Entropy and Housework

Apr 20, 2011Family Uncaged

This is one of my old columns from the Rowlett Lakeshore Times a couple years ago. I thought I’d resurrect it for a little levity. This is what my kids looked like when I wrote that column!


Somewhere in the back of my tired brain, I remember something I learned in college. I remember learning about entropy. I remember the professor telling us that entropy was about a system or a universe moving from a state of order to disorder. I don’t know why, but the definition stuck, filed neatly behind “don’t mix ammonia and bleach” in my brain’s useful-information-if-I-am-ever-on-Jeopardy drawer.

I remembered entropy this last week as I recovered from surgery. I left my home in a state of order, and I was lucid. I came home blurry, and over the next week my home moved to a ramshackle state of disorder.

I didn’t realize that I was the entropy killer in my house. I guess I hold things together. But when I convalesce, entropy rears its disorderly head and tackles each room with a sinister vengeance.

He (Entropy) puts my four-year-old’s underwear in my laundry basket. He dirties dishes and lets them sit and sit and sit until they are steel-encrusted. He takes every toy out of every toy box and spews each one to the four corners of the house, and he laughs. He adds more rings to the toilet bowls, puts more bills in the mail box, and loses invoices. He stays up late at night and puts rats nests in my sleeping daughter’s hair. He loves Legos. He puts them anywhere…in the fridge, in the pathway of my tender feet, in the mailbox, and apparently in Julia’s stomach. He writes on the piano keys with indellible markers. He steals the two of clubs from our deck of cards.

When left unchecked, Mr. Entropy multiplies. He lurks. He especially loves his apprentices, my unsuspecting children.

I finally kicked him out of the house once I was feeling better. I polled the kids to see if they even knew who or what entropy was. Here are their responses:

Sophie: “Someone that’s a genius.” Ah yes, that’s true. It takes a genius to take a perfectly normal fridge and add moldy microorganisms. One would have to know microbiology!

Aidan: “A trip from outer space.” Aidan must intrinsically know about the nature of the universe, that even in outer space entropy exists. I wonder if Luke Skywalker ever had to clean his room?

Julia: “It means you win a trophy.” Well, no. Entropy wins no trophies in my home. I do try to kick entropy out by making elaborate chore charts for the kids. They win “allowance” for their part in entropy kicking. But even this is short-lived.

The truth is, we all live with entropy. Our homes need repairs that our skyrocketing insurance won’t pay for. (Did you know entropy is behind that black mold thing?)

Our cars don’t fix themselves when their transmissions clunk. Our hip wardrobes wane in popularity in months. Our lawnmowers get mysteriously run over—okay, that was me. Sorry, honey. And our bodies, well, let’s just say that I don’t look like I did in high school.

What to do? One boring way is to jump on the treadmill of life, constantly, joylessly combating this relentless foe. Another way is to give up and let entropy take over your life. Let the laundry pile up so you can’t see out your windows. Let the minivan’s floor gather that fine 12-inch dusting of McDonald’s wrappers. Call the spindly weeds in your yard flowers.

Or, we can become an entropy busting army. Recruit your family to eradicate this messy foe, but do it with laughter. Realize that entropy is the law of life. When disorder comes (and it will), cast a knowing glance at entropy hiding in the dusty corner and laugh like a hyena. Your home and sanity depend on it.