Organised Chaos

I love boxes - of all shapes and sizes. From vintage matchboxes, to ugly plastic storage boxes, to ticking boxes! There is a certain satisfaction in those four or more sides, the way they hold, contain and keep. My fondness boxes started at a young age when I had my first mini baby bean doll in a matchbox (Google them for pure 70's nostalgia!) and this grew into a love of containing things in small spaces - snails, jewellery, pressed flowers.

As I grew up, organising objects into boxes brought about a calm and order to my life. I kept most of my treasured possessions in boxes: stationary, magazines, make up and keep sakes. If I was bored as a teenager, I would empty a box or two, clean it out, rearrange it and feel happy knowing everything was in place, nestled together and safe.


When I got married and bought our first house - a very old Victorian Welsh terrace - the loft access was the size of a postage stamp. I can remember buying many plastic boxes to fit through the gap, until it was made bigger a few years later. When we came to move house 11 years later, I had contained our belongings in that attic into no less than 45 boxes and I might add here, I am not a hoarder!


So, what is it about boxes? Why the love, satisfaction and need for them in my life? Well it all comes down to control, order and safety. My childhood, at times, was uncertain and unpredictable. I learned that by containing my 'things', I could contain myself - my feelings, fears and emotions. It was a coping mechanism that served me well and protected me. It brought order out of chaos, and enabled me to function. Just as I would retreat into my imagination or with a good book, I could live in a safe space in these boxes.

When I first thought of this, it appeared to be a negative. But in fact, it was a natural way for me to understand my world and live with some sense of peace and stability. It has made me a more organised adult and I now enjoy the relaxation I feel when a cupboard or drawer in our house is sorted and arranged. In fact, when we were recently told of another local lockdown in our county, I immediately felt the urge to contain and bring order to an out of control situation. The situation we all face with Covid 19 is uncertain, unpredictable and at times chaotic. I found myself on that day rearranging our airing cupboard, folding into neat squares our bedding and towels, experiencing a calm washing over me as the transformation from cluttered, over stuffed shelves turned into neat bundles of organised joy!

There is joy in bringing order to something that is out of order, yes, there needs to be balance in this (I am in no way referring to OCD which is a debilitating and diagnosed medical condition), but it comes back to what we can and cannot control. As a child I could not control what was happening around me, but I could stake a claim over my own personal space. Today, I cannot control the virus or the effects of it on our lives, but I can choose to bring stability to other areas of my life, making my home and family feel safe, calm and joyful.

Maybe you feel the same, or have other ways of bringing certainty to uncertain times - I'd love to know. You can add to the comments below or respond to my Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter


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