Organizing on the Edge of Chaos
Last week I attended a lecture on Chaos Theory. I’d heard of it before, but didn’t really know what it was, exactly. The lecture was my dad’s idea for something to do together. And it turned out to be really interesting! He said he expected it was going to be about The Butterfly Effect. And it was, but who knew it was also going to be about entropy, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, fractals, and Rosa Parks (whose small act of defiance triggered a chain of events resulting in the civil rights movement)?Are you comfortable living on the edge between order and chaos? Click To Tweet
Anyway, the basic premise is that we live in a chaotic world (not to be mistaken for randomness, mind you) and it’s in our nature to try to see patterns in it, and to create order out of it. Also, everything deteriorates over time. (Given an opportunity, concentrated energy spreads out.)
CHAOS is also a cute organizing acronym that stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I used to feature it on my website until it started attracting potential clients with serious hoarding issues. Not so cute after all. (Are You a Hoarder?)
So, how does Chaos Theory apply to organizing systems?
Regarding the three principle laws of thermodynamics (which involve temperature, energy, entropy, and lots of math), Dennis Overbye, science correspondent for the New York Times, humorously wrote: “Cynics and physics students put it like this: 1. You can’t win. 2. You can’t break even. 3. You can’t get out of the game.”
Not at all!
But it does mean, I propose, that we all need to get comfortable living on the edge between chaos and order.
Things fall apart
Getting organized is a process, a mindset, and a habit, not just an event. It’s like living with the idea that we will regularly have to cut our hair, and our grass, if we want to maintain its desired shape.
Here are more examples, along with some related Org4life blog posts:
Your laundry, dishes, paperwork and tasks will multiply, spread out, and become overwhelming if you don’t have systems in place for creating and maintaining order. Also, your organizing systems will only work if you work them.
If you learn how to create S.P.A.C.E. in your life, don’t forget that E = Equalize. This includes The One-In-One-Out Rule (if you buy a new blouse, donate one you never wear anymore) for maintaining the equilibrium of the space.
Maintenance requires new habits and mindsets
Things will continue as they are — or deteriorate! — unless something happens to change it, and to maintain that change.
The more order you seek, the more frustrating it can be. Example: people who suffer with OCD (Obesessive Compulsive Disorder) seek more order than is considered healthy.
Plans are like fractals, in that they are the on-paper version of the real-world system. Systems don’t always work as anticipated, and even the best system needs tweaking once it has been used for a while. Because things change. In nature (and business, and politics) one must adapt or die. Fortunately, in organizing it’s not usually life or death!
Be the example you seek
Be The Butterfly Effect in your life. Focus on your own self, and your own stuff, and set an example for your kids, your partner, and your community. You never know what small action you take will influence others. Be prepared to not see results right away! Just do what you think is right and don’t give up trying.
Are you familiar with Chaos Theory?
Can you think of more examples of how it can apply to organizing?
Are you comfortable living on the edge between order and chaos? Or not so much?
Join the conversation by leaving a comment!
Copyright 2019 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life.
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