Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Writer's Desk—to Clean or Not to Clean?

That is the question, especially for this writer's desk. 

In the months prior to the completion of Surprise Packages, my U-shaped desk collected many piles of papers. Some had to do with the book, others with parts of my life not directly related to writing: family, home, church, travel, caregiving group, etc. 
Now that the book is at the printers, I have no excuse for not tackling those piles. But it's so hard to begin! For years, I've bought books on organization in the hope that if I discovered the perfect system, I could lick the problem of the cluttered desk once and for all. But I haven't found one yet designed for a procrastinator who is also a right-brained visual organizer.

The thing about visual organizers (I'm not the only one) is that out of sight really is out of mind. If I can't see it, it doesn't exist. And in an odd way, my piles do work for me--I almost always know which pile holds the particular information I'm hunting for, even how far down it is.

But since those piles are getting out of hand, I have to take some action short of putting items in a folder and filing them in a drawer, which would be tantamount to tossing them down a black hole. My plan is to sort the piles by project or domain, tossing papers that are no longer useful. The writing projects I'll put in individual totes. Papers having to do with domains will go in their own wire basket. 

Finally, I'll put a calendar and a HOT list of tasks by my computer where I can't avoid seeing them. And I'll spend a few minutes every morning and evening identifying what most needs to be done.

I hope this plan will work! Now I just have to get off my duff and get started.



Wight Family said...

That is an incredible way to force yourself to declutter the desk. I just went up to my official writing, reading, and running room this afternoon and "found" some "extra" room in the closet for the clutter that is covering the floor. I haven't yet written up there, but it sure might be nice. It is my own little room, my little haven. And my 6 weeks of no-running-doc's-order's is almost up, so I need to get better acquainted with the room in many respects. And my "Ami" is calling me as well as the children. Good luck to you on your cleaning adventure!! If all else fails, just get another cute little filing cabinet and some new files. Label as you go.

Marsha Ward said...

I can't believe how many similarities we have. U-shaped desk, being a visual organizer, piles getting out of hand, a collection of many (sometimes unread) books on organization, out of sight is out of mind, and all.

Maybe this post is my wake-up call to sort out a box into which I stuffed the last pile on this desk.


Carroll said...

So, Marsha, let me know if you sorted the box!

I got sidetracked in my efforts, but I'm getting back at it.

Alison Palmer said...

Ah, Carroll. As always you prove to be a woman after my own heart (you too Marsha)!

I once spent an entire afternoon cleaning my own u-shaped desk. When my husband came home from work and I proudly announced my accomplishment, he took one look at the desk and said "Are you sure"? I'd already recovered it with my little piles of information I'd pulled back out of those pesky file folders.

I have managed to at least keep my piles segregated by topic matter.

The new artwork I purchased for my office wall is being propped up by a stack of "to-read" books because I never remember to get it framed and actually hung (I can see it, what else matters?) and I use my daily planner as my mouse pad or it would get lost entirely.

Good luck with the new project.

Carroll said...

Alison, the similarity is scarier than you think--I have some artwork of our Sonoran desert waiting to be framed to go in my office!

I think we ought to make a mutual commitment to get that artwork on the wall!