The old Einstein quote about cluttered desks seems to be a popular one for people like me. After all, like many writers, I'm a pack rat and you can tell the moment you look inside my office door. That cartoon that is a great piece of inspiration, and a few magazine articles in that stack over there are about how to get through writer's block, don't forget the box of holiday decorations (wait a minute, why are they in my office and not the basement?), little bits and pieces of memories that are on paper, stuffed, in frames, on cork boards and cover every surface... you name it and it's probably in my office. Like the warehouse in the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," you never know what you might find in my office there.
I avoid shows like "Hoarders" afraid I'll see myself in those life-threatening teetering piles of stuff. Yet, when I dig through the articles many of them are "How to de-clutter your space..." or "Organization for the pack rat..." and other such handy bits on how to get yourself decluttered, organized and otherwise cleaning up your space and, by extension, your act. After a while, even I can take a hint and dive in to purge 30 years of stuff. For the past few weeks, I have worked feverishly at removing the extraneous pieces of life in bags separated for trash and recycling. Many things have been filed while others still sit in the few remaining "to be sorted through - for real this time and I MEAN IT MISSY" piles.
There are things I realized as I look my office, which is now 80% cleaned and organized:
- I can think right now. That may sound odd and my son pointed out that I could think before, but I realized more and more recently that I think in short bursts and can't focus. Today, I feel like I'm thinking in pages, not paragraphs.
- It's not perfect. Even if everything were 100% organized and clear, it still wouldn't be perfect. I'm good with that, this isn't a Zen garden that I've meditated upon and seen clearly. It's a comfortable working space. I could use a return over here or a shelf there and wouldn't it be awesome to paint the walls in white board and chalk board paint and make another wall a bulletin board, the printer still takes up too much space (and ink) and why can't the cat sleep in a cat bed instead of taking up a valuable piece of real estate on one of the bookshelves.... but this is good enough and sometimes "good enough" is as good as it gets. I will splurge in a can of white board paint and paint the ends of the bookcases. It's not the whole wall, but it's a start and it's good enough.
- The furniture all matches. Seriously, how did that happen? Oh wait, IKEA happened. Amazing what a couple of hundred dollars and an allen wrench can do to make your world feel more uniform.
The biggest surprise: a pile of poetry I wrote in high school. My son asked, "Is it any good?" I looked and said, "Let me repeat myself: I found a pile of poetry I wrote in high school."
He thought for a moment and said, "Well, maybe some of it's OK."
He was being kind. It's now filed with the old journals from high school. I can't bear to part with them but I will leave instructions to burn them without reading upon my death. Like those odd, interesting dreams, high school journals are something that should never inflicted upon other people.
I will say this about my space, suddenly writing a piece of psychological criticism for one class and an essay on Shlaes "The Forgotten Man" for another don't seem to be scary, daunting tasks any more. But the next question to ask myself: why did I let this happen? Why was I so scared to let go?
Who knows, maybe I'll even be able to brave an episode or two of Hoarders... just not anytime soon. My wounds are healing but still a bit too fresh. My desk and office are no longer cluttered, but they are cleared and that makes all the difference in being able to write.