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It's a Mess!

David Fernandez Bonet -

Haouye Liu -

Upon entering your home, you examine the surroundings. Unfortunately, everything is the same. There are piles of dishes on the sink, paper sheets scattered all around the desktop, and, of course, the chair. Oh yes, that chair. It would be reasonable to assume that a chair is used for sitting, but not that one. It has not been used in ages, simply because it is occupied by mountains of clothes. Whenever the pile seems to be reducing, new clothes appear out of nowhere to fill the empty spots. You cannot help but wonder why it’s always a mess.

The natural state of things has an annoying tendency towards the chaotic and untidy. It is easy to blame yourself for the mess surrounding you. It is perhaps easier to blame it on universal laws, such as the principle of least action or the second law of thermodynamics. After all, isn’t entropy, or disorder, supposed to increase? That is what the pile of clothes seems to be doing anyway, increasing. However, from time to time, the beast of chaos cowers in fear and shrinks back if we spend willpower on cleaning. But chaos remains lurking, anxious to get an opportunity to strike back.

But what are the effects of such strikes? How do we react to messiness at a psychological level? First, it is not aesthetically pleasant. When entering a dirty room, one tends to cringe and feel discomfort — the opposite of the peace and fascination when observing beauty and symmetry. However, messy environments are not only unpleasant aesthetically; they are also known to cause stress. A cluttered environment can overwhelm the brain, reducing its ability to focus and process information efficiently. Therefore, activities such as reading, studying, or problem-solving are much more difficult to perform in chaotic scenarios.

However, contrary to popular belief, messiness and disorder can also be beneficial. A study by the University of Minnesota found that being surrounded by a mess can enhance and promote creativity. Chaos reinforces thinking differently, or at least less conventionally, and pushes the brain to explore options more freely. The research article explores how participants in messy rooms develop new ways of using ping-pong balls more easily and originally than participants in tidy rooms. This out-of-the-box thinking might only be strengthened in environments that are not perfectly ordered.

Chairs that store a mountain of clothes on them are annoying, but they might be something more than that. While clutter can challenge the ability to focus, it simultaneously benefits creativity, encouraging unconventional thinking. The benefits of a tidy environment cannot be understated either: reduced stress, enhanced focus, and a sense of harmony. So, next time your room looks messy, remember the hidden virtues of that cluttered chair. But also the clear value of making some room to sit.

Publicerad: 2024-05-24

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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