When does clutter or filth become abuse?

Order as a search for meaning - Why order has us under control

In every relationship there is someone who is tidier. Regardless of whether you are a roommate, partner or office colleague: With socks lying around, dirty coffee cups or punctuality, the potential for conflict is huge.

Ordinary people seem to have morality on their side. It's the messy one that doesn't work. He is sloppy, filthy and he would have to call his mother again.

Ordinary people, on the other hand, keep their things "in order"; things run in an "orderly" way for them - a goal that is a great asset in our society. When it comes to conflict, the one who is tidier usually wins. Or?

Is it a question of justice?

“I wouldn't speak of winning,” says Nicole C. Karafyllis, Professor of Philosophy at the TU Braunschweig. “I sometimes go mad in our institute kitchen. I am one of the ordinary. But I never win. "

Karafyllis is the author of the book "Cleaning as Passion: A Philosophical Universal Cleaner for Clear Conditions". She knows about dirt.

For the philosopher, the everyday phenomenon of “tidy versus messy” is primarily a question of justice. The untidy are free riders, profiteers: "They create an injustice by letting others clean up their dirt."

Orderly home, orderly life

So is Marie Kondo really fighting for justice as she clears out the overcrowded homes of the American middle class and educates untidy people to be neat?

The petite Japanese woman, who made tidying up popular with books and a TV show as a new soul trend and solution to many problems, can hardly be avoided today when it comes to order.

The idea of ​​“tidy up your house and your life will be tidier too” is actually tempting. In Switzerland, too, there are more and more clean-up coaches based on Kondo's model, and since last year they even have their own association: the Swiss Association of Professional Organizers.

The association may be new, but cleaning guides including promises of a better life are not. The clean-up guru of the 1980s, the American Sandra Felton, celebrated unimagined success 30 years ago with order guides such as “The Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping”.

Does the chaotic world keep us tidy?

The fact that people on Instagram today under hashtags #declutter, #chaoscleared or #organizeyourlife outbid each other with pictures of pastel-colored, indecently empty living rooms is often interpreted in terms of kitchen psychology. Order is trendy because we live in an increasingly chaotic world. If we couldn't organize the world around us, we at least wanted to have our home under control.

But philosophy professor Karafyllis waves it aside: "That is too high for me." For them, the reason why we celebrate decent apartments and pay tidying coaches to throw our stuff away is far more banal: We live in a consumer society.

«We just have a lot of things. This means that we have to constantly deal with order. Unless we have a lot of money and can move into an increasingly large apartment.

Mucking out according to the joy principle

In order to bring order to overcrowded homes, the tidying specialist Marie Kondo works with the joy impulse: I can keep things that I have a relationship with, that I feel joy in. The rest can go. Creating order by parting with the superfluous - is that the key to happiness?

"Basically, that does not go far enough for me," says philosopher Ina Schmidt. She too is concerned with order - and with happiness. Schmidt is only partially convinced of the Kondo method: "If I only keep what I enjoy, that also means: things that are prone to conflict, difficult things are disposed of." Applied to life, this means: You don't deal with your problems or negative aspects, but ignore them.

Life under control. Or not?

Another problem with Marie Kondo is the false promise of salvation. Expectations are aroused that cannot be met or can only be met for a short time.

Thanks to the new order, you should feel comfortable, create a pleasant atmosphere and get the feeling of being in the right place. "These are very big, very emotional terms." The answer to the question of how this healing order can be achieved comes in the form of: "Wrap your T-shirts."

But: Those who have the discipline to wrap their T-shirts are definitely admired today, while meticulous orderly people used to be seen as stuffy. Does an orderly life have more prestige than it used to be?

Ina Schmidt affirms: “It is a certain form of down-to-earthness, stringency that is experiencing a new value today. «The question is: How do I reduce my world to an order that I can control? This is where plannability, commitment and reliability can be found. "

The stress of being perfect

As modern people, we are very much concerned with the question of order because we live in an age with many upheavals - migration, digitization, climate change. However: Even in ancient times, people grappled with similarly complex questions. "Their world was just as insecure back then - only there were other insecurities," says Schmidt.

The longing for order in life is not new - what is new, however, is the role that we as individuals play in it. This has changed extremely, says Schmidt. "Today we have the impression that every individual must be able to achieve a successful, fulfilling life on their own initiative."

Always rearrange nicely

In times of self-optimization, this credo is hardly questioned: It means permanent excessive demands. Because first you have to consider: When am I happy and when are things okay? What does the ideal life look like for me?

According to Schmidt, the idea of ​​the "one order", of the one ideal, is a big mistake. «Order is not a state that lasts. Anyone who thinks this way will never be able to keep order, because all conditions are only temporary. " You have to constantly check, rearrange and adapt your order.

A sensible order

The philosopher Schmidt advocates an "organic order," as she calls it. An order in our life that adapts to our everyday life - and not the other way around. «An order that is 'okay' for me too."

The people around us, the things, places or memories result in a fabric that is related to us. "In an organic structure in which I feel good, things can crunch, be difficult, and have problematic, open ends," says Schmidt and adds: "But: I have to know why I want to endure it." In other words, it has to make sense.

So is this longing for order actually a modern search for meaning? "I would put it differently," says Schmidt. "The meaningful can support something like a modern order." If something makes sense, it's probably okay too.

So the key question is: which order is meaningful for me? And not: does it make me happy? "Happiness can go hand in hand with order," says Ina Schmidt, "but it is not the goal."

So if you find sense in wrapping your T-shirts, you're doing everything right.

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