When your parents tell you that something is good for you, it's usually good for you.
That being said, when my parents tell me something is good for me, I'm usually good at doing the opposite of said thing, wandering blindly in confusion until I collapse in a heap of "I should have listened."
Though this pattern has surfaced in many facets of my life, there is one example that stands head and shoulders above the rest – the dreaded conversation every parent has had with every child, the biggest privacy invasions known to man.
I'm talking about organization.
What can seem like nothing more than a mere inconvenience to all of the non-type-A humans out there, organization is actually crucial to the way we function. Apart from the self-explanatory reasons for maintaining a visible floor, organization can be broken down in a bidirectional manner.
I'm of the opinion that the state of our surroundings can not only act as a physical manifestation of our current mindset, but can also actually affect the way we feel and act.
Allow me to elaborate. Looking at a lack of organization as a symptom is fairly straightforward. My lack of organization typically stems from some general feeling of apathy. This feeling of apathy is usually due to a deeper issue of some sort, whether I realize it or not.
That being said, my surroundings have a habit of reflecting how I am feeling. When I'm incredibly motivated, happy and immersed in hard work, my apartment is spotless. It's like a well-oiled machine. My kitchen is always clean enough to cook for Gordon Ramsey. My desk has enough thinking room for thoughts of Einsteinian proportions. There's a place for everything and everything is in its place, so to speak. This is all because I feel that way on the inside as well.
It's like my apartment is an inhabitable mood ring. Depression leads to piles of dishes quickly; happiness has me remembering to water my plants. When I feel like pursuing my goals, I surround myself with a conducive environment.
On the flip side of that, organization – or a lack thereof – can have dramatic effects on our lives as well. Piles of dishes lead to less home-cooked meals, as well as strange growths in your sink. A disorganized desk leads to less study time that, in turn, leads to either poorer grades or less free time. Not doing your laundry will make you slowly become smellier and smellier until you have no friends (it happens).
Neurologically speaking, disorganization most definitely affects the way we perceive our surroundings. You see, our brains are wired for contrast, for differences, for movement. We're best at picking out what's actually important.
Organization has a way of not only letting us remember where we put things but leaving things where they are easily discerned from the background. When our lives become a beige layer of clothes, wrappers and notebooks, we're putting ourselves at a physiological disadvantage – one that has a habit of leading to tardiness. It really does turn into a losing battle.
So, whether you want to look at the situation in a symptomatic manner or as a stimulus, the message remains the same:
Clean your room. Just do it. Clean everything. Organize the icons on your desktop. Arrange your sock drawer by the year each pair of socks was woven. Go a little over the top. In the end, it only helps you with everything else you want to do with your life.
Maybe you won't forget to grab that one grade-determining lab report because you laid it nicely in the tray on your desk. Maybe you won't be late to the first date because your second flip flop has taken up residence under your couch.
Find a system that works for you and stick to it.
Andrew Fleming is a junior in neuroscience. He can be reached at email@example.com.