The city I live in thinks my family has a problem with the virtue of orderliness.
An inspector has just sent me an “Environmental Violation Ticket” alleging that our property has on it “rank growth of weeds ten inches or over in height.” If we don’t correct this offense within five days, the city will do it for us, charging a minimum of $250 per hour or any portion thereof. The city will also fine us not less than $300 and not more than $750.
I’m pretty sure it’s because of the weeds I’ve let grow between the back fence and the alley, some of which are not just ten inches but eight feet tall!
You see we live in the Midwest. Things grow like crazy and the weeds have natural defenses: it is hot and humid and any gardening will result in dozens of bug bites. It’s not like our house is falling down or anything. The front yard looks good, the back less so, the very back . . . well not. There is also the fact that I am able-bodied and I have three teenage sons who are doing little more than playing video games and reading inside our air conditioned home while they wait for school to resume. Are we a disorderly family? The truth is, yeah. But am I motivated to correct that egregious weed disorder? You bet.
The virtue of orderliness
Orderliness is the habit through which a person achieves his goals by doing the things he should do, when and how they should be done.
The most fundamental aspect of orderliness is the why, that is, your goal. Why set aside an hour every day to exercise? The answer to that question is your goal. I should have taken care of my weeds when they were babies in Spring, and then again in early June, and devoted a few minutes in July. The city has given me a worthy goal, to save as much as a thousand dollars.
Another aspect of orderliness is good use of time, the when. Practically speaking, day-to-day good use of time comes down to a prioritized to-do list and a calendar.
A simple to-do list is a running list of all the tasks you have to do. When you have a job to do, you write it down. When you have completed it, you cross it off. While an orderly person keeps a to-do list, a more orderly person prioritizes the tasks on the list in some way. One way to prioritize is by deadlines. Another is by importance. Yet another is by difficulty.
A calendar is a way of planning where you will be and what you will do in the future. Organized people know how they are using their time. More orderly persons wisely schedule time to do everything important to them.
Orderliness does not just involve what to do (good goals) and when to do it (good use of time) but how to do it. This how has three dimensions.
A first dimension of the how of orderliness is following sensible procedures. Following a recipe, a set of instructions, or a long division algorithm (step by step process) are all examples.
The second dimension of the how of the virtue of orderliness has to do with where you keep “stuff.” It means you have a place for things and put them back there.
A third dimension of the how of orderliness is using things in the way they were intended. Socks were designed to be used in conjunction with shoes but they also work well as a foot covering inside the house. However, if your teenager goes out in his socks to put out the garbage cans, he’ll end up with a soggy mess that he tracks over your kitchen floor.
Negation and excess
The lack or orderliness is called disorder; its excess is called obsession. Disorder comes naturally to most kids. An obsession with order often arises from making order an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
Here are some ideas to foster orderliness in the family if you don’t have backyard weeds.
• Be as proactive as necessary to be on-time for something, like school or Mass.
• Spend the extra moment to put things away in their specific spot.
• Use a calendar, or, if a student, an assignment notebook.
• Make a list of things to do and cross them off when done. Even better, prioritize them.
• Know your important goals and spend time on them.
• Be thankful of nagging reminders (or tickets from your city).
• Do what needs to be done today and now.
• Do the hard thing or unpleasant thing first.
• Reward yourself and kids for orderly behavior.
• Go to bed on time and get up on time.
• Start the task when you should start the task.
• For kids, make them put away five things before getting dessert.
• Clean out your soul: Go to confession; take your kids to confession.
• De-junk your life of the unnecessary stuff.
How did the weed business turn out? I bought a weed whacker and a gallon of gas (I already had the gas can), made my three boys help me, and over two one-hour sessions we got the job done.
Photography: See our Photographers page.