One of the biggest keys to keeping things under control at home is developing the discipline to fully finish a task. Even if this does not come naturally, it can be learned--we can train our mental responses and learn to finish a job before moving on to something else. This can be hard work, though, for those of us who more naturally fall toward the "messy" end of the spectrum; we also are highly creative people, and our minds are always thinking of the next thing, which can pull us away from the current thing if we let it. Disciplining ourselves to stay on course, however, not only allows us to keep our homes tidier right now, it may also result in improved health down the road.
A recent article, titled "Duty and Discipline," in Remedy magazine states that conscientiousness preserves one's cognitive function in later years. In a recent study of nearly 1,000 senior nuns and priests, researchers found that "those who were highly conscientious--meaning they are purposeful, self-disciplined and scrupulous--had an 89 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease over a 12-year period; conscientiousness was also linked with decreased odds of developing mild cognitive impairment."
The hypothesis is that "highly conscientious people are better at controlling [the way they pay attention to things], which is an important way to compensate for declining memory and thinking in old age." The study goes on to encourage us that, even if we're not naturally conscientious, we can become more so "by being more organized, exercising better self-control and becoming more achievement-oriented."
So when I am faced with several things that need to be done, plus the distractions (and new messes) that children bring to the table, and my mind feels like a ping-pong ball bouncing in a million directions, it is helpful to clear out everything but one thing and fully focus on that until it's done (even if I have to leave it and come back to it several times). The the nature of motherhood means there will be frequent interruptions, but developing discipline will help us keep things neater in the short-term and may keep our minds sharp in the long-run. Cheers to discipline!