This morning was the same as every morning for me.
I woke up after the 15th snooze, groggily stumbled into the kitchen for coffee, took about an hour for myself to journal and cuddle my dogs … and then got ready in a flurry of insanity because I was running ridiculously, impossibly late.
I pulled a shirt from a pile of laundry that I’m 80% certain was mostly clean, threw on some pants and raced out the door with wet hair.
I am a Chaos Muppet.
What’s a Chaos Muppet, you ask?
Eight years ago, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote a tongue-in-cheek article that separated the world into two groups – Chaos Muppets and Order Muppets. For as simplistic (and adorable) as this theory is, this article was a HUGE hit and is still being discussed today.
Chaos Muppets are “are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. … They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C.”
Animal is a Chaos Muppet. So is Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover and Gonzo.
Order Muppets are often “neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows. They sometimes resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their felt shoulders, but they secretly revel in the knowledge that they keep the show running.”
Bert is an Order Muppet. So is Sam the Eagle, Scooter and Kermit the frog. So is my best friend, Ash … and so is my boyfriend, Dan.
While I only learned of this theory recently, deep down I’ve known I was a Chaos Muppet for quite some time. I am constantly running late, I almost always forget to get gas until I’m literally running on fumes, I have stacks and stacks of paper on my desk that I’m sure I need but I never seem to go through.
My life is, and has always been, chaos.
However, this article helped me to recognize some important things about my chaotic self. You see, I haven’t always liked this aspect of my personality. At times, I’ve tried to be more of an Order Muppet. I used to berate myself for the disarray, I used to promise to God and others that I would certainly change. I’d try and try, but it just never seemed to stick. I’d try to use ‘to-do lists’, but always wound up losing them. I’d be eager to define a monthly spending budget, but completely forget about it the moment I was out spending money. And I’ve awoken in my clothes from the night before with crumbs all over me more times than I can count.
But I’ve come to realize that being chaotic is actually what makes my relationships and career work.
Chaos Muppets as friends
My best friend, Ash, is definitely an Order Muppet. She makes lists and finishes them. If she says she’s going to do something, she does it.
I’ve lived with her twice and I know she has a particular way she likes her house to be kept. I remember her trying very hard to be more relaxed with me the second time around (and she was, for sure) but she is simply someone who LOVES order. She is happiest when everything in her house has a home (you can imagine how much she OBSESSED over Marie Kondo for a while).
You might think someone with that much order and structure in their life wouldn’t have space for someone who doesn’t know if the pile of clothes in her room needs to be washed or not. But what has made our friendship blossom over the years actually IS our differences.
For starters, one thing I’ve noticed about really strong Order Muppets is that they tend to be much harder on themselves in general. And they often struggle with being too rigid. While Chaos Muppets … well, we are literally the opposite and quite frankly, we’re often hanging on to life by a thread. So you can imagine why we need the influence of an Order Muppet or two in our lives.
In my own experience, Ash and I have helped each other to see perspectives we might not have understood before. She’s helped me to see how I can still love my chaotic self while also not allowing my chaos to spill over and affect someone else’s order. We’ve found our way to the middle of this chaos/order dyad. And we balance each other out.
Order Muppets NEED Chaos Muppets and vice versa.
One of my other closest friends is the quintessential Order Muppet — she’s an A-type, over-achiever who has a regimented nightly routine that ends up with her in bed by 9:00 pm. Growing up, her parents pushed her hard to be the best, as an athlete and a student, and she was. This discipline extended into her career where she’s been incredibly successful. But this pressure to be the best is a double-edged sword and it’s taken a toll on her emotionally — something she’s had to work through as an adult. She will often stress about … well, everything …. and I think the value of being around someone who’s very life is a whirlwind helps her to see how ordered her life actually is. And to realize that a little chaos won’t kill anyone. In fact, might be exactly what is needed.
For an Order Muppet, Chaos Muppets provide relief — both comically and emotionally. I think for my friend, I help her to see how Chaotic people have value … and hopefully I show her that chaos, at times, can be freeing! And often hilarious.
Most of my close friends are actually Order Muppets. My brother is one too. And my favorite thing about them is how different they see the world. Their influence helps me to bring a little more order to my chaotic life. And hopefully I bring some much needed chaos (and relief) into theirs.
Chaos Muppets in love
I recently moved in with my boyfriend. And it happened really really fast, in the best, most magical way.
At first glance, while dating, he seemed a lot like me … chaotic. He’s retired because he hit it big in gambling (which seems like pure chaos as a career). He often doesn’t start his day until noon or later. He’s a night owl and when gambling, he’ll stay up for 24 hours straight, sleep for an hour or two, and then go right back to it. He enjoys late nights like I do, karaoke and spontaneous adventures.
But after we started living together, I learned the truth.
My boyfriend, Dan, is an Order Muppet.
I should’ve seen it. Before he even moved in, he immediately set about to re-arrange my small place to his liking. He brought over a TV for the bedroom plus two fire sticks and immediately set them up. He also brought this weird lighting thing that allows us to have 5 different lamps tied to a remote — now we can turn them off or on from anywhere in the house. And then he brought over this sink organizer so he could better wash the dishes (because he LOVES an empty sink).
One day he decided to go through the freezer while I was at work. He discovered frozen fish and vegetables from 3 moves (4 years) ago, which he chucked, and then he organized the entire freezer and refrigerator by type of food.
My 4-year old frozen tilapia equals Chaos Muppet.
His constant dish washing and re-ordering of my freezer equals TOTAL Order Muppet.
The most hilarious example I have of his Order Muppet personality happened recently during an argument (which, of course, is only hilarious now because we worked through it). I won’t go into the details of what set us off, but needless to say we’d both been drinking a bit. We started arguing when all of a sudden, he walks to the laundry room and immediately starts to do laundry. In the middle of the night. In the middle of us talking. Our argument then turned into this comical scene where I’m sitting on the couch, bewildered, while he keeps randomly coming in and out of the laundry room with clothes in his hands to say something … only to huff off and go back into the laundry room to continue folding. This happened, I shit you not, for a solid 20 minutes. Then he eventually brought the remainder of the clothes into the living room to finish folding while we talked.
This is the most PERFECT example of an Order Muppet. When stressed, he took solace in creating order by folding laundry. It was a task that needed to be done and he knew what to do to complete it. Order. That was his catharsis and it was absolutely precious.
When I was younger, I might’ve assumed that behavior was a sign that he was trying to get away from me or avoid the discussion, but that simply wasn’t the case. He was taking little moments of order while in the middle of a chaotic situation so that he could find peace and organize his thoughts. It was what he did to help us. And I very much appreciated it.
We are still working out the kinks, but for the most part co-habitation is so so easy with him. Which seems strange, right? That Order would seek Chaos and find it easy to co-exist. But much like friendships, I think Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets tend to make the best long-term relationships. It’s the yin and yang. It’s two people helping each other find the balance between the extremes of their respective classifications. Too much order is exhausting. Too much chaos is a complete disaster. The two need each other to balance it out.
Chaos keeps it interesting and Order keeps it running.
A Chaos Muppet at work
This morning, as I was rushing into work dreadfully late, it hit me: I need chaos to create.
I honestly think it’s what has made me successful in my career. And no, I don’t necessarily mean I must have piles of laundry around me or a desk covered in crumbs and paper. But I have realized, I tend to create my best work when there’s a little chaos involved.
Case in point, I took on a freelance project recently for an amazing client. It was a tight turnaround for sure, but I technically had 5 full days to work on it.
When did I start on the project you ask?
Ummmm … the day it was due.
Why? Well, a few reasons (or rather excuses) that all seemed to make sense. But deep down I think the truth is, my creative mojo tends to flourish when there’s a little chaotic pressure tied to what I’m working on. So much so, that sometimes I CREATE my own chaotic scenario. As it happened, I ended up working right up until the deadline and even went a little over, but the client absolutely loved what I presented. The chaos worked.
The biggest irony of all is that by day I’m a manager. I have three people who rely on me for direction and guidance. For order. But that is not at all what I’m talented at. I am gifted, however, in creative vision and growing my teams’ creative skillsets. I am lucky in that my team consists of incredibly talented Order Muppets. Which is key. If I was a Chaos Muppet with a team filled with Chaos Muppets, we’d be absolutely disastrous.
That’s the beauty of what I’ve learned as a manager. When I first took it on, I kept trying so hard to be like all the other managers — who, no doubt, are Order Muppets. But that wasn’t working and on top of that it made me super unhappy. Then when I took a step back and started to let my Order Muppet team members take over the organizational aspect — the order — our team really started to gel.
I’m the creative visionary and guide, but my team functions best when I stick to that role and allow their Order Muppet gifts to handle the rest.
The Muppet scale
The thing to remember is that most people fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Author Chris Riley believes each baseline Muppet type has a secondary order. And I totally agree.
“…, an individual still has a baseline ‘order’ or ‘chaos’ designation, which predicts how the individual makes decisions and takes actions that involve only herself. But, when presented with another person or a group of people, one of three second-order tendencies will predict how the person reacts to that context. Contrarian Muppets … tend to react to a Muppet by becoming more strongly its opposite. Sympathizing Muppets react to a Muppet by becoming more its type. And finally, Stubborn Muppets are what they are, and nothing and no one will change them.”
I said earlier that the best relationships — friendships or otherwise — are usually with the opposite of your Muppet type and for the most part I believe this is true. In the past, the only other true Chaos Muppet friendship I had ended in a volatile disaster — which further proves the point that most people are better suited with their opposites.
However, I do have a pretty great, close friend who is also a total Chaos Muppet. The key to this friendship, I think, is that we are both ‘sympathizing Chaos Muppets’. We know we’re Chaos, but we appreciate Order Muppets and strive to be more like them. This is key to us being able to navigate our own chaotic tendencies and shortcomings.
I would also add that in a dual Chaos Muppet friendship, I believe one person will attempt to take on the role of the Order Muppet. In this friendship, I end up being more of the Order Muppet most of the time. I’m still a ball of chaos, but I try to be less so in this particular friendship.
Ash is a sympathizing Order Muppet, as is Dan. While Ash doesn’t try to become more like me in my chaotic ways, she certainly appreciates our differences.
Dan sympathizes so much with Chaos Muppets (and chaos in general) that he actually sometimes APPEARS to be a Chaos Muppet. But he’s not. He loves bringing order to chaos but in a very understanding and sympathetic way.
A final example of this — my boyfriend is not a big on social media and yet, one of the only things he had filled out on his profile was his occupation … which he had filled in long before he and I began dating. And what does his profile say he ‘works at’?
Thank baby Jesus, because that’s exactly what I am.
What kind of Muppet are you?