A Perfect Mess

PerfectMessThe Hidden Benefits of Disorder

How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place

Do you have a messy desk? Welcome to the club–most people do. And if you’re like two out of three people, you feel guilty and ashamed about it, as well as about the lack of neatness and organization in your home, your office, your schedule, your parenting, and everywhere else in your life. And other people probably give you grief about it. But are messiness and disorganization really such terrible things? If so, why do people who keep their desks very neat spend an average of 36 percent more time looking for things at work than people who keep a fairly messy desk?

A Perfect Mess shatters the myths and misunderstandings about messiness and disorder that have led to an often pointless, counterproductive and demoralizing bias toward neatness and organization in our society. Drawing on examples from business, parenting, cooking, the war on terrorism, retail stores and celebrities, A Perfect Mess demonstrates that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, spur creativity, yield better solutions and are harder to break than neat ones.

A Perfect Mess helps readers assess the right amount of disorder for a given system, and show how to apply these ideas everywhere from the kitchen, garage or office, to government and all of society. Find out why A Perfect Mess is leading more and more people to just say ‘yes’ to mess!

Stop letting the neat-freaks push you around.  Find out why a certain amount of messiness and disorganization is probably already working in your favor–and how to take even better advantage of the benefits of disorder.  From jaywalking to musical improvisation to organizational charts, A Perfect Mess analyzes and celebrates the long-ignored brighter side to one of our most wide-spread and natural characteristics: Making a mess.

International Praise for WRONG

“A meandering, engaging tour of beneficial mess and the systems and individuals reaping those benefits….A fine time tipping over orthodoxies and poking fun at clutter busters and their ilk, and at the self-help tips they live or die by.”
–The New York Times

“Combine the ‘world-is-not-as-it-seems’ mind-set of Freakonomics with the delicious celebration of popular culture found in Everything Bad is Good for You to get the cocktail-party-chatter-ready anecdotes of messiness leading to genius in A Perfect Mess.”
–Fast Company

“Written in the style of counterintuitive classics like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, A Perfect Mess amounts to a big messy pile of evidence that in the grand scheme of things, the advantages of neatness are often outweighed by the costs….Citing case studies and entertaining anecdotes, the authors [show] that a slightly messy way of doing things is more flexible, efficient and likely to succeed in the real world than a tightly regimented one.”
–Forbes FYI

“An engaging polemic against the neat-police who hold so much sway over our lives….A godsend to anybody who has a cleanliness fanatic for a boss….[and] for anyone who is already finding it hard to keep a New Year’s resolution about being tidier.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“As with Freakonomics and Gladwell’s books, the attempt is both thought-provoking and fun….For those whose eyes glaze over at management treatises, fortunately A Perfect Mess unleashes, rather pell-mell, a muddle of other examples ranging far beyond your cubicle — freewheeling landscape design, electric shock therapy treatments, noisy cell phone signals, tangled traffic patterns, random urban planning, chaotic terrorist tactics and Surrealist art movements….The book’s peripatetic path eventually proves that despite what your mother, your boss or your girlfriend tells you, a certain amount of disorder is a good thing.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

“Good news! Organization is overrated….The book is thought-provoking, well-organized, badly needed.”
–The Los Angeles Times

“Eye-opening stories that challenge our obsession with an idealized version of home.”
–The Dallas Morning News

“An almost indecently fascinating book.”
–The Guardian

“A cross between Blink and Getting Things Done….A great, provocative, counter-intuitive, and really enjoyable argument about the benefits of mess and the costs of organization.”

2 thoughts on “A Perfect Mess

  1. […] in staat waren om meer fantasierijke toepassingen te bedenken. Dit blijkt ook uit het boek “A Perfect Mess”, waarin wordt beweerd dat “mensen met zeer geordende bureaus vaak moeite hebben om dingen te […]

  2. Fred Copsey-Pearce says:

    Oh come on, pandering to people to get them to buy a book which based on a basic statistical analysis would appeal to them.

    And really, trumping the reality what a simple cost benefit analysis would demonstrate that there is a point where the cost of organization exceeds the benefit, which varies based on the nature of what is being organized, ie for some things there is little benefit while for others greater benefit. The classic examples being a ship where the high cost of space and the need to access certain things quickly and efficiently necessitates a high degree of organization while organizing an underwear drawer because of its ever changing composition and its largely interchangeable nature makes little sense.

    I am a bit annoyed by the whole discussion as it routinely misses two salient features. One, for some people such as my daughter, son in law and wife, messes cause psychological stress and will get way out of control if not addressed early and structurally. It is not due to any need to conform to others, rather it is to maintain functionality, something which my mother has not been able to do. She embraces extreme messiness to the point her home is almost unlivable.

    Conversely have you ever had to wait on a boss because they were so messy they had to search through their paperwork and notes to address important work tasks and issues? I have and he wasted everyone else’s time. He set unrealistic goals for others because he expected them to work as long as he worked and a significant part of his time was spent wasted looking for things because he had difficulty organizing. When he retired he had to work a week longer to finish up his final reports and clean out his office. I was assigned to him because he was a mess and couldn’t properly supervise others and I needed little supervision. Even he knew he was over his head, he acknowledged this in a speech at his retirement and tried to make a little joke of it. Other supervisors tried to help him organize and gave up after year in and year out working a Saturday occasionally to help him. He wasn’t fired because he did administrative tasks no one else wanted to. He didn’t quit because it was the best job he ever had and one he really didn’t believe he could ever attain, plus he was well paid and his boss really didn’t care if he had to work 60 hours a week to complete 40 hours of work. The negative effect on employees, well at one point he was assigned employees no one else wanted in the hope it appeared that they would quit. When it became apparent they wouldn’t that scheme ended and they subsequently were assigned to good helpful supervisors to get help them get their work in order and others including me were assigned to him who needed minimal supervision.

    Giving people a free pass to disorder by embracing messiness misses the mark. Better is balancing messiness with order, being aware of its effect on oneself and on others.

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