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Friday, April 27, 2012

A Perfect Mess, by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman

What if complete organization of one's home or office did not deliver all it promised? What if its benefits did not outweigh its costs? What if, in fact, it stripped one of something valuable?

Mr. Abrahamson and Mr. Freedman articulate in this book about mess and organization what I have long felt about time and schedules: that too strict standards too stridently enforced cost more than they are worth. Companies, families, individuals who do not enforce or require complete organization are more resilient and more resourceful than those who do.

Some amount of mess may actually lead to connections being made which otherwise would not be. The authors talk about scientific discoveries which were made because of mess, messy offices or messy laboratories. I see this also in the way in which my children think about the books on our disorganized bookshelves: they connect books in ways which I expect they would not if I imposed something resembling the Dewey Decimal system.

The authors turn their attention to homes and to businesses and find repeatedly that some amount of mess is actually more beneficial than complete organization. They do not, however, advocate complete mess.

Any system of organizing requires resources both to develop and to maintain, and in plenty of cases developing and maintaining a system of organization use more resources than the organization is worth.

I agree with many of the authors's conclusions; however, some of their assertions were more forcefully put than their evidence and arguments for the assertions warranted.

I would recommend this book to anyone who struggles with mess, especially to those who feel shame over it. Embrace the (perfect) mess!

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