socks, you’ve got way too many socks. You know, all these labels and fancy shoe containers are nice, but is it really worth the money and time spent on it? I totally get having trouble finding something in something that you’ve “organized.” I really don’t care if you come in my living room and see that I have five coats on a papasan chair. I switch them out and use them often, so why shouldn’t they be on my papasan chair?
There are a lot more things I could say about this book, but it does resonate with me. Life doesn’t have to be organized down to the second. Sometimes you can just do things when you feel like doing them and your house doesn’t have to be the day-dream of a professional Pinterest organizer with OCD.
I also loved the bit about education. I think it’s true. I don’t think we have to have structure environments to learn and work in. Right now, I work in an open-plan office and I listen to audio books all day. Between code testing, I read articles, or lists. It’s not organized, but I’m still productive. Listening to books and reading lists keeps me from getting bored with my job.
What I didn’t like
I tend not to like the condescending tone that self-help books all seem to have, but other than that, I can’t think of a lot I didn’t like about this one.
What if I told you that it was ok to leave stuff on the dining room table?
Oh man, my ex-husband would be ticked at that one. He would complain about stuff being on the dining room table, but put stuff there himself and he also wouldn’t clean it, but he had to complain about me putting mail there, or my purse. Makes perfect sense… not.
True story–my ex would reprimand me for having a messy mail cubby, but at the same time the room he hung out in was a disaster. There was stuff everywhere. You could hardly open the door, which he put on backward, and then stole when he moved out. I promise, this is true. Apparently, having a messy mail cubby determines the worth of your soul or something, oh well. Yes, he really stole the door, just in case you were wondering.
Messy? Yeah or Nay?
Do you find that you judge people harshly, or unfairly, for being less organized than yourself?