Total chaos might breed better order


By: Steve Bates
   You are going to have to get a little dirty if you want to clean something up. This is my theory — actually, more like a hang-up — about cleaning projects.
   Cleaning is making order from chaos. I have always pitied those poor souls who tackle a cleaning job as though they were about to perform a triple bypass.
   In my mind, a person has never won a battle of wills with an unruly closet by being nice and neat about it. I feel in order to tame this kind of mess, you must rip every box, bowling ball and boot from its comfy resting place, throw it in a big old pile and put it all back together again piece by piece.
   I mean, the reason you choose to clean something is because it’s disorganized, right? Tearing something down completely gives you the freedom to put it back together in a better way. It allows you to imagine the best solution first, then realize it. I don’t think you can clean a closet properly if you do it piecemeal.
   I was recently reminded of this cleaning hang-up as I began emptying my old apartment in preparation for my upcoming transformation from Hamiltonian to full-fledged Lawrentian.
   In preparing for the move, I have had to decide what I need to bring to my new home. I have to decide what I own that I don’t need anymore and what is essential, what I cannot leave behind.
   That being said, there is barely room in my bedroom to set down a drinking glass. Every available space is now occupied by stacks of old cassettes, clothes or a pile of paperbacks.
   But I am confident that once I have sorted through this mess, I will emerge a more organized, together person because taking apart my existing bedroom will give me a better insight into how to put my new bedroom together.
   And I have seen this theory at work recently in another place, too.
   I saw the process at work in the recent presentations of architecture students who were challenged to play with possibilities for a new Brunswick Pike.
   These students were encouraged to use their imaginations and their academic smarts to envision what Brunswick Pike could be.
   The beauty of this idea is that it didn’t have to tidy. This didn’t have to be clean. Lawrence was looking for a "smorgasbord of ideas," like Councilman Greg Puliti said. And that’s exactly what our town got.
   The students looked at the stretch of road between Valley Forge Avenue to Whitehead Road and saw a place to build a youth center. They saw a low-speed residential drive where part of a four-lane highway now exists.
   Will we ever see a day when we see an urban park on Brunswick Pike complete with a summer farmer’s market or an outdoor screen for movies like some other students envisioned? Maybe not.
   But what’s important is that we have cleared the field. We have emptied that closet and have given ourselves a chance to start from square one.
   Maybe the purpose of this exercise was to get our hands dirty. Maybe it was to challenge ourselves, and these bright young minds, to tear apart what we know as Brunswick Pike and, with a little imagination, put it back together in a way we never thought possible.