Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chaos Rules!

Stuff on my cat photo of the day. Eight ball in the side pocket.
My goal for today is to calm down the chaos in my life. But if I don't succeed, I know I am not alone.
My noew motto: Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, Cola in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WHOO HOO! What a ride!"

Messy people are finding their voice — if not anything else
By JIM AUCHMUTEY The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/09/07

It's that time of year when Americans resolve to unclutter their lives and store the stuff they've accumulated in nifty containers that just happen to be on sale everywhere. January, the National Association of Professional Organizers tells us, is Get Organized Month.
Not so fast, say the authors of "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder" (Little, Brown, $25.99).
In their new book, Eric Abrahamson, a management professor at Columbia University, and David H. Freedman, technology columnist at Inc. magazine, argue that we'd all be better off worrying less about neatness and order.
Being like Felix isn't always better than being like Oscar, author David Freedman says.
Robert Altman: The late director was famous for improvising on the set.
Bill Gates: The Microsoft founder sends independent R&D teams in conflicting directions.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The California governor hates making appointments and has pretty much winged his whole career.
And if it's neat you want ... history's ultimate neat freak:
Adolf Hitler.
Albert Einstein, who appears to be looking for something in his Princeton office, has become the patron saint of the anti-anti-clutter movement.
Freedman talked about the wisdom of tolerating mess from his "moderately messy" home outside Boston.
What's wrong with being neat? There isn't anything wrong with being neat. The real point is that people assume neater is always better, and that's just plain wrong.
In some cases, moderately messier is better. If you're a naturally neat person, I don't see any reason to change.
If, however, you're anxious about being neater or you feel other people are pushing you toward being neater, you're probably fine at the level of messiness you have.
A messy desk is an amazingly effective work-flow system. You keep the stuff that's most important toward the front of the desk and on the top of piles, and the stuff that's less important ends up farther back and at the bottom.
If you file things away all the time, you're not only taking time to file and retrieve and refile, but you're losing all this visual stimulation that tells you where you are in your work process.
Einstein didn't have a neat desk, did he? Einstein had a fantastically messy desk.
A lot of this book isn't just about clutter, is it? It's about the ways we try to deny the randomness and messiness of existence.
Yeah, a lot of the publicity so far has been on messy desks and clutter in the home, but there's something larger going on here. I came to this subject through a new scientific field that sprung up in the 1990s to study the way randomness makes systems more efficient.
It's counterintuitive, but it's true.
You poke some fun at organizers. Is this a profession we really need? I don't accuse professional organizers of causing this drive toward neatness. They're just answering cries for help.
But when you see the way they've become media stars, the way they turn up on the "Today" show or "Oprah" and save people's lives, I think they're driving home this idea that the majority of us who are somewhat messy and disorganized are failing in some way.
We've been made to feel that these extreme cases of people paralyzed with clutter are where we're all headed. That we all have this messiness sickness, and that these organizers are the doctors who are going to cure us.
One of the best parts of the book is when you go with an organizer on an apartment makeover, and the client opens her shower stall, and a pile of organizing paraphernalia falls out.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of the stuff we're buying to organize our stuff is becoming part of the problem.
People are filling their closets with racks and bins and baskets they buy at the Container Store. The fact is, people tend to be somewhat messy. You can get someone to be neater for a short time, but they spring back to the same level of messiness. Did your survey find much gender difference in this matter? Not as much as I expected.
Do people make judgments about messy people? Sure. I have a moderately messy home, and I've had people walk in and say, "Hey, you guys are kind of messy. What's up with that?" It doesn't bother me that much, but it points up how friends and relatives and colleagues and bosses will pass judgment if you aren't neat enough.
Aren't there some situations where we don't want any messiness? We don't want surgeons or pharmacists to be messy. We don't want train engineers or pilots to be messy. I'm an amateur pilot, and I know very well that you have to be ordered and follow that checklist every time if you want to be safe.
But for the most part, the way people criticize somewhat messier people is unfair. We've held up neat and orderly people as heroes in our society and held up messy people as villains or hapless victims of their bad habits. The opposite isn't necessarily true; I just think we all need to be more comfortable with the way we are naturally.


Elisa K said...

LOVE the MESS... I was reading something about that book a week or so ago and though whoa I need to write a book about CLUTTER with 4 kids. LOL

Karen said...

To each their own! I don't function well in chaos but I know many who do. I say do whatever works for ya.

lil bro said...

I believe "a pile for everything and everything in it's pile."

Hillbilly sister said...

I too have everything in its place. However when my pile is moved to another location during a remodeling process it creates a feeling of franctic! Now I have to rethink where I put my pile! I believe the problem lies in the fact that we live in a society of must haves! Can you imagine what we would leave behind if all we could carry was 17 lbs. in our handcart? (It would be hard to decide what was absolutely necessary to survive) We live in a very fast paced way of living. I can remember as a youngster that all the stores closed at 6:00 p.m. and on Sundays. When Christmas Eve rolled around the stores closed at 3:00 p.m. Now, we are lucky if we can even get with our family for even a couple of hours! I agree, even though I am a little on the neatness side, it is not fair to condemn those who are not neat. There are only so many hours in the day and so much that has to be done. I only care about the people who dwell in whatever condition they happen to live in. I have tried being a perfectionist and I ended up driving myself crazy. I have learned to mellow out.

wyo sis said...

Yipe! All this self examination! It must be January. I am a somewhat proud mess maker. I say somewhat, because while I think a little messiness is OK. Filth is not. I border on filth and sometimes tip over the edge. Not good. Here's to balance.

pudding for brains said...

When my husband cleans our house...it is INFURIATING!!! I can't find anything. I (heart) my stacks o' stuff!!

PS: If you want to be a big LOSER, just say so! You are welcome to be. CALL ME!! (It is a little strange asking people to join. It's like saying: You're FAT. wanna lose some weight with me?) I've been really careful about that... SERIOUSLY!! Call me.