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Allow A Little Entropy

Balance and moderation seem like old school values in our age of extremes. My grandmother always preached moderation, you know, one, maybe two, cookies. It never worked for me. I was a “until they’re gone” type of cookie monster. Grandma would just shake her head and suggest I buy a girdle.

On the surface, organizing is a way to instill order, and some may think it is a rigid, immoderate path. Many people believe you have to be a perfectionist or obsessive to achieve it. As with any new skill, at first you may have to obsess a bit about it until you become fluent and somewhat comfortable with it. But eventually you will groove habits and routines into life that become second nature. It’s akin to tracks down a ski hill—habits are almost impossible not to fall in to once they are well-established.

What organizing eventually does is allow more access to creativity. It cuts out the noise of things like being chronically late, forgetting to pay bills, running out of gas, not being able to find your keys or sunglasses, buying things you already own, overwhelming clutter, etc. All these disorganized habits that we might associate with “creative types” are not really part of the creative process. Any time we experience stress we are not at our most abundant and creative.

This is a more philosophical than prescriptive column today, but if I had one tip for balancing order and creativity I would say it is putting things back where they belong. If you put things back where they belong every time, you will not be searching for the Burnt Sienna crayon or the needle nose pliers when the creative urge strikes. Putting things back where they belong means having logical homes for things in the first place, which is about putting in the time to create order at some point before you can relax and create art or a baby or a company.

When you reach the level of organization that feels right for you, it is so much easier to see where you can let yourself relax. A painter might have a bit of entropy in the studio but reins it in when it comes to paperwork. Another person may have a draft of a novel spread out on the office floor and Post-Its all over the walls but maintain a well-ordered kitchen. Usually, when in the middle of a creative pursuit, we let a few areas in our lives relax so that the ideas have room to grow and flow.

Just as you need some order to destress and relax the brain, the flip side is that you can’t keep everything perfect when you’re in creative mode. When I have an exciting creative project I might not even brush my teeth or my hair until after lunch. But since I have such a great routine 95% of the time, my teeth can take it (my hair is another story). For me, being so excited about something that I forget to brush my teeth makes life worth living.