Is there a correlation between a messy house and a brilliant mind?

Do you have difficulty coping with the practicalities of ordering your surroundings and you’re caught up in your thoughts about things of an intellectual nature? Some have suggested that your intelligence could be getting in the way of your ability to deal with your physical environment.

The Evidence

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence linking exceptional intelligence to disorganization and messiness. The popular perception of a genius is of a person whose obsession with their work leaves them no time to pay heed to fashion and feng shui.

Sherlock Holmes, the world’s favorite fictional detective, was constantly driving his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson mad and is portrayed as declaring that he had no room in his head for trivialities that were irrelevant to his profession.

In reality, there is some evidence from psychologists and personality testing organizations that the correlation between a messy house and a brilliant mind may not be entirely restricted to popular imagination.

The Myers-Briggs test, for example, finds a correlation between what it describes as visionary traits and the characteristic of disorganization. Indeed, a study carried out at the Minnesota School of Management even suggested that disorderly surroundings might boost creativity.

The reasons why people of exceptional intelligence may struggle with household chores are not so difficult to conceive of. Here are a few possible links:

1. They haven’t got the headspace to think about routine chores

If someone is continually absorbed in complex ideas, it’s obvious that there’s not much space in their head for mundane practicalities. When Einstein was coming up with the theory of general relativity, it’s hardly surprising that he didn’t take a break to do the washing up or go and get a haircut.

2. They aren’t concerned with what others think of them

Most of our habits as regards cleanliness, personal appearance, and organization are dictated by social conventions and the desire to be accepted by others. It has been suggested that messiness is a sign of being less disposed to be confined by accepted social norms and can, therefore, reflect greater originality of thought.

3. They simply haven’t got the time

Let’s face it, keeping everything in tip-top shape takes at least a few hours out of our day. People who are truly driven by a vision, or who have a strong compulsion to create, invariably have a very strong fixation on what they want to achieve. Usually, a lifetime is a short time for those who want to accomplish exceptional things.

4. They’re too absorbed in their thoughts to notice what is going on around them

Anybody who has met a person who is truly exceptionally intelligent will have noticed that they’re a bit absent-minded when it comes to anything but the object of their intellectual fascination. These people often seem not to be aware of their physical environment and they don’t even seem to notice the mess that surrounds them. All of their focus is on the task they’re engaged in, and nothing can break that focus – least of all a pile of ironing.

5. They find it difficult to cope with humdrum tasks

Highly intelligent people seem to have a very low boredom threshold. For this reason, tasks such as sweeping the floor, which is a bit dull even for us mere mortals, may prove too boring for them to face.

That’s not an excuse for to tell your mother that you’re too clever to bear the tedium of scrubbing the bathtub if you’re going to try that one, you had better be able to prove you’re getting on with something more important.

Genuine Proof of Intelligence

The real proof of genius is not the messy house – this is key.

  • Einstein‘s theories became the cornerstone on which modern physics were built.
  • Mark Twain, also known to have paid little heed to tidiness, was the author of some of the best literature in the English language.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, another supposedly mucky pup, composed so many pieces of music that the list of his accomplishments would make you gulp; his ninth symphony, written while he was stone deaf, is arguably the greatest piece of music ever written.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, a more modern example of the disorganized genius, created Facebook, which you are probably on right now. Enough said.

This is what distinguishes these men from the rest of us, not their domestic habits. Ultimately, there’s no need to try to find connections where connections are superfluous. Let’s not ignore the blindingly obvious point that there could be plenty of evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, found for the correlation between a messy house and mediocrity if such a study were to be carried out.

There might be a fine line between creative genius and madness, but there’s a gaping chasm between messy genius and conventional slob – and the difference between them, as should be obvious, is not how much mess they can tolerate.

Do you think there is a connection between a messy house and intelligence? Share your views with us.

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