Are There Any Advantages to Being Disorganized?

Though I’m not one of them, advocates of disorganization thrive on it. The truth is that even the most organized among us have lapses in organization. Here are three advantages to being disorganized that I’ve dabbled in, with a fourth possibility to mull over. And you may be able to come up with even more.

Disorganized ©2014
Disorganized ©2014


Neglecting the organization, tagging and filing in your photo library is one of the surest ways to make thrilling new discoveries. You’re bound to unearth a forgotten series of images, as sooner or later you’ll have to organize, tag and file all of the accumulated photographs in your library.

Is there anything quite as daunting as launching Adobe Lightroom and being reminded there are 15,762 images in your library (and those are just the ones you’ve already imported into Lightroom), and when you search those 15,762 images for something simple, like “night sky” or “beach scene,” there are no results?

This means you’ll have to spend some time organizing, tagging and filing, perhaps a lot of time, and in the process, you will discover many, many photographs you thought were just lovely during your first pass at editing them, and then later forgot about. Ah, the eureka moment! The real treat of getting yourself organized is what you discover at the bottom of the pile.

These bonus thrills of discovery make your disorganization worthwhile.

Eureka! The real treat of getting yourself organized is what you discover at the bottom of the pile.   


There is so much freedom in disorganization, isn’t there? You have so much extra time for more creative activities when you don’t spend precious moments filing old bank statements, putting your sable brushes back into the drawer where all of the other sable brushes live, or making new subfolders in your Documents folder to put all of those desktop files into.

While this process may work out fine most of the time, you will eventually be spending time hunting around for those unorganized items later; whether you’ll spend as much time later as you would have initially is questionable. Certainly you are more motivated to find things at the time you really need them; so the hunt may not be as distasteful as the initial sorting and filing may have been.

But a strategy of chronic disorganization relies upon one’s ability to relax in the face of it. For some, it’s appealing; for others, appalling. Where some find freedom, others cringe. It may just come down to your desire to live in the moment, or your need to plan for the future, and how important it is to you to be in control at all times.

Solution? Practice compartmentalization and your feelings of freedom from organizing will soar.

A strategy of chronic disorganization relies upon one’s ability to relax in the face of it.   

Connecting Things ©2014
Connecting Things ©2014


There are arguments made for creativity occurring in the midst of messy, chaotic clutter, the premise being, that there is a lot of inspiration around to stoke the imagination. Plenty of people are impressively creative in messy studios, working on desks that seem disaster-struck with mounds of piled up notes, photos, papers, mail, pens and pencils, magazine clippings, folders.

At work, creative people seem able to make order of chaos, to pull together all of the disparate concepts they’re exposed to into one meaningful, central idea. Their ability to synthesize from many inputs may mean they’re simply not disturbed by disorganized surroundings. Perhaps creativity trumps the struggle to perform in the midst of a mess because the creative thought process is built around making connections among many things.

Can you go right to that place in your mind where the creative button gets pushed, anywhere, anytime, no matter the self-imposed clutter that surrounds you? Personally, I am often unable to separate the noise of all that clutter from the ideas poised upon my fingertips. I find it difficult to settle into any task in the middle of an untended desk; the piled-up papers and sticky notes and unopened mail simply remind me of my to-do list’s necessities, making it very difficult to concentrate on the creative pursuit I’d intended to pursue. How about you?

Being in the moment, with intense focus on your screen, and nothing but your screen, is a great assist to dismissing the chaos that threatens to overtake you.

Creativity can strike amidst messy, chaotic clutter, since there is a lot of inspiration around to stoke the imagination.   


Are risk-takers inherently more disorganized? Or do disorganized people take more risks? Taking risks involves mistakes, plenty of them, and as a learning process, risk-taking is often exhorted. Stepping out of the organized mold into messiness can invite curiosity, trial-and-error, mistakes, failures, and ultimately, perhaps, successes.

The science, though, is decidedly in favor of organization. A 2011 Princeton University Neuroscience Institute study demonstrated pretty conclusively that the chaos of a cluttered environment is killing your concentration.

Consider what today’s cluttered environment looks like: The clutter that nags at me chronically isn’t merely the physical detritus of unsorted papers; it’s in bits and bytes on my desktop, in my email inbox, and on my iPhone. It’s always there, and organizing it is a daily time-suck, and still it’s often losing battle.

If this is what risk-taking entails, show me the freedom and creativity of discovery. 

How organized or disorganized are you, and how’s that working for you?

Jann Alexander's A Habit of Hiding_Book Cover


My organization skills helped me finish my novel.

Read a free excerpt from A Habit Of Hiding HERE. 

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22 thoughts on “Are There Any Advantages to Being Disorganized?

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  1. Well, you’ve “organized” an insightful and even humorous touch upon the human condition. While I’m uber-organized, it does not always pass through the family genes. Each has its pluses and minuses. In many discussions about your topic, clarity can be sought. But it’s usually decided that there is joy in our differences, which is your conclusion too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There has to be joy in the differences, since we all have them! I usually try to err on the side of being organized. But when it comes to mail and paper-shuffling, that’s a low priority. Funny how trying to impart organization to others can fail forever–until it doesn’t. When raising children, it seems hopeless. When working with spouses, we call it husband-training. And that is hopeless.


  2. You’ve been peering over my shoulder haven’t you? I am a very organized person but trying to keep my downloaded captures organized and manageable has been one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever undertaken!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article. Reminds me of the professor I had in grad school who filed things “chronologically” in stacks on his desk and had a sign that said “a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.” Amazing how he could pluck the right paper out of those piles. I definitely have compartments of disorganization. I wish I was more at one with them and their place in the universe.


    1. Don’t we all have compartments of disorganization? Let’s not be too hard on ourselves. If we have a system, we’re halfway there, especially if it’s a chronological stack. Now if only I could remember when things actually happened . . . Appreciate your comments, Michelle, thank for visiting.


  4. While I’m not totally organized, I can’t function with too much clutter around me whether it’s in my photo library or in my personal life. When it comes to photos, I do find that it helps to do some organizing when I download otherwise I might forget what the photo represents or why I took it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Were we separated at birth, Lulu? I’m with you, now, in my reformed practice ever since adopting Lightroom a few years ago. It’s all of those pesky photographs from the dark ages before tagging that confound me. And yes, removing the clutter from my immediate work area is necessary, too! Thanks for taking time to comment.


  5. Organizing and getting rid of clutter is the name of my game since we moved recently. Immense freedom found in this style for me. Getting rid of the online clutter is a never ending task, though. I just spent days going through my online photo library getting rid of really bad stuff from my early days in photography. Next task is how to figure out emails I’ve put aside to read later…and still haven’t (every now and then I get so exasperated I just click through them all and delete the lot).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, Angeline, moving is one of the great clutter-cutters, isn’t it, though not necessarily one of the more fun tasks. At least it gives you the desire and the focus. I’m working on a piece upcoming about online clutter-cutting, and until I publish it, I’ll say just one thing: Good luck and thanks for your always-welcomed insights.


        1. I think the Epsons are great everyday workhorse papers. But when I want something different or special, I look to Moab and to Red River (where the prices are economical, and the support is great). They both let you order sample packs for under $15 with a few samples of each of their papers. It’s a great way to see the results one print can yield on many different substrates!


        2. I know I’ll want to use some art papers so this is great info for me. I’ll look to order some sample packs. You’ve been so helpful to me in this process, thank you…so much!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I’ve only done two prints so far (happy, happy, happy!). I’m reading the ENTIRE manual if you can believe that but actually, I think I got very lucky in that it is the same (or a later version?) of the printer we used in class I took and I have notes on setting up printing options – how lucky was that??? I still have to order the sample packs, we’ve been busy with SNOW issues here this week.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Great thoughts here on clutter and maybe intellectual clutter. 😀 Steve Jobs said it very well about making connections.

    So you tag your photos? But then again you sell some images. So you have to be organized.

    Ok, I’m a librarian by formal training and career-wise for over 25 years of my career before I went just info. mgmt. oriented in the purest sense of the word:

    I gave up tagging individual photos. I just mark my e-folders and stuff my e-photos. So yea, takes me time to find certain photos. I’m relying on sheer memory at times…for yea…probably over 15,000 photos in past 15 years.

    So I find it better to allow myself to be inspired by a few recent photos (in past 12 months), start with that and blog abit. Then dig harder into my photo collection for more photos to complete the blog post.

    I don’t know about you, Jann. But I consider my blog akin to my own mini photo album with the best of seen and stories I like to tell. I like revisiting some of my own blog posts..just for memories.


    1. Hi Jean, nice to hear from you and from your librarian perspective. I imagine that gives you an organizational expertise all of your own. I do some basic tagging whenever I import a batch of photographs in Lightroom (easily done since I set up a group of generic keywords to be a part of my copyright info on import). Then if I edit a specific batch, I do some more specific tagging. It really helps me when I’m searching for an image for a post, or if an art consultant requests certain types of images, etc. Memory works pretty well for me, too. But like you, I love to go backwards to review old posts for the forgotten memories . . . and also to observe how my writing has improved!


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