Eric Abrahamson is coauthor of the book A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. And he says we’ve gotten so obsessed with being neat, that we’re wasting both time and energy constantly trying to put everything in order. But Abrahamson says our obsession with neatness can be counterproductive.

For example, the 2 hours you spent organizing a file system at work could’ve been spent finishing a project. And the afternoon you spent color coding your garage could’ve been spent with your family. Now, Abrahamson isn’t saying that neatness is bad. He’s simply pointing out that a moderate amount of messiness isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re not sure how to part with your neatnik ways, here’s Abrahamson’s advice on how not to ‘obsess over mess’.

  • Make peace with your clutter. People are naturally a little messy, and no matter how hard you try, there’s going to be a time where your kitchen counter – or your desk – get a little cluttered. And if you accept that, you’ll feel a lot less stressed. This doesn’t mean you should let dishes pile up in the sink for 3 weeks, but don’t have a heart attack if someone leaves the bathroom towels on the floor.
  • Be sloppier with your schedule. Stop planning every minute of every day! Instead, try to loosen things up a little, so that there are blocks of – gasp! - free time in your schedule. A less structured date book makes it easier to adapt to surprises that may pop up throughout the day, and allows you to ‘go with the flow’.
  • Forget filing. If you organize your CD collection alphabetically by artist, it’ll be randomly organized by album title. Basically, no matter how you try to organize something, it’ll be random in some other aspect. So stop obsessing over color coding and figure out a system that works for you.

If you’d like to go further, check out the book A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder.