The benefits of intentional chaos

Most people loathe chaos. It causes them a lot of stress. They don’t know where to start to create order. They feel overwhelmed and disoriented. Nothing seems familiar.

So why would one create chaos intentionally? Usually it’s because they believe life on the other side of the disruption will be better. Often much better.

When you decide to voluntarily move residences, you believe the larger/smaller/differently located lodgings will bring you more happiness. Maybe you’ve felt cramped in the previous place, or maybe it was too big. Or maybe you wanted a better view, safer location, or closer to work or better schools. You were willing to deal with the chaos because you saw the benefit.

I recently went through some chaos when I decided to turn my home office of 20 years into a guest room. When it was clear the hardwood floor needed refinishing, which meant moving every item — 20 years worth of accumulation — out of the room. Getting bids for the floor, because of minimum charges, it would be almost as much to do this one room as it would to refinish the floors in the living room and dining room. So I decided to have them all done at once.

Because of an unexpected hole a contractor’s schedule, he would give me a very low price — if they could start the next day! I had to move out every stick of furniture and remove everything off the walls in a day. Talk about chaos!

Once I realized everything would need to be removed, I decided to have those rooms painted, as it would be easier if everything was out. Then I saw how dated and dinged up the wallpaper was in the now-guest room. That had to removed, then the wall textured and painted. While I was at it I added crown moulding.

So my small job of turning the office into a guest room mushroomed.

But it gave me a chance to reevaluate nearly everything, from the layout of the living room, to adding curtains, getting new rugs, and deciding to change the pictures on the walls. I got rid of anything I hadn’t used in years or wasn’t who I am now. It was refreshing and exhilarating — and of course, a lot of work. But as I embraced the new, updated living space, I got energy. The old stuff had weighed me down and I didn’t realize it.

The experience also tapped my creativity. If something didn’t work as originally planned, how could I create something that worked?

I noticed I was reluctant to start sorting through the small room where everything got dumped that I didn’t know what to do with. The task seemed daunting — where to begin? So I decided to attack in in small chunks — I’d listen to a podcast while sorting and could stop in an hour when it ended. That made it bearable. I could see the progress after the first hour. In just a few sessions it was back in order.

I saw the value in intentionally creating chaos, whether it’s taking everything out of your desk and reorganizing it to doing the same with your living space. It’s probably best for most people to start small — maybe a closet or a bureau — as too much chaos can feel debilitating. Most of us like some order and completion, so doing small jobs can create some momentum.

What project could you start on to create some beneficial chaos? How will you mitigate potential stress it could cause you and others? What do you feel the benefit would be once things are in order again?