Someone once wrote, “a clean desk is a sign of a cluttered mind.” The tidiness of the room you work in does affect how you think. But a messy environment is more likely to spark creativity, while an orderly space seems to inspire conventional behavior, research shows.
University of Minnesota researchers placed one group of study participants in an orderly room and another group in a room strewn with papers, and asked both groups to think of unconventional uses for pingpong balls. Both groups came up with about the same number of ideas, but those generated by the people in the cluttered room were more innovative.
There’s something to be said for an orderly environment, too, though. In a different experiment, Dutch students were directed to fill out a form, then asked to donate to a charity and offered an apple or chocolate as a thank-you gift. The students in the orderly room donated more than twice as much as those in the cluttered space and chose the apple over the chocolate more often.
“Orderly environments promote more convention and healthy choices, which could improve life by helping people follow social norms and boosting well-being,” University of Minnesota researchers concluded. “Disorderly environments stimulate creativity, which has widespread importance for culture, business and the arts.”