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A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
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A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  852 Ratings  ·  190 Reviews
"An engaging polemic against the neat-police who hold so much sway over our lives." -The Wall Street Journal

Enthusiastically embraced by readers everywhere, this groundbreaking book is an antidote to the accepted wisdom that tight schedules, neatness, and consistency are the keys to success.

With an astounding array of anecdotes and case studies of the useful role mess can
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Back Bay Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Erin
Nov 06, 2007 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one really, but I guess if you need to feel better about being messy, this might help.
I had to stop reading this book. At about 60 pages in, it just got too annoying for me to read anymore. Basically, for 60 pages, the authors keep repeating, "yes, some people are neat, some are messy. But the middle ground is the best." Thank you Captain Obvious. The authors kind of write like pompous know-it-alls, and when they started insulting one of my favorite books (Cheaper by the Dozen), that was the final straw. The end.
Kylee
Oct 14, 2007 Kylee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That my OCD/perfectionist/virgo/anal retentive traits to keep everything in it's right place may not be all that great and can actually drive me crazy.
Consider this example I saw on the news. They had a gardener on the show for how to plant a beautiful garden. The female anchor was arranging all the bulbs in neat, concise rows, perfectly spaced. She then asked the gardener why he wasn't doing the same and was just throwing them in. His reply was that mother nature doesn't have such a system, yet
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Melissa
Aug 20, 2007 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sir What-a-Mess
If you are messy and disorganized, this book will make you feel justified in your piles and clutter. If you're organized, the cover is a soothing Real-Simple shade of blue. This book has something for everyone.
Gary Lang
A Perfect Mess



The premise is intriguing and intuitive: time spent organizing one's inner and outer lives had better have a positive ROI, or the entire industry of personal organization gurus like Peter Walsh can be shown to be a con.



Well this book is, as befits the predilections of its authors, a mess. They have an theory: neatness is a sign of internal and external inefficiency, and they proceed to look for validating instance proofs. But their instance proofs were only useful ones for a nanose
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Kelli Oliver George
January is "Organizing Month". So, it seemed appropriate that I read the book A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman. I was under the impression that this book was about actual CLUTTER - as in all the piles o' crap lounging around my house. As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a family member who has a serious hoarding problem. Serious as in "Oprah Should See Her House" SERIOUS - entire rooms of her house cannot even be accessed because of the clutter and soon, her dining ...more
Marieke
Jun 16, 2007 Marieke rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: perfectionists, worriers, planners, chaotic minds
Confirmed my suspicions that people spend too much time straightening, cleaning, and organizing - and worrying about not doing these things! - while a little disorder actually helps. Some companies and individuals actually devote more time to neatening before and after work and play, than to actual work and play.
Mims
Jun 06, 2008 Mims rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Recommended to Mims by: NPR
Shelves: never-finished
After reading Getting Things Done I felt like it would be appropriate to follow up with this book which advocates messiness as the key to productivity. While I could see the truth in this idea, the book failed miserably to make a strong case often citing frustratingly irrelevant anecdotes instead of well-founded fact. For example, one story tells of a man who's computer wouldn't turn on until he smacked it with a blunt object. This seems to me to be little more than a point about shoddy hardware ...more
Dorian
Aug 17, 2012 Dorian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Lightweight, but pleasing, I think is how I would sum this one up.

The authors' premise is that the modern world is going overboard in its attempts at neatness, order and organisation, and that in fact a bit of mess, disorder and disorganisation is not only not a bad thing, but often quite a good thing. They spend a chapter at the beginning setting this out, and a chapter at the end demonstrating how too much mess (what they describe as "pathological mess") really is a bad thing. The bulk of the
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David
Feb 12, 2008 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For all intents this book was written about my life. It is all about disorganization with major subjects including Boston (apparently a hub of confusion), software development, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some parts were thought-provoking, while I felt that others were flawed. At the very least it serves as a reminder that organization has its short-comings and that we should celebrate disorder, randomness, improvisation, and clutter. At a point in my life when I'm trying to get my act toget ...more
Charly
May 17, 2009 Charly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a messy desk
At last my penchant for working efficiently at a messy desk is vindicated. For those who have embraced the concept that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind this book is for you. It deals with mess in a variety of guises and I found there is a great deal of humor in this book long shot at organization freaks. Read this book if you can find it on your desk.
Meen
Oct 14, 2008 Meen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: Lisa Vegan
Oh! How wonderful it feels to be justified!!!
Elaine Meszaros
Dec 03, 2014 Elaine Meszaros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abrahamson and Freedman attempt to dispel the myth that mess is time-consuming and a sign of a lazy person. Mess, they argue, is in fact conducive to creativity, time-saving and a sign of a healthy mind. Using examples of everything from the ease and ability a messier person has in finding files readily at hand on their desk - as compared to someone who has spent hours filing everything away, to brilliant scientists like Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin after forgetting a petri dish on h ...more
Nicole Smith
Disclaimer: part of how I feel about this book is attributed to listening to the audio version - not my favorite reader.

But most of my lack of enthusiasm was based on the writing and assertions made. While I agree there is benefit to be found in not being too strict or overly organized (read spending all of your time planning and none of your time doing) I think there is also power and benefit in planning and creating some level of order.

Perhaps they were just going to an extreme to make a poin
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Lauren
Mar 24, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me by Ryan in defense of the piles of stuff that seem to accumulate wherever he spends time in the house and my constant nagging to clean it up. The author's defend Ryan's right to messiness through a variety of specific examples. Here's to hoping his disorder leads to creative and inventive thinking, and allows him time to do all those other things he would rather be doing...
Jahan
Nov 15, 2014 Jahan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First and foremost, a validation of my paradoxical ways. I am often not concerned about neatness, more concerned with getting stuff done. I've called my method "Organized Confusion", and for the most part it works. I can be neat and orderly when I want or need to be, but I can tolerate a good amount of disorder, and I can deal with a lot of unknowns. This book shows that this is okay, and in our current culture, we may be a bit too obsessed with neatness. We may be striving for order as an end u ...more
Phair
Aug 25, 2009 Phair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vindication! Some interesting stuff. A nice, light read providing a mix of science, sociology, psychology & pop culture. I took 4.5 pages of notes in my reading journal to remember for the next time someone grouses about my messy desk at work or my room at home. Loved it.
Jenn
May 06, 2010 Jenn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I will actually read this book, since I always feel the pressure of "so many books, so little time," and therefore gravitate towards a good story, but the title of this book appeals to me SOOOO, that I may just have to read it and feel vindicated for who I am!
Grace
Sep 11, 2007 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
good ideas but ended up stressing me out more than making great points about why it's ok being messy. a bit too anecdotal for me. and i think it doesnt address enough the psychological satisfaction people get by bringing order to their immediate surroundings.
Jennifer
Aug 24, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I started listening to the audio book and I couldn't finish it. The premise is very interesting, but the long drawn out details and the fact that the author skips from one seemingly unrelated subject to another caused me to lose interest quick.
James Pritchert
Jun 04, 2015 James Pritchert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
What a refreshing book on the benefits of clutter. It gave me permission to be just a bit messy and to enjoy my surroundings. This book provides new insights on the general subject of disorder and actually encourages us to be somewhat chaotic. Naturally, there is a place for those who crave sterile surroundings but for those of us who never quite achieve that level of order, this is the book for us. The authors sheds new light on the organizing gurus some of whom I have followed for years and th ...more
Amy Sherman
I listened to and abridged audio format of this book, and it was definitely too short. I obviously don't know what I missed in the portions removed, but what was included in the abridgement didn't fully convince me that "being messy" is beneficial. The one theme that made sense throughout was that a cluttered desk can be more productive than a clean desk, up to a point. At some point, the mess becomes too much so you cannot find what is "at hand." The authors did give a few examples of when mess ...more
Betty C.
Mar 06, 2016 Betty C. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I absolutely loved the premise of this book: that most of us are dragging around a lot of unnnecessary guilt about mess, clutter, and how perfectly organized we should be. The author makes a good case that not only are these are silly principles to live by, but that some degree of messiness and randomness in our daily routine, and our lives in general, can be productive.

However, like many books of this genre, I felt the point was made after about 100 pages and that a long article could have suf
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Ashley
Apr 30, 2010 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who feels like they should be neater or more organized
I really liked this book; I like being organized and neat, and do tend to stress about the areas I'm still messy in. "A Perfect Mess" though, is a great antidote to the pressure to always be neater, more organized, or more put together.

Mess can be ok; this book was kind of permission to let myself be messy in some areas. Piles of things in certain places don't bother me, but a kitchen full of dirty dishes and countertop full of crumbs, will drive me batty. And that's ok. The US Marines actually
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Nicole
Review from first reading in April 2009:
I haven't made many forays into the world of nonfiction, but I felt like this was a success. I don't think it dramatically changed my world view, but I did learn some interesting things. It was interesting to see how the authors were able to tie a discussion of mess and messiness into so many seemingly disparate topics: lawn care, gambling, mental disorders, jaywalking, and many more. I think one of the things I really enjoyed was that reading this book ga
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Anca
Apr 01, 2012 Anca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anca by: Pedro
Couldn't finish it (made it to page 84). I was looking forward to some good argumentative discourse but this book really let me down. While I do believe that sometimes the cost of organising something is much greater than what you get in return, the way the authors try to prove their point leaves the impression of deceit.
They use quirky anecdotes for proof that messy systems sometimes work only to constantly repeat that it's better to be somewhere in the middle.
The anecdotes aren't the annoying
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Starling
May 25, 2010 Starling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wasn't sure what this book was when I started it. I removed the self-help shelf from it, because it doesn't belong. Basically the book is a "perfect mess." It isn't self-help, but it also isn't a business book. It is basically a book about how not being excessively organized and also not being excessively a hoarder, but being something in the middle just works better than either extreme. It is a book about the middle path between two extremes.

We all know that living in a world where we have to
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Erin
Jan 23, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like that they spent so much time on the hidden cost of all of that "helpfull advice" from organizing professionals. It was nice to have a succienct analysis of how much time colored file tabs actually save most people -- 2-3 seconds, versus the amount of time (and money) it costs to put things into those folder 3-5 minutes and a bit more $.

Like the authors, I was surprised that previous studies hadn't spent much time actually analyzing the effectiveness of organizational products, and I read
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Carol
Feb 15, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Get yourself organized!
File those papers!
Buy bright red organizing shelving, boxes, baskets!
And if you are really in trouble, hire an organizational guru who can help you out of your mess!

These are the messages the media and our culture give us. We are a mess. We need fixing!

But do we really? Is there anything really wrong with us?

Abrahamson and Freedman say no. In a refreshing counter-culture non-fiction book, they look at why its good to be a bit and even moderately messy. Their arguments are
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Glenn Murphy
Oct 26, 2009 Glenn Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Abrahamson and Freedman approach the topic of disorder and messiness from the viewpoint that people today tend to put too much emphasis on neatness and predictability. They believe that most systems of organization cost more in time to maintain than they save in actual use. They point out many examples of discoveries and art that probably wouldn't have come to be if the people involved had adhered more closely to norms. They do not, however, advocate that we abandon order entirely. This would be ...more
Gwen
Aug 29, 2012 Gwen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwen by: Language Log post
Shelves: culture
Ironic, perhaps, that this book extolling the merits of 'mess' is almost too 'messy' for me to enjoy?

The authors are at their most convincing in the first half of the book--chapters about the benefits of being flexible for scheduling, etc., the role being disorganized has had in scientific discoveries, and how being too organized can be a time waster.

The second half of the book is where things go, for lack of a better term, messy. What little semblance of organized thoughts are gone, leading to
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Eric Abrahamson is the youngest ever full professor of management at Columbia University's School of Business.

Abrahamson studies the creation, spread, use and rejection of innovative techniques for managing organizations and their employees. He is best known for his work on fads and fashions in management techniques. He is also an expert on the management of organizational change. He has explored
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More about Eric Abrahamson...

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