Thursday, July 13, 2017

Messiness Encourages Creativity?
Orderliness Fosters Generosity?

Change Your Desk, Change Your Life? is a blog post published recently on the Evernote blog.  Perhaps the title might just as easily have been, "Change Your Sewing Space, Change Your Life?" 

I thought the post was so interesting that I wanted to mention it with the hope that you will share your thoughts and experiences about order vs. clutter in your own life.  The article reviews findings based on research of only a relatively small sample of people so the results cannot be taken as gospel.  And I will tell you that I did not read the results of the research, just the aforementioned article discussing the results.

The research highlighted in the post suggests that
  • messiness encourages creativity
  • a tidy environment may lead to healthier food choices
  • orderliness may produce generosity
  • the act of organizing may reduce stress

Are any of the above true for you?  Or have you even noticed a correlation?  I know many of us work in areas that are stacked, piled, and cluttered with fabric and other sewing supplies.  Some say they can't create otherwise, others prefer a more tidy environment.  If  you change the work area from tidy to cluttered or messy to neat do you notice any changes in your creativity and how you work?

I'm comfortable with a messy environment when I'm in the midst of a creative project but when finished, I need to clean up a bit or the old supplies laying out hinder my thoughts toward the new project.  You?

I haven't thought about the relationship between tidiness and generosity or tidiness and food choices, nor the act of organizing reducing stress, but they will be on my mind, especially when I'm experiencing stress.  Maybe it will be time to finally organize that linen closet upstairs!

I hope you'll please share your thoughts on the above results of research.  

Do any of you use Evernote?  It's a free program which stores information, weblinks, photos and other digital files in the cloud where you can access it from any electronic device.  I use it when I remember....

Since this is such an odd kind of post, I guess this is a Really Random Thursday post.



  1. I think that the creative process for me does bring its own messiness. But once a project is completed, I do need to restore a semblance of order. I feel my sewing space is small enough that total order is elusive, but I don't want it chaotic.
    I don't know about generosity or food choices, either, but I do know that for me, when things have become too disorderly, it does stress me. So in that case, absolutely, the act of organizing would reduce stress.

    1. Hi, Janet --
      While in college I bought a set of watercolors for a class -- not your cheap Crayola kind, but a really nice set. One of the girls I worked with loved watercolors and made wonderful paintings. I brought out my new paints one day for her to use. She started but then just quit. Later she told me that the set was so new and pristine that she couldn't paint with it and she didn't want to make a mess of the colors by mixing in case I would be upset. So not just with fabrics but in all kinds of creative endeavors, I agree: the creative process can (and in my case, usually is) messy. And like you, I have to pick up and put away after a project is finished. Mess is different than chaos, don't you think? I can deal with a little mess for a while but not with chaos. Chaos is just too stressful.

      I wondered about generosity and food choices in this study, but then I think the study group was only 34. It would be really hard to make a definitive statement based on such a small group.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I appreciate it.

  2. I sometimes gather fabrics for a project and then go off on a tangent, I can repeat this a few times and then I'll find a new way to use some of the fabrics pulled for the original project, newer, fresher ideas come to me. This is how my creativity flows. I definitely need the visual stimulation. If things get packed away I'm scared they'll fall from favour!

    1. Hi, ES. For me, if it's out of sight, it's out of mind, so, like you, I need to be able to see the possibilities to use the supplies/resources (fabric!). Thanks for responding to my questions. I appreciate it.

  3. When I am in the midst of a project, my work area may appear to be like chaos. However, if my hubby moves anything in that area, I can never find it. I always tell him it's my organized chaos. He knows better now than to move things around. LOL I do find myself re-organizing my fabric scraps and stash every few months. It helps me find what I need when searching for fabrics for a new quilt.

    1. Oh, yes, Goofin' Off, my husband's learned to leave things alone in my work/play/sewing area, too. I don't reorganize my fabrics very often, unless I pull some fabric and then have to neaten, but maybe I should give it a try to remind me the fabrics I have.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Hmmm, maybe I should start backwards. Organizing does help me to reduce stress. That being said, I don't have much time these days to organize so perhaps that is why my stress levels are a bit high this summer. I can't say that I have ever noticed my being more generous when my space is orderly, nor do I make better food choices. That seems like a trick question. I have never used Evernote, in fact I've never heard of it, but then I'm not technically minded. Thanks for sharing these questions.

    1. Hi, Wendy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I hope you're able to find time to organize so you don't feel so stressed! For me, stress reduces my happiness!

      I've never noticed that the act of organizing reduces my stress but being organized certainly does! Not being able to find things (the result of my disorganization) drives me nuts.

      I thought the questions about being more generous and making better food choices were interesting things to best, but with such a small study group (of 34, I think), it would be hard to make a strong case for those two being true of neatness.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.


  5. I am going to tackle the four statements one by one.
    1. messiness encourages creativity. Absolutely true. When two unrelated things wind up next to each other, you can see connections between them that you would miss if they had been kept in their own tidy bins. You see more possibilities and put things together that you wouldn't have thought if it happened accidentally. Penicillin was invented this way, although I wouldn't recommend growing mold!

    2. a tidy environment may lead to healthier food choices. I'm not sure but I guess it is possible. When the kitchen is clean, I am more inclined to cook and when the table is clean, I am more inclined to sit and eat at the table instead of eating in front of the TV or computer.

    3. orderliness may produce generosity. I doubt this is true. But I do think that the act of putting things in order encourages generosity, as I tend to declutter as I clean, and give the usable items to charity.

    4. The act of organizing may reduce stress. I think this depends on why the organizing takes place. When someone else commands you to organize, then it leads to stress, because you do it with a bad attitude, and quickly, and have trouble finding things afterwards. When I do it for myself, then a cleaned environment does reduce stress. The cleaning process itself could reduce stress as you feel you are finally doing something about problems in your life.

    I have heard of Evernote being used especially in the field of genealogy, but haven't used it myself. I do hear it is a good program.

    1. Hi, Shasta. Thanks for your in-depth responses to the statements in this post. It seems like most of the readers who responded in the comments agreed in one way or another about the correlations between messiness and creativity. And I like your reasoning for messing encouraging creativity. It's happened to me before!

      And interesting thoughts about organizing reducing stress. Yes, when "forced" to organize, it's not as successful for me. But heck, if I rearrange to organize and neaten, I sometimes have trouble finding things, anyway.

  6. All I know is that when the kitchen is clean I get inspired to cook. When my sewing space is tidy I feel the urge to create. Right now, with my son and DIL living with us I have had to clean out the bedroom's walk-in closet downstairs that held tops, fabric in boxes, completed quilts on shelves, quilt frames, batting etc. It has all been moved to my tiny sewing room. There is so mcuh unorganized clutter that room that it seriously causes stress in me. I go in that room to choose the next fabric for my applique and then I go to another room to sew. The only thing I can think of with a tidy environment helping to make better food choices is that your can find what you want to eat easier and you'll have a clean plate to eat it on. Honestly, I don't really see a correlation.

    1. Hi, Robin. How hard for you to have had to consolidate your sewing and quilting supplies and fabric into a too small space. I know I would feel stressed, too. I agree with you about tidiness encouraging cooking and creative activities. The research results were based on studies with a mere 34 participants so I'm not sure the accuracy of tidiness encouraging better food choices. I just thought the study was interesting.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.

  7. I just read the article that you linked. I wonder if people visiting a clean room may feel that the person asking the question is a rule follower, and in order to be liked by that person they also need to follow the rules, and say yes to healthy food and being generous in order to be liked by him/her. A person with a messy desk is probably considered more laid back and maybe not as strict so they could do either what they wanted, or what they perceived the person with the messy desk would do.

    1. Great thoughts, Shasta. I think a study like this would be hard because there are so many personality considerations and such a variety of reasons why people do things. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Interesting article, but as you pointed out, a very small study group. I can get very messy and still create, but at some point I feel overwhelmed and must tidy up, even if I am in the middle of a project. That being said, I am NEVER in the middle of only one project and that sometimes drives me crazy, but not so crazy that I seem to be able to change it. I am not convinced by the concept of relationships between tidiness and eating well, generosity. I do use Evernote. I store lots of files and patterns there. It is pretty cluttered, too.

    1. Hi, Jennie. I wonder if they'll do more research along these lines with a larger study group. It would interesting to hear more conclusive evidence in either direction.

      I think it's hard to be neat all the time when cutting fabric, sewing, ironing, etc., and especially with multiple projects. But I'm like you, I have to at least clean up at the end and sometimes during the making of a quilt or whatever.

      I'm not convinced, either, of the relationships between tidiness and eating and generosity.

      I use Evenote but I'm sure I could make better use of it.

      Thanks for leaving a comment with responses to my questions.

  9. Such a fun and intriguing post, Nancy! In my case, messiness definitely encourages creativity. Quilting just naturally creates a mess - at least in my's just the nature of the beast. One idea leads to another for me and before I know it, I have 3 or 4 projects waiting in the wings. I might pull fabrics for one project, be cutting out a second, sewing on a third, binding a fourth, and planning a fifth. :) However, I do keep things semi-orderly. It only seems a mess to the untrained eye. LOL,
    As for a tidier environment leading to healthier food choices...I can't say I see a correlation between the two. I love a tidy kitchen though and since I'm always cooking, I spend a lot of time cleaning!
    I also do not agree that orderliness produces generosity, but of course it MAY. I know messy folks and fastidious ones who are incredibly generous.
    And yes, in my case anyway, organizing reduces stress and I think I'm pretty organized until I compare myself to my parents. Then I'm just a mess. A happy mess, but a mess nonetheless! :)

  10. Hi, Karin. I think nearly everyone who responded to this post agreed that messiness encourages creativity and creativity creates a mess. It makes sense: when you're on a roll with an idea, why stop to fold and put away?

    I, too, questioned the correlation between neatness and food choices and neatness and generosity. I personally think the study group was too small to scientifically make that correlation. I don't know if they have a larger study planned but if so, it will be interesting to see the results.

    I'm sure your organization is perfect for you. Everyone has their own level of comfort for mess, organization, etc. My parents' home was so strictly tidy that it was hard to be creative. A mess is good!


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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