In my family, we call organizing “playing Tetris.” There’s this sort of neurotic fun that comes from making everything fit just so. You can “play Tetris” with anything, whether it’s a busy Monday schedule with hundreds of small things that need to get done, or packing a cooler for a road trip with maximum efficiency.
There’s something satisfying about “Tetris-ing” things, just like in the game. There’s also this dark side of Tetris organizing, becoming totally compulsive about organizing things and going overboard, like spending hours organizing your weekend to make sure you can do all the things you want to do…only, you spent a bunch of time organizing that you could have spent doing!
A perfect example: when we were kids, our family got our first computer. With it came an early version of Tetris and our dad recounts multiple nights finding our mom out in the living room, playing that game until 2 or 3 in the morning. Staying up all night playing games was unlike her…but going overboard on organizing things was pretty characteristic. The game scratched that itch of organizing while being fun at the same time, proving to be a dangerous combination.
That’s something this blog is going to work on – sharing fun Tetris ways to organize and streamline things, but also bringing some balance to the compulsive organizers out there and keep things from going overboard.
There’s a reason playing Tetris is so satisfying. It has to do with organizing all these known objects – six or seven repeating shapes – and making them fit into the structure you’ve already created at the bottom of your screen. The thing is, Tetris is pretty predictable. Sure, you don’t know which of the shapes will fall next, but you know it will be one of the pre-determined shapes. It won’t suddenly go L-block, Z-block, WTF-block.
In Tetris, the pieces may fall faster, and maybe not in the order you predict, but there’s still only a standard set of elements. In “real life,” there’s a standard set of elements – needing to drink water, eat, sleep, earn income, find shelter – but there’s also the potential for a WTF-block to fall at any time and totally disrupting everything. Like in Tetris, the better organized your daily life is, the better equipped you are to deal with the inevitable WTF-blocks. If your life-Tetris is already a shit show, WTF-blocks will seriously disrupt everything. An unexpected life event might result in you losing your job, home, or income. Scary stuff. If your life-Tetris is in pretty good shape, you’ll be better equipped to deal with WTF-blocks.
One of my blog heroes, Mr. Money Mustache, has his own version of a similar idea in a post called “It’s all about the safety margin.” The takeaway message is similar: if things are a mess, disorganized and over-booked, small interruptions can destroy big parts of life. Poor planning can ruin hard work. Duplicity is important, margin is important, organization is important.