Front Porch Stories: Understanding Visual Chaos


By KATHY BOHANNON, Special to The Weekly

Visual chaos.

It’s a thing, y’all. 

I didn’t realize it was a thing, but I had to Google it just to be sure that I had indeed coined the phrase.

Turns out, I didn’t. Also turns out it’s been a lifelong issue with me. 

It came to me one day when I actually felt some anxiety while looking at stuff piled somewhere it didn’t belong in my house. The pile even had things that didn’t belong together. 

It is easier to deal with a mountain of laundry than a pile of screwdrivers, a hammer, someone’s spiral bound notebook, a broken doorbell, some keys, about 17 batteries, broken chalk, pennies and a dog leash. These are normal piles in my life, and I don’t know why. Of course, the 17 batteries are all because of Ninja Man, but I make piles also, and those things, plus not knowing if those 17 batteries are trash or not, make me crazy. 

I worked full time when the kids were little. Terrible decision on my part, but it is what it is. Besides the ever-growing mom guilt, the piles that lived with us were overwhelming. During the week they grew so much that I was only able to sort the tops and basically hope the rest didn’t ignite, or worse, grow legs and try to suffocate us in our sleep. I rarely knew what was actually in the middle or bottom of those mountains, but often buried underneath were kid shoes and clothing long after they had outgrown them. 

My mom always had house help two or three times each week and I grew to understand why. Mom had four of us making piles all over her house, and she would just go to bed until her house fairy came. 

Unlike mom, I found having a house fairy was exhausting. On the eve of their arrival I would have to spend my evenings sorting, moving or hiding our piles well after midnight. Of course, it was always a time when I had to be at work the next day. 

I need a nap just thinking about it.

I went back and forth with the whole house fairy thing, finally giving in to wee hour cleaning before they came, only to fight sleep at work the next day. It was worth it, but then again, it wasn’t. I had to arrive at a conclusion that I was either going to have a beautifully clean house to come home to or I was going to have to wade through the mess. I made whatever choice made sense at the time, and I went through about twenty house fairies in twenty years.

I’m mostly retired now, and we have some piles. Ninja Man has his piles; clothes, tools, and yes, batteries that may or may not be dead. I have mine also; clothes, crafts and work stuff. Oh, and knitting, sewing, and up until last month, shoes. I finally broke down and bought a shoe rack for the closet door. The rack keeps the door from opening all the way, but so did my pile of shoes, so here we are. 

Google defines visual chaos as this: “When information comes into the brain through a visual system that’s not functioning properly, the information gets all mixed up, leading to chaos.” 

There’s a lesson to be learned here. When mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. 

Disclaimer: I didn’t coin that phrase.

Kathy Bohannon is a freelance writer and Christian humorist. She speaks for women’s groups and enjoys being semi-retired. She can be reached at [email protected].


  1. JERE Howard 21 June, 2023 at 18:18 Reply
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    I’m not sure I do this? I will make a pile on the kitchen table of things that need to be put away in the back of the house. I take the pile with me when I go in that direction. The pile is collected when I can’t stand the clutter any longer. All kinds of things can be in the pile.

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