Andrea Romano
December 04, 2018

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have clean desks and those who don’t.

Just because you have a cluttered or messy desk doesn’t make you a bad person, or even a bad worker, but it does send a particular, and possibly negative, message to the people around you, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan.

In a series of experiments, psychologists from UM’s Flint and Ann Arbor campuses had about 160 participants sit in researcher’s offices that were either clean or messy.

According to the UM website, the clean office was stocked with neatly organized books, papers and journals, as well as cleared of all trash. In the messy office, books were left askew, papers were strewn around the room and some trash and paper was on the floor. The clock was also an hour off.

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After sitting in the offices, participants had to then guess what the researcher’s personality might be like, judging their sociability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and “openness to experience,” according to the UM website.

As a result, the participants rated the researcher with the messier office as crankier, less caring, careless, more neurotic or less agreeable than the researcher with the clean office.

“When there are cues related to less cleanliness, order, organization and more clutter in an owner’s primary territory, perceivers ascribe lower conscientiousness to the owner,” said lead study author Terrence Horgan, professor of psychology at UM-Flint on the university blog.

“An employee who is very disorganized, difficult to get along with, and emotionally unstable might be problematic in any work setting that requires individuals to work together in a relatively calm and disciplined manner,” said co-author and clinical researcher at Michigan Medicine, Noelle Herzog.

Turns out, there may be some truth to the saying, a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind.

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