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A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place Paperback – January 8, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316013994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316013994
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Timely reassurance to those of us who fear and despise pristine houses, perfect schedules and neat-freakery of every stripe" -- Observer

"provocative and often amusing...Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman's thesis will come as a relief to many" -- Sunday Telegraph

"this engaging and surprisingly well-ordered book... is the perfect excuse to break that new year's resolution to keep your desk tidy" -- Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eric Abrahamson is a professor of management at Columbia University's School of Business, and author of Change Without Pain. David H. Freedman is the author of three books, and is a business and science journalist who has written for The Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, and Wired, among others. Abrahamson lives in New York, and Freedman in Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

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I purchased the hardcover of this book for the title alone.
Lucy Adams
I found it inspiring, and a pretty darn near 'perfect' solution to one of the big messes in my life.
Susan Goewey
The best way to see a city is to wander around rather than to see tourist spots.
Blaine Greenfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
Over the last several years, I've worked very hard to become more and more organized with my stuff. I used to have a very difficult time finding things that I needed when I needed them and I also had some degree of difficulty effectively managing my time. Thankfully, over the last few years, I've really managed to conquer both of these. I feel incredibly productive on an average day now and I rarely have trouble finding the things that I need.

Yet with all this organization, I find that there are simply some things where organization gets in the way. The best example I can think of is brainstorming. When I go to the library, I find lots of books and articles worth reading. I often photocopy interesting passages there. At home, I often jot down notes from things that I observe as well as tearing articles out of magazines as I read them.

This ends up being something of a pile of ideas. And what I've found is that this pile of ideas is much more effective if it's chaotic. If I try to order it, I get fewer ideas out of that pile. On the other hand, if I just let it be, tossing new stuff on there in a haphazard fashion, it starts to click. Then I just set aside some time each week for brainstorming, where I grab articles from that pile at random, read what I've highlighted, flip through personal finance books, and so on. This chaos generates ideas - things that would not have normally associated themselves together sometimes become linked because of this mess.

Frankly, sometimes it's better to have disorder. And that's the idea behind A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By MrTwistoff on March 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
The book starts out, and is touted, as something that will convince us that being disorderly will make the world a better place. In the end, the book does not do this, instead it provides a much more balanced perspective than it initially eludes to.

From my personal experience, operating in a mess is great in the creative stages of something (i.e. when doing design work). Coming up with new things, ideas, elements that do not currently exist in the world, requires a lot of input - a lot of outside influence from various sources so that something "new" and unique can be synthesized. It's almost impossible to know where the inspiration for this creation will come from, so just tossing everything into the soup works very well, then you add it to the flavor you're stewing. You ladle out the chunks that don't work when you start paring down that soup.

As your idea formulates, you pare it down to something you can build. As you get to finishing touches you are seeking less and less input - whatever you are designing is taking shape and by definition that limits the options you have at your disposal. As you approach the finished product, your work is clean, clear, well defined. It is very organized, less messy.

If you are limited and operate in only one aspect of this spectrum (i.e. design), then you can possibly always operate in mess. If you are widely adept, and operate in the entire spectrum (from design, to creation, to implementation, and maintenance) you know that certain levels of mess benefit different points along that spectrum.

The secret to maximizing your potential is knowing where you are along that spectrum and making use of the appropriate mode of operating in it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Adams on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I purchased the hardcover of this book for the title alone. I live in a perfect mess. But the inside of the book was just as good as the cover, because it gave proof to my theory that I'm not messy, I'm "alternatively organized" (a term I coined here for the first time and stake full ownership of). Nonetheless, when I got to the last chapter, notes on pathological mess, I did an abrupt u-turn.

Although written in an academic tone, this book is a great read for those of us who have lived under the guilt associated with messiness. I took it to work and and quoted from it, particularly the parts about flexibility and creativity, to my boss and to my fellow teachers. A very gratifying experience, indeed.

You can understand more about why this book is so special to me by reading the book:

Lucy Adams, author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on September 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Who says that to be perfectly organized is the way to greater success?

Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman contend otherwise in A PERFECT
MESS, an engrossing book that I recently got a kick out of listening to
on CD . . . it got me rethinking the concept that an orderly existence
is the only way to go . . . rather, the authors contend that a little disorder
can actually be good for us.

Through the use of examples from business, parenting, cooking, the world
of terrorism and even the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you begin
to see that messy systems often use resources more efficiently and
yield better results.

I was hooked from the beginning when I heard about this one speaker
at a conference of the National Association of Professional
Organizers . . . he actually told members not to confirm appointments
because doing so gives them the opportunity to cancel others . . . you
should instead just show up . . . that's not necessarily the "cleanest"
way to handle things, but it is often the best way to do so.

Among the other tidbits that caught my attention were the following:

* A jazz group can improvise and go into different areas, whereas a
symphony orchestra can't.

* Good boxers move randomly around their opponents.

* The best way to see a city is to wander around rather than to see
tourist spots.

* The authors' rule for organization: ACE . . . Awwwwww, relax; Carve out
some time; and Eject some stuff.

* A 50 cent magnet can be your most valuable organizing tool. Use it to put
up pictures, soccer schedules, etc. on your refrigerator.
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