A Perfect Mess

  • by Eric Abrahamson, David H. Freedman
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Ever since Einstein's study of Brownian Motion, scientists have understood that a little disorder can actually make systems more effective. Yet most people still shun disorder or suffer guilt over the mess they can't avoid. With a spectacular array of true stories and case studies of the hidden benefits of mess, A Perfect Mess overturns the accepted wisdom that tight schedules, organization, neatness, and consistency are the keys to success. Drawing on examples from business, parenting, cooking, the war on terrorism, retail, and even the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abrahamson and Freedman demonstrate that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, yield better solutions, and are harder to break than neat ones.
Applying this idea on scales both large (government, society) and small (desktops, garages), A Perfect Mess uncovers the ways messiness can trump neatness, and will help you assess the right amount of disorder for any system.


What the Critics Say

"The advice is good and the arguments intriguing." (Publishers Weekly)
"Flying utterly in the face of conventional wisdom, the authors turn the world of organization on its head to examine how messy systems can be more effective than highly organized ones." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Anti-Martha Stewart

I listened to this while (you've gotta love this) deep-cleaning and organizing my house. The author uses many of the same techniques to exlpain why a little mess is good for you that Malcolm Gladwell uses to explain why snap thinking is a good thing (See: Blink). State a thesis, throw in some facts, throw in some anecdotes, and throw in some interesting conjecture and you've got a book! Abrahamson doesn't have quite the finesse of Gladwell, but that still makes this an interesting read (or listen). It's really funny in some parts and makes me glad I have a little bit of a mess on my desk and in my home (I have a four year old, and to me, if you can't tell a child lives in a home where the child lives, you're doing something very wrong). However, while making statements about how the mind is evolutionarily set up to handle mess, he ignores the great stress that many people feel when confronted with the messiness of others. Maybe we can handle clutter well, but there is something to be said for laying out the outfit you're going to wear the next day or letting your employees know what is expected of them in the long term.

On the whole, this book was entertaining and informative and certainly gives the reader a number of great excuses to NOT file, sort, arange, or organize. I think his editor may have taken this lesson too much to heart, though-it tends to hop around a lot and many of the stories are very non sequiter.
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- Kaeli

Book was OK, hated the narration!

It must just be me that finds Scott Brick such an annoying narrator, because he sure seems to be popular - certainly ubiquitous! This book did NOT require a DRAMATIC reading! And I wish someone would give him (and maybe ALL narrators) a list of hard-to-pronounce or uncommon words and names to prevent mispronunciations. He actually pronounced the name "Magliozzi" (Tom and Ray, of NPR's Car Talk) just like it's written, which is just WRONG and disrespectful to these two icons! This just shouldn't happen!

Like some other reviewers, I downloaded this book to listen to while doing some Spring cleaning and it was fun to hear the "flip-side" of organizing while doing so. I didn't agree with a LOT of the author's premises, but it was still entertaining. I didn't finish the book, since I finished the cleaning first, and had had quite enough of Mr. Brick's overly dramatic rendition.
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- Lily

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-28-2006
  • Publisher: Books on Tape