The Life-Changing Magic of Embracing the Chaos

I like order and I find comfort in routine. My house is fairly organized; every thing has its place. Right now we have five family members staying with us, including my 21-month-old nephew. Needless to say, everything is not in its place.

My nephew’s favorite game is open the drawer or cabinet, see what’s inside and empty the contents. My puppy is very much enjoying this game, as he now has access to dozens of kitchen utensils and other household objects which had been previously inaccessible to him.

When I scan my home I see a mess, and there is a part of me that feels unsettled. However, there is another part of me that can’t help but feel delighted to witness so much curiosity and learning. Right around the age of two there is this amazing stage of human development in which we can practically see the ‘wheels spinning’ inside a child’s mind. It’s as if with each drawer that is pulled open my nephew’s mind is also open to the possibilities. “Are the objects inside what I expected? What are these objects? What do they do? If I drop them on the floor what happens?” I even find myself anthropomorphizing my dog to imagine his thoughts as something like, “Wow! I finally get to feel and sniff and taste this plastic bowl. I wonder if the people will chase me to try and get it back?”

This image of my nephew rifling around, delighting in what he explores stands in sharp contrast to what I see when I peek into classrooms. Generally I observe classrooms with posters announcing class rules, with desks neatly arranged in rows and teachers regularly telling students to keep quiet and sit still. Where are the squeals of delight when discovering something new? Where is the exploration fueled by students’ curiosity? Somehow between the age of two and entering school children’s curiosity is tempered and the roles of order and obedience become elevated.

My nephew’s visit is a reminder to me of how messy it is to be curious, yet how beautiful.  For a while now I’ve been deliberating reading the international bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Clearly, there is great demand for literature about organizing; the book currently has 4.5 stars and almost 4,000 reviews on Amazon. Still, I think I may pass. Despite my curiosity about the Japanese art of decluttering, I will follow the example of my nephew and embrace the chaos.