Helping Your Life Work
February 1, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 2

What a Mess

In the past month, my local paper has run three articles about the joys of being messy. It appears that January has now officially been declared “Get Organized” month, and in response, there has been a sudden onslaught of books extolling the virtues of living a messy life. “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder” by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman and “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life” by Irwin Kula are two such examples.

In two of the articles, reference was made to the old adage coined by Einstein. “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then is an empty desk?” Being somewhat of a neat freak myself (did I just use the F word?), I found myself taking offence to the diatribes being hurled at those of us who like to live in relative order and tidiness. Penelope Green, who writes for the New York Times, described neat people as “humourless and inflexible prigs who have too much time on their hands.” Irwin Kula suggested that “order can be profane and life diminishing.” I wondered why there was such venom behind these statements. Perhaps this was payback time for being called lazy, slovenly, and inefficient all these years.

I wondered where this friction was emanating from. Didn’t we have enough animosity in the world today without resorting to name-calling about such personality differences? And then it struck me. Like most other sources of arguments, it was all about control. It was the ongoing fight that exists between parent and child, spouses and/or partners, employer and employee. It was about “my way or the highway” kind of thinking. It was about marriages breaking up over how one squeezes the toothpaste or loads the dishwasher.

Anyone who knows anything about personality type and temperament (MBTI, True Colors, Personality Dimensions, etc.) will tell you that we couldn’t exist without different types. We need the rule-makers (to ensure law and order) as well as the rule-breakers (to invent and create). We need the thinkers (to analyze and reason) as well as the doers (to implement and carry through). How dull and boring our lives would be if we all thought and behaved the same. Yet, living and working together, we may be trying to control the other to be more like us.

Given that February is the month of love, perhaps we need to examine how free our love is. Is it attached to any conditions? Is it about controlling the behaviour of the other? Or is it about recognizing, accepting and even celebrating our differences?


Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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