Clear Space Living
Clear Space Living

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston


Clear Space Living Blog

Clutter and intelligence

It’s a curious fact that some super-intelligent people have clutter, either because they cannot help it or because they have convinced themselves it’s useful in some way. But is it?

One of my all-time favourite movie moments is in Limitless, where Bradley Cooper takes a smart drug that boosts his intelligence to a fabulous level. He arrives home, looks around the cluttered, untidy apartment where he’s been trying to write a book for months, and from his new, elevated perspective, he can only say, “Home. But it couldn’t be my home, could it? Who would live like this?”

He ruthlessly cleans, tidies, and declutters the entire place, and then, with the help of a little more medication, writes a whole book in four days.

What comes across so beautifully in this film is that clutter makes no sense at all when viewed from an intelligent standpoint. Clear thinking calls for clear space, and conversely, creating clear space can promote clearer thinking.

Why intelligent people like clutter

It’s surprising that so many intelligent people work amidst clutter, and this has puzzled me for years. While I still believe it’s the case that clutter on the outside always depicts clutter of some type on the inside and there are always benefits to clearing it, I’ve also observed there are some people who use clutter strategically on their desk to give them the impetus to do more or because they believe it creates a more fertile environment for ideas.

Some of these people are high achievers. To them, a clear desk means there’s nothing to do. They thrive on doing many tasks at once and function at their best when they have everything out in front of them. They relish the challenge of working their way through the pile until everything’s done. They usually have their own systems, know where things are, and can find them when they need them.

As long as they keep up with their workload, all is well. The problems start if they get overwhelmed. Then no matter how long or hard they work, their workload is never finished. Unfortunately, this is all too common.


When high achievers get swamped, they can lose the plot, just as anyone else can. When this happens, they need to realize it’s time to take a break, have a good sort out and tidy up, reprioritize, and begin afresh. This is far more productive than persevering to the point of exhaustion, which they are very capable of doing.

Stopping to take time out is usually the last thing they want to do, but the fresh perspective it brings will pay dividends in the end. After all, neither of the two most famous “Eureka!” moments in history – Einstein seeing the clock tower while riding on a street car, or Archimedes in his bathtub – happened at a desk. They both came about when these great geniuses were taking a break.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2012, updated 2024

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3 comments on “Clutter and intelligence”

  1. Fredrik

    “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” – Unsourced quote attributed to Albert Einstein

  2. My poor father was highly intelligent, but having grown up in WWII, could not help accumulating clutter… every single thing was kept… it all ultimately overwhelmed him, resulting in total chaos… My little brother was made the Executor of Dad’s estate when he died twelve years ago from prostate cancer & heart problems, although personally I believe these could have been managed well if it were not for the overwhelming stress of all the clutter. The clutter was moved from storage sheds to other storage sheds, which totally overwhelmed my little brother, resulting in his own death last year, also of prostate cancer. He was unable to look after himself, as he was so busy dealing with the clutter. The stress of all this clutter totally destroyed both their lives. Utterly heartbreaking on every level. Now the remaining siblings are having to sort it all out. Overwhelming is an understatement. Be warned! Clutter destroys one’s health!

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Karen Kingston

Leading expert in Space Clearing, Clutter Clearing, and Conscious Living

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