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Yesterday, Eldest Son and I worked on organizing the many things he’ll need to take with him when he starts college. I washed his new bedding and put that and his towels into a storage container. We went through his 10 cubic tons worth of school supplies (mostly in the form of writing implements) and got those into a storage bin. Then, I put together a container with laundry soap, dish soap, hangers, a first-aid kit, and other assorted necessary stuff. I also disassembled my toolbox full of electrical supplies and repurposed it for Eldest Son’s tools because his toolbox was too small for his hammer.

All of this took a few hours, but the time sailed by. When I’m in the middle of an organizing project, whether it be sorting old papers and bills or reorganizing a closet, I go into the zone, a highly focused mental state wherein time ceases to exist. I experience this very same zone when I’m writing or creating a piece of art.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, an expert in human creativity, calls this zone “flow.” I am surprised that an activity as mundane as organizing a collection of items brings on flow, at least for me. I don’t, however, experience the act of organizing as mundane. Instead, I feel fully engaged in trying to figure out what to keep, what to leave out or throw away, and how to group things together in the most useful way possible. How will the collection make sense? How will the items best fit together within the available containers? How intuitively will the user be able to find and retrieve the needed items?

The act of organizing is a massive puzzle that needs solving, which is precisely what most creative projects are like.

Do you experience flow with any activity that others might think is mundane or not inherently creative?

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