Being orderly

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"You're so orlderly," mom often tells me. "Just like [common friend]. I was always scatterbrained, not like the two of you," she adds regretfully.

But being orderly is something you do, not something you are. Deliberate, continuous effort. And it's essential if you value your time and sanity.

Adult life is hard, and never gets easier. It can however quickly get harder.

"I don't know how you do it," mom also says. But mom, I showed you many times.

It's not a secret, or a magic trick, or some innate trait that can't be taught.

In cooking shows, each chef has a personal style and technique, and that's part of why it's so fascinating to watch many of them. But look carefully, and you'll notice that all of them do certain things the same way. Namely, how they start.

Free up a tabletop and wipe it clean. Measure all the ingredients and line them up in the required quantities. Ready all the pots, pans, spoons and so on that you expect to need for the task at hand.

No, it's not just for the camera. It's literally self-defense: the only way you can have a hope that things will go smoothly. And it applies to any activity.


Going out? Pick your clothes in advance. Know what you're going to wear; make sure it's clean, ironed and ready for you to put on. Make sure essentials like keys and phone are in the bag or pockets that are coming with you.

Going shopping? Make a mental list. With age, it gets harder to keep it in your head, so write it down. Heck, write it down even if you're young. That's what writing is for -- its original purpose: to free up your brain for important stuff. But they don't teach you that in school, do they.

By the way, make sure you have money for it all, too. That's what math was for since the dawn of civilization. Another thing they don't really teach you.

Oh, you knew all that? Then why aren't you doing it already?! Why is it that every single time you need the TV remote you have to go all over the place again looking for it? You used it just five minutes ago! Twice or thrice!

Don't you have anything better to do with your time and remaining neurons?

That's how I do it, mom. I trained myself to always put a thing down in the same place where I picked it from after I'm done with it. Long, tedious training. Took me a lot of patience. But it's what helps me function while perpetually stressed out and distracted. We all are, as of late.

Orderly people like me and [common friend] are really just as scatterbrained as you are. We're all just monkeys after all. Left to our devices, we tend to run around, flailing and screaming. With or without good reason.

Our secret is that we chose to raise above the level of a monkey. That's all.

Chefs are trained in the chaos of a big restaurant kitchen, among dozens of people doing their own thing at the same time, banging noises and puffs of steam going off constantly. Yet the lessons they teach can be applied by any of us.

Yes, it takes work. It does anyway. Might as well have something to show for it.

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Tags: personal, philosophy