It’s good to clean up after oneself immediately whenever possible, but sometimes it’s not possible. Urgent tasks take precedence, or in some cases it’s actually more efficient to save up a chore and then do it all in one long go (like laundry).
Likewise, it’s good to keep a stress-free life, but sometimes unavoidable complications accumulate and weigh down on my mind, draining my mental reserves.
I’ve found a wonderful way to kill both this birds with a single stone. It is the Zen of Home Maintenance.
I used to feel overwhelmed when my house got too messy. So much to do! Where to start? No matter what I did, it wasn’t even a dent, there was so much more!
Now I just grab the nearest thing that is not in its proper place. I take it to its proper place and set it there. If there are any other things who’s proper place is in the same vicinity that I can grab along the way, I do that as well. It’s more efficient to make less trips, so I get a small jolt of pleasure from that – efficiency feels good. Efficiency is what has brought us to our modern quality of life. It’s just a game, but it’s fun.
(Do your things not have a proper place? Then they’re probably “stuff” and not “things”. You’ve made them homeless. “If you value what you have, then give it a home, or stop pretending you need it.” Do you have too much stuff, but can’t tell what’s worthless “stuff” and not valuable “things”? Maybe you should move more often.)
Then I do this again. Pick up, evaluate, move, put down. Pick up, evaluate, move, put down. It becomes a dance. I float back and forth through my home, every step transporting an item from a messy spot of chaos to a precise ordered location.
Pick up – I identify a seed of chaos in my surrounding. I take that chaos into myself, cleansing it from the world. Now it burdens only me.
Evaluate – I can take this chaos within me and transform it. The unique powers I’ve been imbued with as a human allow me to visualize the order that can be, to see the potential for beauty in this destruction.
Move – Through an act of physical manipulation I can impose my will on the chaos. My body is my tool, it reshapes the environment in my image.
Put Down – I withdraw the object from myself and place it back into the world. Formerly of chaos, I have elevated it to order, and the world is better for my efforts.
Repeat. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Push back the ever-encroaching entropy. As life-forms, at our most basic we are the incarnation of neg-entropy. It fulfills something deeply ancestral, to reduce the local entropy… something pre-vertabrate, even pre-multi-cellular. The first self-replicating molecules grasped in the chaotic soup around them and brought together the building blocks they needed, recombining them in a very specific order. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.
If you’ll pardon me the poetry.
And as you progress you’ll find less and less chaos around you. You have to start going further afield to find seeds of disorder to re-sow. Until, eventually, there is nothing left to clean. Everything is where it should be. The world is at rest, and it lowers you gently from your trance. It is a little sad to stop in the work, much as it is sad to finally reach the very top of a mountain and have no higher to go. But you have achieved something. And now that you are refreshed and at peace, you can face the day again knowing you’ve already accomplished something of value. The next task doesn’t look as daunting from here.