What Your Desk Says About You


Designer Rebecca Minkoff was recently fined by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) a whopping $77,000 for having a messy workplace. The official report described her workplace as, “Overcrowded and congested with boxes, rolling racks, workstations, chairs, equipment, storage, and other materials.”

A new study from Psychological Science found that it can be beneficial to have a messy desk, in that it can encourage more creativity. Creativity is awesome, but so is being able to find that memo I need at that moment. Minkoff’s messy workplace was probably a result of many busy creative people. What does your desk say about you?

1. Obsessively neat

Keeping your desk perfectly organized is part of your daily routine, if not your hourly routine. If it’s not a right angle, it’s a wrong angle! You are super organized and like things just so. You are always the first one at meetings and the first one to respond to an email. Eating at your desk? That’s for animals.

2. Clean on Mondays, messy by Friday

You are like most people in that Monday morning you come in and try to be organized as possible. But eventually you get distracted and would rather just leave after a long day then take some extra time to tidy up. You find it hard to break certain habits (like walking past that bowl of chocolates), but you get around to it…eventually.

3. One woman show

Is everyone always hanging around your desk? Do you have a candy dish or other tasty snacks? Maybe you have some fun pictures or posters on the wall?  Perhaps you ended up getting one of those really cool chairs that everyone wants to sit on? Or maybe your desk is just totally visually pleasing with matching mouse pads and pencil cup holders? Is your desk the Monica and Rachel’s apartment of your office? You are an extrovert. You like the attention that your cool desk brings you. You probably always had the best pencil case in elementary school too.

4. Inspirational message overload

Is Keep Calm and Carry On your motto and plastered all over your cubicle? Does even your mousepad have an inspirational message on it? According to Sam Gosling, psychologist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, you are a wee bit neurotic. “[Inspirational statements are] a psychological form of trying to keep people together [emotionally],” Gosling says. “It calms anxiety.”

5. Pigpen has a neater desk than you

Does your desk look like Courtney Love’s hotel room? If it’s a toxic waste zone then you are probably hated by your neighbors (and could get fined like Minkoff if you own the office space), but if it’s just pleasantly messy then you are probably pretty creative. According to a new study from the University of Minnesota, disorderly environments can help foster insight. “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of—creativity,” study researcher Kathleen Vos, a psychological scientist and marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement.

Meredith Lepore

Meredith is the former editor in chief of the women's career site, The Grindstone. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire @ Work, The Jane Dough, DailyWorth, SheKnows.com, Business Insider and Learnvest. She earned her Masters in Magazine, Newspaper and Online journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Meredith resides in New York full time and enjoys reading, jogging, SoulCycle and playing with her small dog, Otis.