Some would say mess is a sign of creativity. Well, that is maybe true. It was at least true for Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs who are both said to have had a messy desk.
In opposition to this, one would argue that mess causes stress, so why allow it? And according to this study, a messy home can bring on higher stress levels.
But the reason for mess might actually be out of our control completely. In fact, it’s said that it all comes down to maths. Or thermodynamics, if you will.
Chemist and science communicator Alice Motion of the University of Sydney spoke with the ABC and basically confirmed that mess is disorder. And disorder in our universe is always increasing. This concept is called entropy.
So what is entropy exactly? Think of a nicely stacked row of blocks in numbered order. This has low entropy. Now picture that set of blocks out of order and all over the place. This has high entropy.
Turns out entropy is everywhere. In your daily life entropy is a dirty dish left on the coffee table, mud on the floor, or a spilled drink. On a larger scale entropy is a car accident, a robbery, a breakup.
Entropy is a force of disorder. And as it turns out order is only temporary, whereas disorder is our default. It is basically impossible to not contribute to the disorder and chaos of the universe (entropy). That would mean we lived in a world without pain, ageing, fear.
So, when they say the universe is always naturally increasing in entropy/chaos/mess. Does that mean the universe wants us to be messy? Let’s investigate a bit more.
Dr. Motion says, "there are so many more ways in which your bedroom, or whatever room in your house, could be messy and disordered than there are ways that they can be ordered."
The more stuff we own, the larger number of ways we can arrange it all, and most of us own a fair amount of stuff, don’t we? Once you get past the essentials, there’s still books, puzzles, artwork, containers, pens, pen lids, pencils, and on and on we could go.
Say you want to contribute a little less chaos to the universe and decide to declutter and tidy your home once and for all? Well, you’re actually still adding to the chaos.
This is because it requires energy to clean. To have energy, we have to eat. "While the food you eat may be fairly ordered, when you digest it, it becomes a lot more disordered. It breaks down into carbohydrates, it breaks down into lipids or fats, it breaks down into proteins," Dr Motion says.
You, therefore, contribute disorder by eating so that you can create order by cleaning. Make sense? Kinda? Essentially tidying maybe creates calm (of mind) and a temporary sense of order, but it still creates chaos. Who knew?
If you’re looking for a solution, there are two options as we see it.
1. Either surrender to mess (it’s the natural state apparently)
2. Exert energy and chaos to keep your room tidy, and maybe also your mind.
At the very least, try to be more kind towards the next person you encounter who makes a mess. The universe wills it, after all.
You might also like: