Clutter and intelligence

Intelligent people

One of my all-time favourite movie moments is in Limitless, where Bradley Cooper takes a smart drug that boosts his intelligence to a fabulous level. He arrives home, looks around the cluttered, untidy apartment where he’s been trying to write a book for months, and from his new, elevated perspective, he can only say, “Home. But it couldn’t be my home, could it? Who would live like this?”

He ruthlessly cleans, tidies and clutter clears the entire place, and then, with the help of a little more medication, writes a whole book in four days.

What comes across so beautifully in this film is that clutter makes no sense at all when viewed from an intelligent standpoint. Clear thinking calls for clear space, and conversely, creating clear space can promote clearer thinking.

Why intelligent people like clutter

It’s surprising that so many intelligent people work amidst clutter, and this has puzzled me for years. While I still believe it’s the case that clutter on the outside always depicts clutter of some type on the inside and there are always benefits to clearing it, I’ve also observed there are some people who use clutter strategically on their desk to give them the impetus to do more or because they believe it creates a more fertile environment for ideas.

These are the high achievers of the world. To them, a clear desk means there’s nothing to do. They thrive on doing many tasks at once and function at their best when they have everything out in front of them. They relish the challenge of working their way through it all until everything’s done. They usually have their own systems, know where things are and can find them when they need them.

As long as they keep up with their workload, all is well. The problems start if they get overwhelmed and no matter how long or hard they work, the piles are never finished. Unfortunately, this is all too common.


When high achievers get swamped, they lose the plot. Searching for things they cannot find should trigger alarm bells to go off. When this happens, they need to realize it’s time to take a break, have a good sort out and tidy up, reprioritize and begin afresh. This is far more productive than persevering to the point of exhaustion, which they are very capable of doing.

Stopping to take time out is usually the last thing they want to do, but the fresh perspective it brings will pay dividends in the end. After all, neither of the two most famous “Eureka!” moments in history — Einstein seeing the clock tower while riding on a street car, or Archimedes in his bath tub — happened at a desk. They both came about when these great geniuses were taking a break.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2012

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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One Response to Clutter and intelligence

  1. “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” – Unsourced quote attributed to Albert Einstein

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