Why Do We Love Photos Of Things Organized Neatly?

Relaaax, everything’s in order.

There’s something inherently pleasing about seeing things all lined up in a tidy rows or formations. Perhaps it’s an innate human desire to bring order to chaos. Or maybe it’s just satisfying to see your stuff find its niche, filing in line with its likeness.


Whatever the reason, the impulse to to click through photos of obsessively ordered objects is real. Take, for example, the popular site Things Organized Neatly that designer Austin Radcliffe started in 2010. In 2015, the site had 350,000 followers, won a Webby award and had garnered attention from the Tate Modern in London (Radcliffe has given talks at the museum).

Now, Radcliffe’s meticulously curated collection of collections has also found a home on the printed page. Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging the Everyday, out now from Rizzoli, features the work of 150 designers and more than 400 photographs of food, bicycle parts, sewing supplies, toys, and found objects big and small arranged in patterns by size, color, type, or shape.

In his introduction to the book, Radcliffe offers his own theory for the images’ popularity: “Fans of Things Organized Neatly have often remarked on the sense of calm that these images inspire. In the chaotic and boundless depths of the Internet, people are drawn to the order of the grid, to parallel lines and right angles.”

In the book’s forward, artist Tom Sachs (for whom Radcliffe interned in 2012) offers up the benefits of his own obsessive tendencies, lending another view of why the images have such widespread appeal. He describes a method called “knolling“–or arranging like objects in parallel or 90 degree angles–that he uses in his studio. He writes:

“Knolling” is the method of organizing things neatly that my studio employs. There are other names that others use: stackenblocken, tessellation, tidying up, making like piles, and Things Organized Neatly

Knolling helps us see what’s in front of us so we can discern. It helps us make more things fit into less space, or fewer things into more space, but always with the aim of understanding materials. This book shows us how things, when organized neatly, help us to build, to organize, to pack for a trip, or to conquer a nation.

We’ve compiled six images from the book into the slide show above for your viewing pleasure–go ahead and indulge.

All Photos: Austin Radcliffe/ courtesy Rizzoli


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.