Michelle Martin

Order out of chaos

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

In the beginning, Genesis says, when the earth was without form or shape, shrouded in darkness over the abyss and with a mighty wind sweeping over the waters, God made light.

And once there was light to see by, God went to work. We all know the story that culminates with the Garden of Eden, but it doesn’t start there. It starts with God shining a light on the world, then creating a place for everything and putting everything in its place.

First, God separates the light from the darkness. Then he makes a dome to separate the sky from the earth, and a basin to separate the sea from the dry land. Before the end of the third day, he had covered the dry land with every kind of vegetation. And, he said, it was good.

Three days later, according to the first chapter of Genesis, God would create humans. “In the image of God he created them, male and female” (Gen 1:31).

Maybe that’s why it’s such a universal human impulse to create order out of disorder. We fit jigsaw puzzle pieces together, try to build solid walls of shapes in games like Tetris or create set patterns of playing cards in games like Solitaire. How many of the time-wasting games people play on their phones involve matching things in particular ways? 

Shape sorters are classic toddler toys for a reason. Once little ones get the idea that the square block goes in the square hole, we start trying to teach them to put toys away: blocks in this bin, crayons in that one.

Later, we fret over whether to arrange the books on the shelf by author, by subject or some aesthetic consideration, like size or color. We hang tools on pegboards (some people, I’m told, outline the spot for each tool so that nothing gets misplaced). We make beds only to sleep in them again and pair and fold our socks before we put them away.

Don’t get me wrong: our house is generally cluttered and messy with four or five people, a dog and two fish sharing space. But every so often I have to take some time to set at least one room to rights.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that more than once when I’ve returned home after being away for a few days, I spend time within the first hour or two cleaning the bathroom the kids use and setting it to rights. Pick up toothbrushes and use toothpaste off the vanity and put them away, discard the empty bottle of hand soap, sweep hair ties into the drawer, scrub down the sink, replace the cup the kids use to rinse after brushing their teeth, empty the trash, put used towels in the laundry … it doesn’t take long, and it’s incredibly satisfying.

If my kids are reading this, it’s probably even more satisfying to come home and find it done. Let me introduce to the joy of creating order out of chaos. Then let’s talk about your rooms.


  • family life