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Why Artists Tend to be Messy: The Parallel to Being Creative and Disorganized

By Edited Oct 11, 2016 2 2

Why Artists are Messy

Isn't it interesting how creative people who keep their work or living spaces a mess are able to somehow function within it? It's that artist in the cubicle next to you or the kid in the desk behind you. They both have the trash and books stuffed into their desks and pencils littered around their feet. Yet why is it that they don't seem to feel as overwhelmed as you do when you just look at their mess.

Growing up, I was always in an endless battle to tame my mess. Stuffed animals and toys and crumpled up papers and wrappers littered the underside of my bed. Even more toys and school papers and clothes inhabited my floors. Every time I cleaned my room, I could feel the restfulness and serenity the tidiness offered. It felt so good to lay on a made bed and have everything be in its place, but it was a struggle to keep it that way. Even now to this day, I have to fight to keep up on the dishes before they stack to high and become a daunting task. But could this be apart of the reason why I am an artistic person?

The Messy Artist

Perhaps it's because an artist's mess allows for more creativity to flow. An article written by the American Psychological Association wrote on a study done by Kathleen Vohs, PhD, of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. The research done by Vohs, studied almost a hundred volunteers in three different tests. They had one part of the volunteers in a messy room and the other in a tidy room answering questionnaires. Specifically the second experiment is where we find the correlation between having a creative mind and having a messy room. 

The participants were asked to come up with novel uses for a pingpong ball. In this second experiment, they split up the participants equally into the messy and clean room and both came up with the same amount of answers. However those that were in the messy room were rated by a panel as having more creative ideas and answers to the challenge. A last experiment showed that besides being more creative, they were also able to find that those in the messy room were more open to the new and different. They were more willing to be apart of or try current trends and interests. 

Messy People Tend to be Creative

Now I may not be the messiest artist out there, in fact I'd like to say that I am starting to win the battle of a clean home. But I have genuinely found some of my most creative ideas when living in a less than tidy inhabitancy. Now I am not encouraging others to stop making their bed and leave plates on the table for a week to help them become more creative. What I am saying is that those that have a hard time with keeping their spaces clean shouldn't have to conform to what others think should be normal. It is good to have some form of consistency and order, but if messiness allows you to be more artistic and think outside the box, then more power to you. It was once quote by Albert Einstein that, "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?" 

Many of the great thinkers such as Einstein, or the great writers and inventors like Mark Twain and Steve Jobs, had a mess of work space. But now studies like the ones above can give us an answer for their clutter and why it coincides with their amazing minds. And when people who have struggled with a constant mess that is hard to manage read studies like the one Kathleen Vohs did, then perhaps they will realize that their own spontaneity and creativity comes out of their own struggle. 



Nov 12, 2015 9:02pm
Though school my desk has been a combo of messy and neat; which depended on the classroom I was in. Apparently, this knack for functioning in a cluttered space came in handy while volunteering at a local school.

It pretty much came as a shock to the instructors that I could stuff so much stuff into such little spaces with room to spare. There's soooooome clutter in my room but things are grouped accordingly...-ish. Your article is an enjoyable read that brought to mind many memories of school and listening to teachers talking about the clutter they saw.

Thanks for sharing this article.
Nov 13, 2015 7:16am
You're welcome Browna86! I'm glad this article could bring back memories for you. It means a lot to me when my articles can reach out to people and speak to them. :)

Also thanks for sharing your story!
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