Does Smart == Messy?

Albert Einstein forgot his socks, or else didn't match them.

Paul Erdos, the most fine mathematician, lived out of a suitcase, and we mean lived out of a suitcase.

You could go on ad nauseum with examples of the absent-mindedness of the gifted, those who were too consumed by thinking great thoughts to be bothered with the day to day details of living, like laundry, or vacuuming, or changing clothes.

Taking this often amusing generalization down to a more realistic application, it has been noted by some, most often those who interact in a domestic or intimate situation with someone who may have been referred to as a "brainiac" in their early years, that smart people are often messy.¹

In order to better assess the situation, we've provided a quick diagnostic for intelligence-related disorganization disorder (IRDD).

1. Have you or your loved one found food or food remnants left in books or periodicals, especially those that require focus to comprehend? Yes
2. Have you or a loved one ever gone without changing clothes during an intense period of concentration? Has underwear or socks ever been forgotten during this period (i.e., "Ooops, I forgot to put socks on")? Yes
3. Despite best cleaning efforts, are stacks of papers, books, and periodicals still cluttering all surfaces, because "I need them"? Yes
4. Has a pet ever gotten lost in clothing, papers or a cluttered closet in the house? Yes
5. Has disorganization ever become a recurrent issue in an intimate relationship? Yes

Score =
"Correct" answers:

If you answered yes to 3 or more questions, you are at risk for IRDD. We at Nerdslut, having first hand experience with this dysfunction, have a few suggestions for those living with or affect by IRDD.

  1. Little steps create progress. If you can work your way through small projects a bit at a time, you will find the cumulative effect. For instance, a surface that is thoroughly cleared off will be much easier to keep cleared in future. As more areas are attacked, the entire space will begin to benefit, and so will you and your domestic partner(s).
  2. Don't be someone's mom or dad. There is no surer way to help someone fail at trying to "get clean" (as it were) than to keep on them about it. Encouragement is fine, helping is good, but odds are, they've been teased about this for a long time. Things like "Do these socks belong on the floor?" will most likely elicit a smart aleck response like "Yes." or "At least until gravity stops working."
  3. Megastores can help. If you don't have moral objections to places like K-Mart or Wal-Mart, a couple of trips can speed things along. They have a wide assortment of organizationy things and for fairly reasonable prices.
  4. This will not be solved overnight. If you're living with someone who's messy, or loving them without the benefit of cohabitation, this will not be something that changes over a day or a week. Patience is really important. Remember, you love someone for who they are, not because they're neat.
  5. If all else fails, bring in professionals. You may need to consult with an expert. There are gift certificates for places like Mighty Maids; a gift of a professional cleaning will not only solve the immediate problem, but will remove much of the attendant anxiety and stress of the initial cleaning. Everyone benefits.

Don't give up hope. There's more to life than cleaning. To paraphrase a tired saying, How many people approach their death and say, "Boy I wish I'd spent more time cleaning!" You'll be too dead to be embarassed about how people will talk about the state of your house at your funeral, anyway, right?

So to the messy -- shed your guilt. To the neat people who love them -- relax. Live a little. Throw some stuff around. Odd are, you aren't even as neat as you think you are. Remember: there's always someone more anal than you ready to straighten up.

¹ : There is a parallel belief that there are some of the brighter variety are actually MORE clean than others. This deserves a discussion at a later date, although we would posit that much of that cleanliness is caused more frequently by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and that the correlation between intelligence and OCD would be the really interesting study.