One Little Girl Who Will Never Ask for Another Play Date at the Levitts’

One of my daughters recently had a second-grade friend of hers over to the house for a play date. My wife, Jeannette, was down on the first floor, while the two girls were up in our attic playroom. Suddenly, Jeannette heard screams of terror from the visiting friend. She ran upstairs, fearing the worst.

“What happened?” my wife asked.

The girl could barely talk. She struggled to say, “Something terrible … something terrible…”

“What terrible thing?” my wife asked.

Still hyperventilating, the little girl led my wife out of the playroom and down the hall to another room, then threw open the door. “Something terrible happened. Maybe a tornado. It is really bad. Really bad!”

The room was a disaster area, papers strewn everywhere. It looked it had been ransacked in a robbery.

“It’s okay,” my wife comforted her. “That’s just the way my husband likes his office to be.”

Steve Levitt Office

E Dewhirst


I think you have it the wrong way around. I would not let my daughter play with a child that was scared of a messy office.

If a child is terrified of that mess then I think that child has lost her inner child and ability to play. Unless she was freaked out by the Sumo wrestler and thought the statue did it - then that kid has one awesome imagination and you should have her hang out in other rooms.



Rufo Sanchez

My office is about the same, maybe worse. I claim it's because I don't have enough space to keep everything in, which is definitely part of it... but maybe I like dodging and weaving around everything. Keeps me on my toes. :-)


Hire a maid, already!


Wow - that's crazy.

I couldn't imagine getting any work done in a place like that......


Nice! That is what I will show my wife next time she comments that my office is too messy...


Some work from files, some work from piles. I think we are now seeing the true Levitt. What is the purpose of that Sumo wrestler?


That's no way to treat 1o year old scotch...pick up that bottle of Glenmorangie immediately! The Sumo statue is pretty sweet though.

KL Snow

It makes me feel so much better about my own chances when I see successful people with offices that look like mine.


screams of terror from a little girl.... that's some serious mess.


Oh please, she's got about 10 years to get over this. If seeing a big mess she doesn't have to clean up sends her into this state, she will never survive college. And having kids? Completely out of the question.


OMG -- you are my hero. Thank you for sharing your superpower.


That short guy, just squatting there, needs to get to work....


hahaha! This is my favorite post ever on this column. Great piles, man.


You rock my world. And, I thought i was the only one as messy...


I've seen a lot worse, but I could see why a little girl might be horrified, especially if the rest of the house is orderly.

I'd be more than happy to take one of those extra copies of the paperback edition of Freakonomics you have laying around :)



So all those copies of Freakonomics... Trying to keep your ranking up on Or did you pull those paperbacks from the shelves so people would have to buy the new hardcover with a higher markup?


My father's like this. He says he sorts things in "archeological" order - you dig down to the point in time when you last had something and it's always right there, where you left it. It makes it sound better when you have a fancy name...


For Josh and his fathers "archeological" filing system. I prefer to call mine horizontal/chronological.

Basically, things that are most important are closer and least important are further, add this to the typical new on top, old on bottom, you can pretty much find anything in the pile based upon age and importance.

Of course, the girlfriend won't abide by my brilliant system and cleans up the pile, destroying all the metadata contained within the ordering and I can't find anything...


Man, your office looks like my apartment...


The dark side of this story is that I've worked for people who work in a sloppy disorganized-looking manner, which, if it works for them, is fine with me except when they seek to impose their will upon their underlings implying, incredibly, that a neat work area means you are slacking somehow. In deference to the theory espoused in writer, Seth's, link, once my office is organized I do not spend an inordinate amount of counterproductive time re-inventing the wheel. The essence of streamlining is that once in place you don't have to think about it anymore. Then you have the freedom to focus on the core issues at hand because everything flows with no wasted movements and mental energy isn't being spent on dealing with extraneous detritus. I have a hunch that scotch would taste a lot better if there were someplace to set the glass!