Chaos or low hanging fruit?


Despite having gotten less sleep than I would have liked, the morning after arriving home I felt surprisingly energized. I left my workout clothes on after the gym as an invitation to continued vigor, and there was a spring in my step as I moved from room to room.


Looking at this view of my bed after I had emptied my suitcase, maybe it’s not obvious why I’d be energized. I don’t always look at a mound of work and rub my hands together. Something about this situation is different.

If you switch from thinking not in concrete but in abstract terms, it’s easier to see. This may look like a chaotic scene, but it’s an uncomplicated one. There are no real dilemmas here; even if some of these items don’t yet have a place to call home in our organizational scheme, I’m confident of the outcome.

Another plus is not being under any time pressure—since El Guapo is still in Valencia, there’s the option of leaving a few things stacked on his side of the bed if I run into any snags.

Though Loquita and Ninja made an effort to get some cleaning done before my arrival, there are still things to do, and they also fall into the “uncomplicated” category:


Let’s see, Loquita had asked me about the procedure for cleaning shelves in the fridge:

A quick scan shows me two things: she did pretty well on the cleaning, and our inventory consists almost entirely of condiments. So grocery shopping will also be uncomplicated–we need just about everything.


You may recognize that backpack from my latest Lisbon post—it has been nearly emptied of all the weight it was carrying, and will soon be stowed, its contents put away.

I’m not the only one thinking this way. I read an article several months ago by Rosie Leizrowice in which she asserts that we procrastinate not out of laziness, but because there’s doubt, uncertainty, or confusion about how to proceed. It makes sense, then, that contemplating the jumbled collection of things on my bed led not to procrastination or discouragement, but to steady progress. Straightforward task, no worries getting right to it.



As it happens, I generally want to do the easy sudoku first as well—I’m quite content to get started when almost everywhere I look I can make some progress. I guess an argument can be made that I’m shallow, or that if I don’t keep searching for the biggest challenges, I don’t have the stuff of greatness in my soul.

That may be true. But in the context of domestic chaos, I feel like I’ll do a better job facing a large challenge if I’m surrounded by a peaceful, uncluttered environment, so I’ll keep going on the easy stuff for now.

This is a fine time for me to share a web comic relating to the task of cleaning up. The artist, Nathan Pyle, does a great job of making visible the unspoken assumptions that underpin a lot of what we do every day.


I’m off to hide more things. What do you think? Are you someone who loves jumping into a lot of complicated things? Do you do the easy sudoku first?


[Images: andreas_fischler on flickr, Yours Truly,, Strange Planet]

4 thoughts on “Chaos or low hanging fruit?

  1. The cartoon is great!

    Wondering whether it makes sense to choose when to tackle different kinds of tasks. Like a time of day thing. For example, I find that later in the day, I often reach a point where I am too tired to do complex tasks that require decisions, but still energetic enough to do things that are more routine.

    • Absolutely. I’ve read advice to that effect, I think, and the author may have called it something grand like “energy level management.” I can see the value of grouping tasks into batches depending on the level of energy or attention they would require, so I could set my hand to something mundane when I’m not at my sharpest, as you describe.

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