The other day, during a conversation with one of my clients, we talked briefly about the messy state of our workspaces. I like to keep up the pretence of a clean desk (see my workspace tour from 2020 or my Sweet setup interview in 2018), but in reality, my desk is often a mess.

My desk is littered with guitar picks, some keys, a stack of receipts, a few USB cables, four notebooks, a couple microfibre cloths (not just for wiping monitors, but also for polishing guitars), coffee cups, a stapler, wire cutters, and a Swiss army knife. 

I should put some of this junk away, but one thing I realized in this conversation is that a messy desk is a productive desk, and a messy office or studio is probably the same.

Here are a couple quick, well-known examples of messy offices so we’re all on the same page:

Albert Einstein's messy desk hours after he passed away

Albert Einstein’s desk was famously messy.

Steve Jobs' home office was a war zone

Steve Jobs didn’t have a particularly organized home office.

I think this is also why I’m personally attracted to huge desktop towers (like the Mac Pro) and giant speakers. Part of what you pay for is the statement it makes when you walk in to your workspace: this is where the magic happens.

Recently, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of staring at audio professional setups. These rigs are typically filled with racks of studio equipment, musical instruments, and sometimes multiple computers. Even if you take all the clutter off the desk, these setups never look clean.”'s image of their audio workspace

I love this setup from’s review of the 2020 Mac Pro. You can’t hide this mess. When you walk into this room, there’s no way to hide its purpose. You’re going to get work done here.

A music production sit/stand desk

I also love this marketing image for a sit/​stand music studio desk. There’s not one, but two Mac Pro towers (I’m jealous). Each rack slot is with gear. There is rack equipment on the floor. Cables everywhere. For minimalists, this is a nightmare. But I love it.

Austin Kleon's studio

Austin Kleon (not a musician) keeps a messy studio too. I love the roll of paper towel. (I also love that his super-large L‑shaped desk has space for both making and visiting.)

If there’s anything to glean from this, all I’ve learned is that my desk probably isn’t messy enough.