Take your phone, unlock it, and look at the home screen: how many apps do you see? Are they all scattered, so you have to scroll every time you need one? Do you have the ones you use most somewhere they’re easy to find, or even divided into folders? How do you practice the virtue of order?

Order is a virtue that indeed affects all aspects of your life, from the most material (the environment you move in) to the mental (study, work, organization of your life, reasoning, problem-solving). It even has an effect on the spiritual sphere (your dreams, desires, ideals, your friendship with God and with others…).

Like any other virtue, order can't be separated out from the rest of life. For instance, it's difficult to study well in a chaotic place, and it's harder to establish a relationship with God if you don't prioritize the time you spend in prayer. And, like any other virtue, order can become a vice if taken to the extreme or lived for the wrong reasons.

When someone is orderly, you can tell. And when someone is obsessed with order, you can tell. I had a classmate in university who couldn’t study if her textbooks weren’t labeled with her name.

We see order expressed in visible things, but it’s always important to remember the reason behind it. Otherwise it ends up tying your hands and turning you into a rigid person, hard to deal with.

But is being orderly worth the effort?

The desire for order is part of being human. The book of Genesis tells us that God created the universe in a particular order, and everything has a reason for being and a place to occupy. Nature shows its beauty and reflects the face of its Creator in that orderly harmony.

And we, who are free and created by God, are capable of embodying that harmony and giving it new life through our actions. Are you ever surprised by the number of songs in the world? There are only so many notes, but the order they’re put in can create new compositions.

Likewise, you collaborate in God’s creation every time you exercise your freedom to “discern,” or decide, one moment at a time, what direction to give your life. Anything you do can be done through inertia (unthinking habit) or because, freely, with your intelligence and heart, you choose to act in one way instead of another. With that option, why would you ever fall into the inertia of routine?

I get up at the same time day after day, get dressed, have breakfast, see the same people on the way to campus, go to class, study, exercise, spend time with family and friends, stop to pray, watch an episode of a show, go back to bed… Every day is more or less the same, but there’s always a reason for it. Being orderly means knowing how to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this now?”

Orderly people know how to make choices because they understand that every free act has a repercussion on themselves and defines them. The virtue of order isn’t a technique to optimize your time or increase your productivity. Practicing the virtue of order means loving the decisions we are called to make every day.

Of course this isn’t an excuse for leaving your room in a state of chaos. On the contrary, it’s a reminder that there’s a deeper reason for cleaning your room than to get your mom to stop asking.

External order, which is more visible and obvious, reflects order within. For example, successfully completing a professional project requires not only mental order but also the ability to manage time in an orderly manner. The greater the scope and complexity of our projects, the more solid this foundation must be.

When you bring order into your life your time will multiply, and then you will be able to give God more glory, by working more in his service.
St. Josemaria, The Way, no. 80

You may have tried, like I once did, to get ready for an exam by reading a lot of books… with no plan. I read every single book from beginning to end, but I wore myself out in the process and I had no idea what was important and what I didn’t need to expend much effort on. I realized I’d been disorderly. I could have saved a lot of time and energy if I’d made a plan, scheduled how many pages to read each day, put the key texts first, looked for past exams to get a sense of the questions I’d be asked, etc.

Planning a study session is a perfect time to practice the virtue of order. Setting a schedule helps set a pace so you keep moving forward, avoiding unnecessary distractions and time losses. At the same time, this schedule should not be so rigid that you can’t help your younger brother if he needs something.

Order, contrary to what we sometimes think, is not static but inherently dynamic. It is the response to a life that constantly challenges us. Living out order maturely means knowing how to be flexible, and to be flexible, it is necessary to exercise inner strength, managing the uncertainty we experience every time we face a choice.

Furthermore, order is a form of respect for others: it is the basis of collaboration and coexistence. From this perspective, punctuality and taking care of the spaces we use are very important! We live the virtue of order for others’ sake, knowing that, like every virtue, it’s an act of love.

There is no magic “quick fix” to acquire the virtue of order, but it can help to remember the reason behind each decision. Just as each note has its place in a melody, each of our free acts helps compose the symphony of our lives. Can you imagine the concert it will grow into in Heaven?