POINTS TO PONDER

Perhaps all of us want to be known as being an orderly person. That means we don’t like clutter and try to keep things nice and tidy. What could be wrong with that? Orderliness is a personality trait, associated with other qualities such as cleanliness and carefulness – and the desire for order and balance, and is generally considered to be a desirable quality.

However, we learn that in psychology, an excessive desire for orderliness can be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the terms “fussy” or “finicky” are used conversationally to describe such a person with attention to orderliness and detail that is seems like an obsession. This doesn’t mean that orderliness is wrong, there’s enough disorder and chaos around us to desire such orderliness. We are all familiar with the term “Law and order.” Only when it is insisted upon at the inconvenience of others does it raise questions.

Psychologist point out that in nature and culture, order and disorder are present everywhere, and humans can avoid or eliminate neither order nor disorder. God endowed humans with the preference for order, structure, and patterns over disorder, randomness, and chaos. For example, even 2- to 3-month-old infants can seek and detect consistent patterns that would empower them to easily predict their environment. In most research, disorder refers to the lack of visible perceived order (a peaceful and safe state) and self-control (an act of maintaining).

The visible perceived order includes social and physical cues. Visual social disorder usually refers to people who are loitering on the streets, drinking to excess, taking drugs, or engaging in dangerous behavior. Visual physical disorder refers to the appearance of the physical environment, such as places that are dirty with vandalism and graffiti, high levels of noise, and buildings that are in disrepair or abandoned. On the other end of the continuum, visual social and physical order include quiet, drug-free people, no people loitering, and buildings that are clean and in good repair.

Therefore, the core distinction in disorder/order perception is the degree of orderliness, regularity, pattern, and rationality. Various studies have revealed that disorderly environments encourage impulsive and disorderly behaviors such as rule-breaking and crime. Until now, little has been known about whether the inborn capacity of seeking orderliness and the universal order and disorder in the environment are affected and associated with people’s mental abstract representations of stimuli, including events and objects.

Order effects refer to differences in people’s responses that result from the uniformity in which the information is presented to them. Order effects can occur in any kind of situation. People may answer questions differently depending on the order in which the questions are asked. The fact is that the order in which the conditions are presented may affect the response.

Orderliness effects occur for many reasons. Practice effects occur when participants warm up or improve their performance over time. In reaction time studies, for example, participants usually respond faster as a result of practice with the task.

People may also perform differently when dealing with issues because they are bored or tired. These fatigue effects are more likely when the procedure is lengthy and the task is repetitive or uninteresting. These effects are more likely when conditions are in an orderly fashion. They also depend on the particular sequence of conditions.

Master Social Worker Edie Weinstein says that over the years, he has heard folks say that they know where everything is and if they organized their home, work area or car, they wouldn’t be able to find anything. While there may be a grain of truth to that, it can also be an excuse not to clean or remove objects that take up unnecessary space and put things into order. We are an acquisitive species that loves collecting stuff. 

He goes on to say that when he was in an environment that is messy or cluttered, he feels uneasy. It was a challenge when he worked as a home care social worker. There were times when some patients’ homes were a safety hazard and he was reluctant to sit on the furniture. Piles of newspapers, stacks of note paper, boxes of books, dirty dishes in the sink were common sights. He chalked some of it up to physical debilitation that made it challenging to clean. He also considered that many had a long-term hoarding problem that he wasn’t going to rectify.

Psychologist Sian Bullock admits that she has heard the phrase “a cluttered desk, a cluttered mind.” Indeed, as Martha Stewart, the magazine Real Simple, and thousands of self-help books will tell you, being orderly leads to improved mental health, life satisfaction, and better thinking.

But it is true? Does being in an orderly environment – at work or at home – improve our lives? It turns out that it depends on what we are trying to do. In a nut shell, orderly environments prompt us to stick to valued social norms, like being generous or eating healthy (think grabbing that apple rather than the tempting candy bar). And, it’s easy to see how such choices might improve our well-being.

In another study they find that mental health benefits from keeping an orderly living space. For instance, it reduces stress. A 2009 study found that women with high levels of cortisol, a hormone indicating stress, revealed that their houses were untidy. On the polar opposite, the women who were more comfortable and happier had more organized houses. This de-stressing also leads to a healthier body – eating more nutritious foods, getting better sleep, building your immune system, and being more active.

They also found that a more organized and orderly house can lead to more production, according to a Princeton study. You’re less stressed and more focused without distractions from clutter and dirt. With distraction, your mind can process at a faster pace.

It was also proven that if you’re having friends, family, or even friends of their you don’t know, it can be anxiety-inducing if you don’t have an impressively orderly house! That confidence in your own house’s orderliness when showing off your abode can transfer outside the home, too.

Furthermore, they noticed that an orderly house can lead spark creativity. Maybe you’ll innovate your storage, think of new decor ideas, and envision a whole new furniture layout just by being able to see what’s there!

Here are some tips they give for keeping an orderly house: 

Leave shoes at the door! You don’t want any accidental mud prints…or prints that look like mud but don’t smell like it.

Clean a little every day! When you save cleaning for one day, it can become stressful rather than mindful. Clean or organize for 15-30 minutes a day.

Make your bed. Keeping your bedroom room neat is conducive to better sleep. That sense of serenity and satisfaction can be applied to the rest of the house to help maintain a healthy mind and body.

Do the dishes as you go. Even better, team up on the dishes after your meal! It takes less time, you get time with your family, and it’s less stressful!

God’s holy Scriptures are not silent about the benefits of orderliness. The Bible begins with God bringing orderliness out of chaos: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”[1]

Then, king Solomon noticed the lack of orderliness when he walked past a field that belonged to a lazy man. It was a vineyard that belonged to someone who understood nothing. Weeds were growing everywhere! Wild vines covered the ground, and the wall around the vineyard was broken and falling down. What did Solomon learn? That if you sit back and do nothing, you’ll end up losing everything.[2]

And the prophet Jeremiah tells us that there is an orderly time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time. There is a time to be born, and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up weeds. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to collect stones and a time to throw them away. There is a time to hug someone and a time to let go.[3]

Even Luke when he wrote his Gospel, told his friend Theophilus, many others have tried to give a report of the things that happened among us to complete God’s plan. What they have written agrees with what we learned from the people who saw those events from the beginning. They also served God by telling people his message. I studied it all carefully from the beginning. Then I decided to write it down for you in an orderly way.[4]

And the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, everything should be done in a way that is right and orderly.[5] Then he told the Colossians, through God’s power all things were made in an orderly fashion: things in heaven and on earth, seen and not seen – all spiritual rulers, lords, powers, and authorities. Everything was made through him and for him.

Being orderly does not mean being restrictive or prohibitive. Instead, it constitutes a way of dealing with things that is not confusing, complex, complicated, or confounding. When you put objects where you want them to be, they will still be there when you go to get them. But orderliness also applies to our relationship with God and each other. By putting God first everything else will fall in line. By putting your spouse first, will result in orderly communication and marriage. And by putting others first, it will bring harmony to you and your family, neighbors, and friends. For God is not a God of disorder but of orderliness as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.[6] – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] Genesis 1:1-5

[2] Proverbs 24:30-34

[3] Ecclesiastes 3:1-5

[4] Luke 1:1-3

[5] 1 Corinthians 14:20

[6] 1 Corinthians 14:33

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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