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2014 Archives

I can't work if my office is a mess. Am I normal?


The following is from the March 10, 2014, edition of Men's Health. SMU Psychology Professor Michael Chmielewski provided expertise for this story.

March 25, 2014

Question: I can't do real work unless my office is completely in order. Am I normal?  

Answer: Do you mean you need five minutes to tidy up every morning? Fine. You're just a conscientious guy—especially if your effort is efficiency-related, such as filing documents. But if the sight of an out-of-place paper can keep you from completing tasks at hand, you may have a problem, says Michael Chmielewski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University. Think about your home life: Do you feel anxious if the floor isn't freshly vacuumed? Do you spend hours cleaning each day? If you're nodding "yes," then you may want to talk with a psychologist (find one at But if your fixation is limited to office cleanliness, then it may just be an excuse to put off work. Establish a time for tidying up, like the first 10 minutes after lunch, and limit yourself to that window.

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