When I was younger, I didn't care much about order. Didn't care if my bed was made, if the dishes were done, things like that.
Partially, I guess, it's a normal thing for a kid to not care about those things. Also, my parents are very clean and orderly people, and I've heard a lot of times generations switch patterns between generation - one generation will be into order, the next will find it oppressive and be messy, the one after that will find the messiness awful and tend to be much more orderly, etc, etc.
I don't know if that's true - I haven't seen any studies on it. Sounds reasonable, though.
So yeah, when I was younger, I didn't care. I wanted to read my books and play Chess at the cafe or do interesting things, and cleaning seemed like it didn't fit the bill. I figured I thrived well enough in chaos, and I'd rather have a chaotic environment and more time to myself.
I'm not exactly sure when that changed, but I've done a 180 on it.
Nowadays, when my mind is scattered and I'm having a hard time thinking, I tend to like cleaning. If your environment is a mess, it kind of pulls your thoughts in all directions as you look around. Also, cleaning is one of those things where your mind is busy on something else, but you can do great thinking in the back of your mind - similar to how you can have such creative thoughts when showering. You're kind of working sideways at whatever you're working on.
Naturally orderly people don't need this message since they're already doing it. But if you think you thrive in chaos, then try cleaning the next time you're confused or mentally scattered. Don't worry about cleaning everything, just start picking up the stuff that's most obviously in the wrong place and putting it away, throwing it away, whatever. Maybe run a cloth or paper towel over a dusty surface. If you have 4-6 items on your desk, put them in a nice pretty sort of pattern.
It's like magic, really. The orderly already know this, but if you've never tried cleaning when you're having a hard time thinking - well, I highly recommend you try it.
I thought I was the only one! Cleaning takes my mind off things. I usually feel refreshed once I see all my books and papers piled up neatly on my desk.
Cleaning absolutely helps. Sometimes, I'll be working on a project at my desk for long enough that I end up surrounded in piles of paper, empty mugs, and other random items. It's funny how this physical mess ends up creating a sort of mental fog, where I don't feel like getting anything done, so I typically get up from my chair, step back, and sort things into a pile. Even forming piles is better than leaving things scattered around. It's the structure that probably helps. Good post!
Ephemeralization's been a really interesting effect concurrent with the fat loss; 34 pounds since the new year. Okay, the pantry and closet emptying might have been predictable, but the bookcases and weapons rack?! Huh.
I've noticed this helps too. I'll even put off certain chores in case I need to do this.
I think it has something to do with letting your mind wonder, like you already pointed out. But also as something more. You just accomplished something. A chore now complete. It's a micro-win, which could be just the thing you need when you're feeling scattered. A little boost, to reassure you that even though your mind feels out of whack, you can still get something done. All while letting your mind solve bigger problems.
You'll see a theme in history - armies that train for "worst case scenario" eventually kick the hell out of armies they don't. Command and control based armies, that only fight well in formation, tend to do really well until their ranks get broken. Then they get slaughtered.
If you look at George Washington or Napoleon Bonaparte, their forces knew how to fight out of formation. That's why they were able to win important battles against larger, more well-equipped forces. They stirred up a bunch of chaos because their forces were able to handle chaos better than the enemy.
I think if you want to do creative endeavors like writing, painting, whatever - you need to learn to fight out of formation. By that, I mean you need to learn how to do it without having "formal expert tone" or being highly polished. Ideally, you can communicate well without necessarily obeying grammar and punctuation. After all, the point of writing is to communicate - the language is supposed to serve you, you're not supposed to serve it.
It takes a lot longer to get into formation if you're out of it than to just fight slightly wild and crazy. Of course, you should learn discipline and how to fight in formation, and should be able to do well in that role. It might even be your bread and butter. But if you're editing every memo you send, every blog post you write, every rallying talk or speech you give - then you're burning a lot of time.
Yes, fighting in formation produces better results much of the time. But sometimes ranks get broken, and then you're screwed if it's the only way you know. I think it's better to learn to fight out of formation before you ever need to. The quality of out-of-formation output is going to be lower at first than in-formation output. You need to learn how to deal with a chaotic messy environment. It doesn't have to be the only way you do things; in fact, sometimes you ought to use proper grammar and punctuation. But you also should be able to handle not doing it, just throwing things together with commas and dashes, slapping some rough thoughts down, and figuring it'll turn out okay. As long as what you're saying is clear enough, you don't have to bow to formality.
Originally Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008
Before I got wrapped up in all that is life (dinner, feeding the dog, checking email, writing a post, etc) I was going to write about my drive home today and the thoughts that floated through my head. It was a long drive, the weather made it very difficult. I took this time to listen to some Christmas music and just relax, it was slow moving.