MINNETONKA, Minn. - We all have our differences: Vikings and Packers fans. Republicans and Democrats.
But survey the desktops in a typical office and you'll truly begin to appreciate differences in the human species.
"I like to take advantage of all the real estate in this room," laughs Anne Sutton, who runs two small businesses from her cluttered home office in Minnetonka. "I'm really okay with this."
Gary Folz is more than okay with his Hudson, Wis. home office, its desktop piled high with paper and assorted trinkets, his file cabinet drawers pulled out and stacked up beyond closing.
Folz knows his wife is not even a little okay with his clutter, but says she's learned to deal with it. "A lot of fights over it," he says, "and I finally wore her down."
Which brings us to Karen Bumgardner, whose desk exemplifies the other end of the neatness spectrum. Color coordinated files stand upright on one corner of the desk. On the other, pens are grouped according to type and color so as to require the least amount of effort to grab the right one.
The rest of her desktop is, well, empty. "It's like this about 99 percent of the time," she says.
Bumgardner has an edge. "My company is 'Better Organization' and I'm a professional organizer."
She is also president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Profession Organizers. Her services should remain in demand. In in a CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of respondents admit that 50 to 100 percent of their desk surfaces are covered with work and other items.
Lloyd Tessman has achieved closer to 100 percent coverage, in addition to the spillover onto a stack of boxes that still sit packed next to his desk from a move from a different cluttered office - five years ago.
"It just became another shelf," says the documentation engineer for Landscape Structures in Delano.
Albert Einstein's desk was notoriously messy. That shouldn't be surprising. Bumgardner says messy desks often belong to creative people, but it's creativity that can come at a price. "There have been hundreds of studies done through the years that show if there's not a system in place, time gets wasted," she says.
Bumgardner says the hardest part of organizing is just getting started. She recommends setting a timer and seeing how much space an individual can clear in ten minutes. She says the task is often less daunting if done in small chunks.
A survey of members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals reveals other tips, such as, never touching the same piece of paper more than once without filing it and keeping only materials on your desk that are needed for your current project.
Jan McDonough isn't convinced. Jan and her husband Brian run one of the top selling Tupperware organizations in the country. Her office is stuffed.
"Most people, are like, they just don't believe that I'm okay with this," she says. As insane as it looks, it works for me."
A few years ago while she was away on vacation McDonough's family cleared out her office to the bare walls, bringing in new paint and furniture. "She was lost," says Brian McDonough, who notes his wife wasn't comfortable until the clutter was put back
"It's just what I need is here," she says.
At the top of a Minneapolis office tower, attorney Eldon Spencer knows exactly what she means. Sprawled out on his desk is a layered mass of paper a nearly a foot deep. "It's a work of years," he laughs.
Yet the Harvard educated attorney insists he's never lost a document and can even direct his legal assistant into the pile to find exactly what he needs.
"He'll call and say, 'Alright, can you run into my office, sit down in my chair and where my left elbow would rest, under there, there should be whatever document.'" Jill Thorvig says Spencer is always right.
Even the organizer seemed impressed when shown a picture of Spencer's desk. "Oh, wow, that's a lot of paper," she said.
But Bumgardner says even people who know where everything is on their messy desks leave themselves vulnerable to perceptions by others in the office.
"So even if they know exactly where everything is and they don't waste any time looking for it, the perception is that they aren't organized," says Bumgartner.
That said, one recent study gives hope to those comfortable with their clutter. German researchers found a messy desk helps people focus more clearly on the task at hand.
Let the debate continue.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)