Chaos and Order

Grades are due today, which is the last official task of the semester, though I also have a ton of e-mails I have to deal with, many of them time-sensitive. My inbox is utter chaos right now, and it’s stressing me out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about chaos and order, about how I got panicky and depressed during 2020, and didn’t really realize it. The biggest, clearest manifestation of that was how my home slid into disorder and filth.

It was honestly not just messy, but unclean — with our twice-monthly cleaners not coming, Kev and I didn’t have the emotional wherewithal to pick up their tasks, and so we went months without sweeping or mopping or well, if I delineate it all, some of you will get really grossed out, so just fill in the details yourself. It was bad, and of course, the mess made me more depressed. I ended up mostly retreating to the guest room, which was the one room I kept clean. I called it the Queen’s Chambers, and tried to ignore the rest of the chaotic house as much as possible.

For me, that started to turn around in spring of this year, when Kavi went back to in-person classes. She got happier, which helped. (Anand was fine with remote.) And then the semester ended, and I had a little time over the the summer. I got vaccinated and started cautiously socializing again too, and those together somehow led to me having enough energy to start cleaning up the house. Which was a long, long, process, and I’m not done yet.

I mean, we could have gotten it to decent pretty quickly, once we had cleaners coming back in, but I decided to also use the time to do a sort of ten-year winnow. We’ve been in this house about a decade, we’ll be here about another decade, it seemed like a good time to go through room-by-room while cleaning and also reorganize and reset for our next decade. I gave away a LOT of stuff this summer! It felt great!

But it’s not a fast process. I JUST finished the basement yesterday, after literally months of work — there was a lot of shelf assembly and bin sorting involved. My label maker got a workout. Big thanks to Ethan Yeung and Emmanuel Henderson, Serendib staff, whose cheerful and hard-working assistance yesterday helped me push through the last big organizational stretch. Couldn’t have done it without you two; I would have given up in exhaustion.

The first floor is DONE. The second floor is MOSTLY done — except for the library.

That first photo is the library, which has been basically not functional for a year-and-a-half. Mostly because as we started various electronics-and-bedding-sorting projects, and then abandoned them due to busyness, the room has become a catch-all. We did manage to get the floor clear at some point, so the cleaners could sweep and mop it, which helped, but clearly, there’s a ways to go.

I’m actually hoping to get through it this Friday with Kevin, if there’s time, before we leave town. If we manage that, it’ll get most of the house in order, finally — there’ll just be a little left to do in the kids’ rooms after we get back from holiday travel. Can we start the New Year in a clean and organized house? What a dream that would be!

But I’m not going to make myself crazy trying to achieve it. One thing that’s become very clear is that when I get harried, the mess gets worse, because I feel like I don’t have time to put things away properly, so they just get stashed places, and then if I don’t go back and deal with it quickly, more stuff gets piled on top, and soon you’re picking your way through and things are toppling down and getting broken and now there’s broken glass on the floor and it’s become this vicious cycle of a LITTLE chaos leading to MUCH MORE chaos.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: I am definitely privileged with flexible work and money and multiple adult partners and older kids and some part-time staff that I can throw at this problem. And it’s still a lot.)

I think my mantra for 2022 is going to be two-fold:

– keep focus
– slow down as needed

There is so much I want to get done. But when I get harried and frazzled, it becomes counterproductive. I get tunnel vision, and tend to focus on the wrong tasks, the ones that *seem urgent*, rather than the ones that *are important*. So I’m trying really hard to reset that, to ask myself regularly (daily? hourly?) — am I working on the right thing for right now?

And going along with that, I try to do too much in too short a time, which leads to accelerated chaos and also my work becoming much more stressful and much less fun. So I want to try to regularly reassess that too, in the coming year. Am I feeling stressed and anxious? Am I feeling panicky? Is there something I can cancel and reschedule for later? Is there someone I can hand this task off too? Is this task something that needs to happen this month or this year? Is this task something that needs to happen at all?

Trying to get back to starting my mornings in a chill way, which I hope will help. Light some incense, tea and meds, water and tend the plants, which is meditative and also comforting, read a little, exercise. Then start putting the inbox in order; if I know I don’t have urgent hanging e-mails to deal with, it’ll help a lot.

I haven’t written much of anything in months, and I think much of that is due to the pressure of mess and chaos. Hopefully if I get the house finally in order, clear out my inbox, keep focus, and slow down as needed, the writing will follow. Fingers crossed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *