There are some things I’m good at organizing, like my writing files or my calendar.
There are some things I’m downright terrible at organizing and always have been. I was the kid whose desk and floor were always covered in mess. (Creative mess!) Toys, art projects, things I’d half forgotten about. My mother despaired. A couple of times my dad threatened to throw all my stuff in a black garbage bag. (Don’t do that to your kids, it’s traumatizing.) Yet this is a bad habit I’ve never fully grown out of.
Sure, when I worked at an office my desk was always neat. I kept a few select knick-knacks around and my paperwork in orderly piles. Other people could see it, after all.
The thing is, when it’s my own private space I don’t really see the mess. It doesn’t bother me like it does some people. (Like my mom. Every thing out of place gets to her.) For the most part I ignore it, and it piles up and piles up…
But I’m starting to notice it more. When I do notice it, I don’t like it. Which means something’s got to change.
When we moved into this house in South Africa my study was not a priority. My mom was sick, we had to get the important rooms like the kitchen functioning, and we had puppies to bring into the home. Cue chaos in my private space.
And I do mean chaos.
I have a vision for this room, which includes being able to access my drawers and closet. I was partially there until a few months back when they needed to access the alarm system, which is in my closet, and I had to yank out all the stuff that I’d shoved in there. Now I can’t even get to the doors.
So here’s the plan: I’m going to tackle small, reasonable pockets of this room until it is done. I’ve already gotten started! Here are the highlights:
Area 1: My desk
I’ve had a number of desks over the years. As a kid I had this cute fold-down half-circle desk which was always propped open because it always had stuff on it. As a tween I had a large traditional sort of desk that I painted aqua green and put flower knobs on. That was huge and it also was constantly filled with junk. Then I got some downright beautiful modular desks that were a nicer shape–but also became filled with clutter.
When I moved out into my own apartment I didn’t have the space for the modular desks. And more importantly, I knew that if I had a big desk I would just fill it with junk.
So I now have a desk that is literally only big enough to house my computer. That’s where I spend most of my time, after all. I patted myself on the back for being clever.
It still filled up with junk.
The goal with this area is to find homes for all the things that do not belong on it. That’s mostly papers, but also an ancient hard drive and my attempts to recover what’s on it, miscellaneous pens, and also the set up I use when I have video calls.
Here’s a little video of me tidying up (and testing out my new camera).
And voila! Clean and tidy!
One thing I’m doing to tempt myself to keep things things tidy is to incorporate small, cute things that bring me joy and will get covered up if I’m not careful. On my desk?
A Viking duck.
I used to give this out as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, and of course I had to keep a couple for myself. They remind me of my community and my mission.
And yes, on the top-left corner of my monitor I have a paper monster, in honor of my Monster Writing Guides.
Area 2: My notebook shelf
Back when I was unpacking after the move I had the forethought to put all my notebooks in one place.
That place is not very attractive, sad to say.
One of my rules for this exercise is to focus on small, manageable chunks. So rather than try to clear this whole shelving unit at once I’m going to focus just on the notebooks.
This wasn’t easy, as I had no working space to sort and arrange.
But I got it done!
I really like this shelf now because it’s a little spot of serenity within the chaos that is the shelving unit.
For cutespiration I have several things. A squeezable stress ball in the shape of a cow, two maneki nekos (lucky cats), and a glass cookie jar shape like a VW Beetle.
The jar is full of notes my mom wrote me before leaving on her first long business trip when I was about twelve or thirteen. The notes and the gift of the jar helped me get through the time away from her. And now I can’t reread them because the rubber seal has solidified hard as a rock, sealing the whole thing shut! I guess I have to wait for it to finish atrophying and crumble…
Area 3: The printer table
The move to South Africa meant combining two complete households into one. That was great for our big new living room which now has two couches in it. It also meant having to find a place for my entertainment center.
Back when it was in my apartment, this beauty looked like a beauty.
Now it looks like this.
For a brief time I had it nicely done up with just my printer and some pretty things, but that didn’t last very long. Now it’s a junk trap. Time to clean it up!
Not much in the way of in-progress shots this time. If you wondered what was in that box, I did, too.
Here’s what I ended up with.
So different! This now feels like a working space that is also attractive. On the right is my printer (on a piece of oiled wood because ants infested it last year), a sun lamp (I find it helps with attention and depression), and my paper guillotine which I’ll be using more frequently in the coming months.
The pretties on the left include a lovely pillow, a fake-book box with Alphonse Mucha art on it (I LOVE Mucha), original handmade art by Nan Melville, and a little toy whale that I was given in Fish Hoek when I was eight. It’s stuck around a long time though it no longer makes squeaky whale noises when you open it.
The picture frame was empty until today. It was a gift, and I’ve never been much for putting up photographs of people. So I decided to use a quote that I find deeply motivational.
The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be… because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and leap! – Mary Anne Radmacher
So that’s the last thought I want to leave you with. No matter how scary the jump (or pile of clutter), if the far side is worth getting to it’s worth closing your eyes and leaping!