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Men’s Health: “I can’t work if my office is a mess. Am I normal?”

The editors of Men’s Health magazine relied on the expertise of SMU psychologist Michael Chmielewski, an assistant professor of psychology. The popular magazine asked Chmielewski’s expert opinion for a reader’s question “I can’t work if my office is a mess. Am I normal?” The article published online March 10.

Chmielewski’s research broadly covers psychopathology and normal-range personality with an emphasis on structure and assessment in both domains. He’s interested in how psychopathology and personality relate to each other as well as how to best conceptualize and classify both domains. His research is based on a strong measurement foundation and the use of empirically based quantitative models.

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Men’s Health
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.

Verdict: WEIRD

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