Whether to Sort or Despair
Have you fallen into a black hole of office debris and battled to rise above the clutter, rather than drown before you can finish writing that opus to the literary world? Did you accidentally come across that reference book that the library made you pay for when you didn’t remember having ever seen it?
What about that brownie that disappeared from your desk three weeks ago that you accused your five year old of absconding with? Does any of this sound familiar?
If not, you’re either fanatically organized, blessed beyond measure, or not a writer.
This past year I’ve been trying desperately to keep my office area organized and easily accessible. With my life in constant flux at the moment, keeping my work space organized is becoming a nightmare. Living in limbo, as we are, doesn’t make for a well-ordered life.
Take my desk, please! I’ve lost control of it. When we moved into the apartment complex a couple of years ago, I didn’t have a desk. To remedy the situation, I purchased an eight foot Formica countertop at the local home improvement center and added six thick table legs with mounting brackets. The unit is sturdy, easily cleaned, and can be disassembled when necessity demands a move to another location.
Plenty of work space is provided for computer, layout work, bins of office supplies, etc. What more could I want? Two—2-drawer file cabinets nestle nicely beneath, within easy reach from my desk chair. So handy. A large trash can has a home where I can toss odds and ends for later removal. The printer caddy, all-in-one printing machine and bookshelf table resides perpendicular to the computer end. Great set-up, don’t you think?
I thought so, too. A few weeks after installation and working appreciation, that fantastic work area became a catch all for everything that entered the room; library books disappeared under current working project files, mail, magazines, minor office supplies, brochures, you-name-it. When frustration during a hunt for materials became too much for me, organization blazed with flames fanned by a clean-up whirlwind.
Except when we were on our country tour during the winter of 2010-11, I’ve fought this Battle of the Debris every couple of months since creating this work space. Ask any of my writing buddies. They’ve heard about my efforts on a few occasions.
This week’s clean-up effort, I’ve decided, will be my last. I discovered black mold growing up the outside corner wall of my closet. I think I found the cause for our continuous allergy problems.
Maintenance is tracking down the problem outside before developing a real solution. I’m learning patience today. In the meantime, everything stored in that end of the closet clutters the living room and the rest of my bedroom.
You ask “What does that have to do with organizing your office?” I answer “Everything!” I’ve finally arrived at that point where I can no longer ignore the clutter, no longer blame work/life circumstances, and no longer believe that I’m actually not hoarding useless “stuff.”
The campaign to permanently organize my office life began with the removal of all those boxes from the closet. This morning I went through the first set of bagged debris and boxed minutiae, sorting out that for which I had no need. Everything not needed for my file cabinets, but necessary to keep, will go to storage in the garage.
Non-writing materials that I haven’t used in the past two years goes to the trash, and office supplies gathered in one place and boxed for easy access. If I don’t need something in the next six months, I probably won’t need it ever.
I must keep my desk as it was meant to be; organized, uncluttered, and accessible. To that end, I’ve developed a take-no-prisoners attitude about this situation.
Lasting organization can be achieved. The one truth I’ve embraced is that if you don’t use something, don’t keep it. Find it a home with someone who can use it. I’ve done that with the rest of my unused belongings. It’s the one thing in, one thing out mind set.
I’ve whittled my library down to those few books that I reread for pleasure or craft study. My available space is small. I must consolidate or risk another wave of organization later. Books related to the writing craft is the exception to this rule.
Sorting needed from not-needed is time-consuming and unpleasant. Some of this material has been with me for a long time—too long. The thought of throwing the baby out with the bath water isn’t a good one. Strength of purpose must prevail.
For those facing the same sorting challenge for their office and mental health, I cross fingers for you. I realize that some types of files must be kept for a specific amount of time, but that doesn’t mean that every paper does.
Firm up that resolve and dive in. Swim with purpose in the sea of detritus in the confines of your office space. Come out onto the shore of freedom from paper mania and unnecessary clutter.
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