Living with organized chaos

istock_000005724765xsmallSensational organizing shows on TV and magazines like RealSimple and Martha Stewart Living can make us set expectations for ourselves way too high. We get discouraged because we can’t seem to make our homes look that amazing and be that perfectly organized.

Organized chaos

In reality, I believe it is absolutely okay and normal for life to include some organized chaos. To me, organized chaos means having a space where things “belong” but which isn’t necessarily categorized, sorted and packaged to perfection.

Real-world examples

  1. The junk drawer. Most people – probably even Martha Stewart – have at least one junk drawer in their home, because they serve an important function. It’s a place to put stuff that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, such as unidentified hardware, old keys, chip clips, matches, etc. Yours may be a tangled mess of random odds and end, but if you’re looking for some specific piece of junk, you know what drawer to look for it in, right? The junk drawer is organized in the sense that it is there to hold (in general) what it’s supposed to, even though it can be pretty chaotic inside.
  2. Tax files. During the past year, my 2008 tax folder sat in the filing cabinet and served as a receptacle for tax forms of all kinds. I would throw them into the folder willy nilly as they were received. It wasn’t until last weekend (when we finally did our taxes!) that I pulled the folder out of the file cabinet and opened it. Even though the contents of the file were a mess, the existence of the folder itself was a godsend.
  3. The “Man Shelf”. Similarly, I created my husband’s “man shelf” to reflect his laid-back organizing style. A shelf of bins, each one designated for a different type of item (music, computer, gaming, etc.), gives him both:
  • Enough structure to be a bit organized, and
  • Freedom to be chaotic (he can simply toss things into the bins)

A metaphor for life

The idea of organized chaos can be a metaphor for life. In most situations, we can only do the best we can to prepare ourselves for the onslaught of life’s challenges. We set up systems as best we can, but if things aren’t perfectly arranged inside of those systems, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll deal with the details when we get there.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!