Fighting Entropy

Published on May 31st, 2017
A pier in decay

Ever find yourself watching an episode of Hoarders? After the initial shock factor of seeing a person struggle to wade through piles of junk while walking from room to room, you will inevitably you will ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can they live like this?
  • How did they get here?

These are valid questions. I doubt that any person signing up for a 30-year mortgage walks up to their newly purchased home and proudly exclaims “I can’t wait to pack this house with so much stuff that I wouldn’t be able to tell if an animal buried themselves and died.”

Issues of mental health and illness aside (which play a significant role in hoarding tendencies), the long and steady journey of accumulation is one of entropy going unchecked until the (literal) mountain is too difficult to climb. It is then when a person can feel that all hope is lost and simply comes to terms with living in squalor.

Where Is Entropy Destroying Your Life?

Hoarders is an extreme example of a series of small decisions and choices snowballing into a massive cluster fuck. This can lull us into a false sense of security that it couldn’t happen to us because our slightly disorganized garage pales in comparison to heaping piles of trash made all the more dramatic with a soundtrack and strategic editing. And that may be true. It might not be that bad. However, entropy can be a slow and silent killer until it’s unmanageable. Entropy can also affect all areas of our lives, not just the physical possessions we own and how they may or may not be strewn about haphazardly.

Ever have a great relationship or friendship just drift away into nothingness for no particular reason? One moment you’re best friends and then all of a sudden a year or two goes by and you’ve become strangers. Or what about your health? One moment you’re in decent shape with a reasonably healthy diet and the next you’re finding yourself at a doctor’s appointment with a variety of ailments and issues. Or what about your finances? You start spending a little loose thinking you’ll catch up next month and pretty soon you find you wiped out your savings or racked up a few thousand dollars worth of debt.

These are not theoretical questions because I’ve personally experienced each one of them (as well as others). Without consciously making time and prioritizing effort in these areas of life, shit happens and cracks form. Left unaddressed, you find yourself receiving bad news and experiencing regret.

Realistic Expectations

Now, this is not to say that we won’t have some areas of our lives getting less attention than others. Given that we all only have 24 hours in a day, it’s inevitable that we will have to make choices to prioritize what’s the most important. That’s OK! Especially if you’ve made the choice consciously and know where things may get neglected. This is important because at the other extreme, splitting one’s time equally across every facet of one’s life, may not realistic and can set one up for disappointment. The key is to choose your battles, and know which ones you’re willing to lose for the ones that truly matter to you.

Fighting Entropy

Once you know your priorities (and this can take a LOT of self-reflection and change year to year), it’s important to keep fighting the good fight against entropy. As tired as you may find yourself, taking consistent (daily/weekly) action is critical. If you allow days, weeks, months, or years to slip on by, you will find yourself in a Hoarders like situation. Somewhere in your life, you’ll find a mountain of garbage that may take you a considerable amount of time and effort to correct. More importantly, it’ll take some time to develop a new, positive habit to maintain the desired outcome without slipping back into squalor.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.