That's My Garage!

February 23, 2010

Balancing Act

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:39 pm

If you throw your belongings in a heap on the floor, you risk being labeled a slob. If you alphabetize the spices in your cupboard, you’ve probably been accused of being obsessive compulsive. Most of us probably find ourselves somewhere in between those extremes when it comes to organization. Personally, I slide back and forth along the continuum. I go from one mild extreme to another as a function of what’s going on in my life. Unfortunately for my wife, I have come to realize that my level of organization is inversely related to the state of my psyche.

I don’t want to come-off as a soft, 80’s guy, but how I am feeling definitely affects how much effort I put into maintaining order in my physical world. If I feel emotionally content, I tend to be relaxed about my schedule and accept the clutter that seems to naturally follow having three young children. If I am feeling anxious about work or a relationship, I crave a structured schedule and finding toys strewn across the family room makes me bonkers.

There is little doubt that a mental health professional would say it is a function of control. I would not consider myself a control-freak (who does, right?), but it is pretty clear that when I feel parts of my life are out of control, I compensate by controlling things that are within my control. For example, I recently changed jobs. The change is one that involves risk and a high level of uncertainty. Almost on cue, I found myself purging files, organizing closets, and generally cleaning like a mad man. There is definitely an element of distraction in those activities. If I am cleaning and organizing, I can’t obsessively second-guess my decision. However, I believe there is more to it than distraction.

I believe there is a general sense of well-being that comes from having a certain level of order my world. Living in a clean, tidy space feels civilized. It’s healthy, we know where to find things, and we’re comfortable having people visit our homes. But beyond feeling civilized, eliminating physical clutter eliminates mental clutter for me. A stack of unfiled / unshredded documents takes up space on my desk AND in my head. The sooner I process the paperwork, the sooner the task list in my head shrinks.

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