Friday, February 7, 2014

A Beautiful Mess Part 2: Life Is Messy

I tend to be an organized person. I’m one of those weirdoes who alphabetize the books in our library, our movies, and the spices in my cupboard. My clothes are arranged by item and color and in my closet. I like to be able to find things easily. Arranging them a certain way makes me feel better about my world. It gives me the illusion of control.

 I never thought much about my penchant for managing things into logical groupings until my college roommate caught me eating M&M’s.

 “So,” she said, “you eat your M&M’s by color, I see.”

 I looked up, suddenly feeling exposed. “Yeah…”

 With a knowing smirk, she added, “You eat them in a certain order. How do you decide what color to eat next?” I felt like a bug on a pin.

 “I eat the yellow ones first,” I said, suddenly realizing I followed the progression of the color wheel. “…then orange, red, blue, green, brown.” I was taking art at the time, so it made sense to me. When she laughed, I knew I’d been caught. I don’t become violent if I’m thwarted in this effort, but I’m a little like my daughter’s dog. Part Border collie, Layla instinctively attempts to group things together - from family members to stray socks. She had a need for order.

Whether you’re slightly OCD like me, or comfortably messy, organization can be a good thing if not overdone, because when the messes of life get out of control, they distract us from focusing on our relationships, with God and others.

My son-in-law as a new daddy

If you’re a young mommy, just exiting the house requires paraphernalia galore. You need a diaper bag, snacks, blankets, toys, extra clothes, a car seat, and a purse. If you remember to grab it along with all your other stuff! All of it immediately morphs into a jumbled mess the moment you begin to search for a particular item.

 When you get home, you feel like you’re surrounded by mounds of dirty clothes, dishes, toys, and crumbs. Sticky doorknobs, equipped with childproof locks, often seem more effective in keeping you out than your children. Not only does your world seem messy, but you feel messy and unorganized. Lack of sleep, a crazy schedule, and being in constant demand make it difficult to feel like your life is in order. You sigh, looking forward to the day when “I can have everything clean and organized the way I want it.”

 However, when you get older, the messes just change form. It is nice when your kids are grown and you can leave the house relatively unencumbered. Still, the messes of life continue to mount. Paperwork, to-do lists, laundry, dishes (yes still!), appointments, scheduling demands, family obligations, and community involvement – the list goes on. It doesn’t matter how old you are. As long as we live, life is messy.

 If I had it to do over again, I would relax more during my child raising years. I would refrain from washing all the toys after every play date. I would sit down and play with my children more. And I am learning in mid-life to let some things go and give people greater priority. But I also know this organizational strength I have is God-given, and very helpful in keeping our home and surroundings comfortable, healthy, and safe.

 Tune in next time for tips on how to organize your external world, so you can relax and enjoy your life and the people in it, without going crazy with the messes of life.


  1. All of the hangars in my closet are the same color and the same size. My wife, my children and everyone in my house all have whatever colors and a wide variety of sizes of hangars and it pains me to even look inside of their closets.The world seems to be spinning out of control like its Armageddon when I look at the way the hangars are arranged. And if all of the shirts are facing to the right and one is facing to the left, I cannot even close the door without rehanging it ! Welcome to organizers anonymous. My name is Derek and it's been 30 days since I arranged the forks and spoons in our kitchen drawers while searching for my special spoon to stir my coffee......

  2. Oh Derek,
    You made me laugh so hard! It's good to know I'm not alone. Thanks for your fun comment.

  3. Great job on the blog! This sentence really hit me: “organization can be a good thing if not overdone, because when the messes of life get out of control, they distract us from focusing on our relationships, with God and others.” I really worked hard at clearing out, cleaning and organizing this past weekend. I realized once again that if I had not let my messes get out of control, it wouldn’t have taken so much time and energy all at once. It felt wonderful, and looked better and is better, but I overdid a little, and realized I ignored all my relationship to-do’s/calls except my husband.Thank you for encouraging me to see the positive and negative sides of this need for order. I am redoubling my efforts to stop procrastinating and piling stuff to deal with later :) I don’t want to be so distracted by these things that I forget or crowd out the really important (and eternal) God/things/people!

  4. Thank you, Linda. It helps to hear what spoke to you specifically and what you did about it. Good for you on clearing out last weekend. Balance is such a difficult thing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us on this journey.

  5. Beth,

    Thanks for posting my comment.

    Maybe some of our fellow organizers will have the courage to come out of the organizing closet.