We live in an age that shuns clutter. Cleanup guru Marie Kondo’s manifesto for ridding yourself of anything that doesn’t bring you joy, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has spent almost 100 weeks on the New York Times how-to best-seller list. We hate clutter at the office, too. A 2012 survey by hiring firm Adecco found that 57 percent of workers judge colleagues by the state of their desk, and according to a 2011 CareerBuilder survey, almost a third of employers are less likely to promote people with a disorganized workspace.
I keep a messy desk. So when Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (Riverhead Books, $28), by Tim Harford, landed on top of my somewhat precarious book pyramid—next to my yoga towel, behind a disposable coffee cup—I hoped it would help justify my surroundings. And it does, kind of.