Einstein famously said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Do creative people tend to have messier work environments? This article, passed on from my good friend Pete Tompkins and others suggest that the failure to keep "a place for everything and everything in its place" indicates creative, outside-the-box thinking. On the other hand, it's worth noting that a messy work area can leave a negative impression on colleagues who don't value the unconventional thinking that your mess represents.
I suspect that my mess is the product of a horror or throwing away anything that I might conceivably need some time in the future. I think I inherited this from my father, and I often wish he had passed on his mechanical ability instead. The thought of needing something after I've thrown it away, even if it can be replaced, is so painful that it's usually enough incentive to make me find room for that item or document.
If I make an effort to organize things, I often find that I file things and forget where the are - but if I know that something is "somewhere in one of these stacks," I'm usually better able to find it.
What's your opinion of messy vs. organized work spaces? Let me know!