Cleaning my Office

Papers and books and notepads. Two laptops and a printer and all the cables and chargers that go with electronic stuff. A box full of old gift textbooks that probably need to go to a better home (or recycling, because they are Pluto’s-orbit away from what we use at school and no one else wants them.) Reference materials that moved to my office over the summer because of work on “my” classroom. Stacks of teaching DVDs. Desk toys and a life-sized stuffed-animal lemur. The desk itself has stacks of books that I use to elevate the laptops to eye-level, and the necessary adapters as well. Behind those? Reference books, and three pigeon-holes full of back-up drives, blank CD/DVDs, stationary stuff, bills and other paperwork. Beside the desk? More books that need to go elsewhere, including a box of books to give away.

Not dirt, but clutter. So on Sunday morning, when I felt overwhelmed and frustrated because a second party hadn’t gotten something done yet, and something I had been looking forward to got postponed yet again, I started attacking paper stacks. I got the pile on top of the printer riffed and sorted, and the mess on top of the cat platform coerced into order. Already I felt better.

After worship, I tackled two overflowing boxes of financial documents, sorting and reorganizing. One of those will go into storage, along with five years of tax binders and folders. (I keep ten years of documentation, just in case.) I cleaned out two of the cubbies on the desk. The books still need to be rearranged and in some cases shelved. In other cases, they will go back to Day Job next week, after I get furniture relocated and book shelves wrestled into their proper positions. I found a piece of fancy candy that I was given as a gift in Schwäbisch Gmund, Germany.

There’s a lot of truth to Admiral McRaven’s advice “Make your bed,” and Jordan Peterson’s “Clean your room.” Clutter eventually leads to chaos and irritation, even if it is necessary and semi-organized clutter. We can only tolerate a certain amount of chaos. How much varies from person to person, but we all have our limits. I hit mine. I can’t do much about the chaos outside of my office. I can straighten, sort, and dispose of what is no longer needed. I can organize the DVDs and books. I can made a decision about the box of textbooks. The two cat beds will stay, but stacked in a corner out of the way.

I make my bed every morning, and straighten my bedroom. The office has been ignored for too long, even though I spend a lot more time—aware and looking at things—there than in the bedroom. Do I need day-planners from 2015-16? Probably not. Various holiday cards? Yes, those can stay because they will get sent out this fall.

Order out of chaos, at least for a little while. One small pocket of control in a large world that seems to be going crazier than usual. The world has always been chaotic, and always will be. But we need refuges of order, of self-discipline and control. For all the jokes about Marines thriving on chaos because they created it, they created it. We can also create a small, ordered space for ourselves, even if it is a closet or the downstairs washroom. Too much rigidity and order stifles. Too much chaos overwhelms and leaves us feeling helpless.

The balance is a tidier office and a comfortable but not show-place home. And a calmer, happier person. Some days, “I got rid of two stacks of papers and moved the cat bed out of the flow of traffic” is a great accomplishment, one to look at with satisfaction. Other days you can do much, much more.

11 thoughts on “Cleaning my Office

  1. I employ a geologic filing system. A pile for everything, and everything in a pile. But neatly ordered, segregated piles. Vertical filing, as it were.

  2. Sigh, you just HAD to post this didn’t you… grumble… Guess I’ll start with the boxes of books. And go look for another bookcase, although I have NO idea where to put it… 🙂

    • What about over— No, that won’t fit. Maybe if you moved— Nah, that hall’s narrow already. Could you move the boxes of financial paperwork to the guest powder-room and put the book case where the tax forms were? *runs for the hills*

  3. I’ve been trying to reorder the office to allow ham radio gear to fit next to the computer. That means moving the computer and various book/CD/DVD cases, and sorting through books. I’m now up to almost 5 banker’s boxes of books to be donated to the country library system, and now have one bookcase moved and populated. CDs, DVDs and The Comfy Chair are in their final locations.

    It’s time to move the computer out of the way and to undo the earthquake brackets and move the two other bookcases. I might even have spare room when this is done. Maybe.

    It’s a sad day though. We thought we’d celebrate our 20th anniversary today, but our remaining dog is letting us know she’s ready for the trip over the rainbow bridge. Younger dog injured herself badly (tore a tendon, I think) last fall, and we realize we waited too long, hoping she’d heal. It’s time to do it while Sara can still wag her tail a little. Not quite 17 years from a very sweet lab retriever/aussie shepherd cross.

    • *long distance virtual hug* It never gets easier. My condolences on your pending loss, and I’m glad you had so many good years with her.

  4. “Never ask of money spent
    Where the spender thinks it went.
    Nobody was ever meant
    To remember or invent
    What he did with every cent.”

    I’m told this is by Robert Frost.

  5. “‘… and moved the cat bed out of the flow of traffic’ is a great accomplishment”

    The cat may not share your joy. Mine like to sleep right in the middle of whatever we are doing, no matter how chaotic.

    • She’s avoided the bed for at least five years, since she (and it) fell off the top of the cat platform because the bed was too big, and she couldn’t see the edge of the platform.

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