Are You a Creator of Order or Chaos?

Right now we are living in the midst of chaos, with our possessions scattered hither and yon, whether downstairs or upstairs or out on the porch or driveway. And that doesn’t even include the main stuff in the pods, which will arrive this afternoon.

I have such a struggle with neatness! That’s why I so need structures—drawer dividers, shelving, cabinets, etc. When left to myself I end up strewing my things all over the place. I have no inborn sense of order and neatness.

As I was thinking about this aspect of my personality I was reminded in a character in an old mystery series by Dell Shannon, Luis Mendoza. (“Dell Shannon” is a pseudonym for Elizabeth Linington, who wrote under her own name but also had several pen names. I got acquainted with her at the old Ross-Barnum library that was 10 blocks from 90 Wolff Street in Denver, the house we bought when I was 10 years old. I’d always check out the “new books” section, or maybe it was “new fiction” or “new mystery.” Something like that. It was on the left side of the main room as you came in the door. After I got tired of reading science fiction I branched out into mysteries, an addiction that lasted well into my adulthood.)

Anyway, the Luis Mendoza mysteries are set in Los Angeles in the 1960’s and centered around the LAPD. Mendoza is the chief detective or whatever you call it. His officers are a decent lot, although Shannon/Linington seemed to think that they needed to curse and swear in about every other sentence. I guess that was her idea of authenticity. The plots aren’t all that great, but she did have somewhat of a flair for characterization. Mendoza is married to an Irish woman and has a set of twins. He and his wife at some point buy a big estate with horses and such. He’s apparently inherited quite a bit of money after a rough, poverty-stricken childhood, and he drives a black Ferrari. He’s always chasing some criminal or other around LA, using his knowledge of the streets to cut the guy off at the pass, manhandling the big car through the alleyways and side streets.

But what I was particularly struck with about him was that he “created order around him everywhere he went.” If he spends time in a room it will be tidier than it was before he came in. In contrast, I create disorder wherever I go unless I consciously catch myself. I remember coming into a kitchen area at our church and deciding to make myself a cup of tea from the hot water kept on a burner. As I stood there drinking my tea I realized that I had come into a perfectly tidy space and made it messy. Every drawer and door I’d opened was still open. The used teabag and crumpled napkin were on the counter, as was the mug and spoon. I had to make myself go around the room and clean up after myself.

So when I land in a new situation, whether it’s a hotel room on a vacation trip or, in this case, a new living situation, I have a very hard time getting my stuff situated. When I look back to our move into the previous house all I can remember is days and weeks of living in the midst of a total mess. I think it took about six months all told to get the house in order. (Although, to be fair, there were lots of steps to the process, including painting, floor refinishing and carpet installation. We sort of camped out for awhile until all that stuff was done and only then moved our main possessions out of storage. But that’s sort of my point: until the mechanisms were in place I had no way to have us live in some kind of orderly way.) It was very depressing to be there during that preliminary period.

So I need to quit sitting here and self-indulgently writing about old murder mysteries and instead go out onto the porch to see what I can do to sort out some things. After the big push on Monday it’s hard to get myself going, but I need to do it. As an Obliger, I need a deadline! Maybe I’d better plan on a big July 4 party or something like that. Six weeks should do it.

How about you? Are you a chaos creator, or do you emulate the estimable Luis?


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