A Cluttered Desk Produces a Cluttered Mind

J. K. Turner? Newton A. Fuessle? Edward Earle Purinton? William C. McCraw? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Office workers whose desks are covered with a jumble of papers are criticized with the following adage. Here are three versions:

  1. A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind.
  2. A messy desk is evidence of a messy mind.
  3. A disordered desk indicates a disordered brain

World you please investigate this saying?

Quote Investigator: This maxim is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. The earliest close match located by QI appeared in “The Mediator” in 1911. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Show me a man’s tool-box, his bench, or his desk, and I will tell you what manner of man he is. Orderliness and cleanliness are two important factors in efficiency. A disordered desk is an evidence of a disordered brain and a disordered character.

The author of the above passage was not specified, but it appeared in the editorial section. The masthead listed J. K. Turner as editor and Newton A. Fuessle as managing editor.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Cluttered Desk Produces a Cluttered Mind


  1. 1911 December, The Mediator, Volume 3, Number 12, Editor: J. K. Turner, Section: Editorial, Two Men and a Pin, Quote Page 34, The Mediator Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio. (HathiTrust Full View) link