[Moving Zeal] Controlling Chaos Decisively

I awake daily, almost violently, with racing thoughts of every remaining task. My mind will calm down as I capture these errant thoughts in my task lists over morning coffee because this forces me to remember how much work I’ve done in just about 6 whirlwind weeks. This photo summarizes that point: while it’s a seemingly chaotic mess, this is it for my CDs left to move. I’ll impulsively clutter the empty shelves, but increasingly less.

My tactic is addressing areas casually and specifically.

This CD shelf had always been just for CDs, but as the racks cleared up, I found myself placing stuff that could go with music on the empty surfaces. Cassettes, toys, and random tools. If my focus area is in, say, clearing out a box that had a box of cassettes, well, I don’t want to distract myself from clearing out that box to decide where those cassettes should go – they just seem to subconsciously lump closer to the CD shelf than, say, my coffee maker.

I’ll allow some of this to happen while emptying that box.

Then after that space is cleared up and I’ve taken a short respite, perhaps to get some water or change out a CD (because this rack is for all the remaining CDs I have yet to hear for the first time, and therefore, don’t want to automatically just move, if I don’t have to, because really, what will I listen to as I pack?), I’ll have a neutral chance to look over the clutter that had accumulated. I’ll ask myself, “where should this or that go?,” then move it.

I have certain areas that are still completely chaotic.

I haven’t put in the time to organize my office supplies or plastic bags because they’re low-impact areas that won’t help me regain key areas of space. It’s also useful to allow the clutter to remain so my mind can cope with this transition from hoarding to organized more gradually. Just like I’m not boxing up every CD because there’s still another month of moving, if I box up the clutter, it will just persist within that box and never get sorted out.

My clutter problem has to do with distraction over shinies.

I used to buy a CD because it was cheap but since I was already listening to something on the drive out to that store, I’d usually have to listen to it later. I’d place it on an open part of the shelf, sometimes without cataloging it, and when the rack filled up, it went with about 50 to 75 other CDs in a box deep in my office/spare bedroom. It was bad. I’m sharing these secret moments of weakness to characterize how this will not happen again:

When I buy more CDs, and other things, I won’t allow myself an easy out.

Let’s say I find a cheap CD by the pillows. That CD will go to its corresponding box, CDZACB3, where I’ll meticulously go through that entire box. This won’t entirely be a one-in/one-out system, but especially at first, it might seem that way, because I’ll relisten to every CD in the box to figure out if there are any CDs I’d be alright with getting rid of until there’s space for the new CD. This will also be the time when I can shuffle around misplaced CDs.

Say I bought that pillows CD after I boxed up CDZACB3.

During this moving process, I’m not going to go back to my storage unit, find that box, open it, and figure out how to stuff it in the box that’s already at maximum capacity. So it’ll go into the next available box, say, CDZACB6. Well, when it comes time to assess the contents of either box, between my digital cataloging efforts and having listened to everything at least once [with certain exceptions], I can go back through and return order to this chaos.

It’s intentionally a bit of a pain in the ass, honestly.

The next place I move to won’t be the last. I’ll live there for a year, maybe two, and that’s where I’ll retrain my brain to be more careful about clutter. It’s an impulsive thing, indicative of addictive qualities related to “oh, shiny!”-type distractions, but compared to other, more advanced, psychological thought patterns, expressing clutter is just a matter of not adhering to rigid structures when adding new items to our physical or digital collections.

This goes for reddit bookmarks, too.

So the ugly boxes will remain, in either my bedroom or perhaps spare bedroom if I find myself owning too much of my clutter, and this is intentional. Why unpack somewhere for just a few short years? If I want something, I’ll have to use my current system or learn a more flexible organizational system. Chaos-controllers like the Dewey Decimal system are effective because they allow for new entries without destroying old entries.

They also ensure everything is findable.

I caught myself just now as I took a break: “I don’t need to do this now.[1]” I was looking over the remaining stuff to catalog and saw some opportunity for streamlining. Rather than return to this essay to finish writing so I can continue with my packing efforts, I looked over some CDs to figure out what might fit in well with the item I had just packed up. This is useful when I’ve physically exhausted, but not mentally exhausted, myself.

If the fatigue is minor, then some distraction can help.

Otherwise, those distractions will prevent progress. It’s not so much that I’m hiding shinies from myself as reprioritizing the time. That’s a shiny that I can address later on today. With having everything boxed up, the shinies will be dampened. I’ll naturally want to unbox my CD collection, which is fine, but I have to learn to control myself and my environment more. If I can’t, it’s not that I’ll have my toys taken away from me.

It’s that I’ll have let clutter control me.

Quotes: [1] This isn’t really a good use of this citation system, but it is a quote that someone said…
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: I was anxious this morning, more so than usual, probably because there were so many shinies to work on and I want to do them all right now. No. Hold on and reprioritize the management of shinies.
Related: Other Moving Zeal essays.
— CD essays:
01. Albums: Move, Sell?
02. Luxury of Ownership
03. “Close Enough” Lumpings
04. Last Heard: Pre-Cataloging
05. Album Sorting Algorithms
06. Slow to Unearth
07. Declutter Then Alphabetize
08. Your Music Donations
09. Space Between Cataloging
10. Meticulously Studying Ownership
11. Packing To Perfection
12. Controlling Chaos Decisively
Photo: My CD rack. The top right stack are all ones that I’m not sure if I want to keep. To its left is the alphabetical listing, and at the bottom right are the various artists. The greened-out space to the left was my kitchen.
Written On: January 2nd [90 minutes]
Last Edited: First draft; final draft.
My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)