Clean Desk = Sick Mind

I have a new category to fit into, and it feels wonderful. I discovered on Thursday, January 8, 2009, that I am a Scruffy. David Kirsch divides the world into Neats and Scruffies. It has given me motivation to continue preparing the lecture for Grambling now that I know that having seven books piled up on the floor next to three stacks of paper on top of a couple of file folders is OK, even if I have to step around them to go reheat my tea.

Kirsch says that people evolve their own way of working on a sliding scale from pristine to health hazard. (Well, those categories are actually mine. He seems to have just Neat and Scruffy.) Trying to change behavior doesn’t help. The website Unclutterer says, “Worst of all, trying to make Scruffies into Neats won’t work, and will just make them less productive. They will just end up disorganized anyway.” Which explains why my desk never stays organized for more than a couple of hours. When it is, I get nervous that I won’t be able to find something or that I’ve filed a document that was under the reminder from the eye doctor. I need that pile of bills, clippings, magazines, notes to myself, that reminder to keep moving. Being a Scruffy also explains my reliance on Post-It notes. I recently managed to fit five reminders on a 1×2” square.

Being a Scruffy also explains my aversion to organizers. I have a calendar for stuff like dentist appointments, but the rest goes on Post-Its. I do write down grocery lists, but half the time I find the paper on my desk when I get home. Unless I’m ill or something, I find I’ve remembered 95 percent of items.

My mother was the consummate Scruffy. She had piles of books and papers, clippings, magazines, and whatnot on her desk, the bed, the floor, her typing table, most of the chairs in the house and after I moved out, the bed and desk in my old room. Above her desk were two signs, which I now keep in my office. “A Neat Desk Is the Sign of a Sick Mind” and “A Clean Desk Is the Sign of a Sick Mind.” I think I prefer the latter since I do try to wipe of spills and throw away used tea bags. The desk, underneath the piles, is generally clean. But neat? Never!

And besides if I clean off the desk, Isis the cat won’t have a soft place as she sits in the window to watch the morning news – the neighbor’s dog romping in the snow – and the afternoon soaps – the birds, squirrels and kids coming home from school.


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