We’ve all experienced it.
The frustration when right after folding the towels, an infant crawls over and spreads them around the room.
The exhaustion of cleaning the corners in one area, only to find the area we cleaned yesterday has been – heaven forbid – used and dirtied already.
The surprise that the grocery run we just did (or was it last week?) has been entirely consumed yet people are still hungry.
Entropy gets us every time. When God cursed the ground, He set entropy into motion. Sin causes our work to be Sisyphean and unrelenting. Gardens grow weeds, but so do homes, so do relationships, so do plans and systems. Weeds look different, depending on where we’re looking, but the fact remains true: The world tends toward disorder when left untended.
This means tending – maintenance, continual effort – is the name of the game.
So, if we want to handle life well, we have to take entropy into account in our mindset and our approach.
Here are three ways we can do so.
Realize nothing is ever done “once and for all.”
We never clean the bathroom once and for all. We never catch up on the laundry once and for all. We never organize the closet once and for all.
Something will always happen to disrupt and disorder, one way or another, eventually. It will need to be redone. So we can’t tell ourselves it won’t be. False encouragement will become discouragement when the lie is out.
We must tell ourselves the truth, and make it a good story. We’re organizing for fun. We’re catching up on the laundry to kick off a new routine that will work better. We’re cleaning the bathroom for guests. Next time we need to, we’ll do it again.
Think of your work as tending rather than doing.
Perhaps we can choose a better attitude about entropy if we think of our housework and mothering as tending rather than Getting Things Done. When we Get Things Done we want them to stay done. But our work is of a different kind. It is tending, caring, stewarding.
In both senses of the word, we tend.
We tend our home and our family when we care for the little needs, over and over. We tend when we pull weeds – literally and metaphorically. Those weeds will come back, but we pull them when we see them. That is tending our little spot.
What we find is that what we tend to, we start tending towards. When we take care with affection those little things, our hearts are more and more attached to what we are tending and we fight it less. We tend to simply do what must be done rather than see it, fight it, then do it. It takes time for such tendencies to form, but they do form.
This is one way to learn to love what must be done.
Iterate all the things.
Rather than create all the routines and systems and plans from scratch before beginning, trying to implement a flawless scheme from the get-go, iterate.
To iterate is to make a “minimum viable plan” – a plan that is as small and simple as meets the need and that will not be difficult to put into practice. Once you have that basic plan or routine or system in place, you observe what it’s lacking and what are its strengths. Over the weekend or at the beginning of the month, you adjust the plan – not starting over from scratch, but adding to or tweaking your current plan to make it better.
By iterating, your plans and systems can grow and adapt to fit your life, however it is currently unfolding.