Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing Desk Refresh, and Thoughts on Organizational Craziness

October is the busiest month of the summer/fall semester for me, so I made myself stay away from this space last week, until I finished drafting my second workshop submission (how's that for incentive: "No writing until you finish writing."). I even put in several very early mornings, on top of my two library nights (one of which was interrupted by the building shimmying like a brick belly-dancer. Of course I had to go online and see if it was an earthquake––it was).

Anyway, one of those very early mornings, I found myself looking around the house and feeling overwhelmed by all the disorder. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, were piles of clutter and crap. That evening, I came home and, in an effort to create one little respite of clean and calm, I went a little manic and tidied up my desk and the windowsill behind it while at the same time cooking dinner, listening to kids read and putting them to bed.

I didn't take any "before" pictures, because it wasn't terribly premeditated, but you can see previous efforts at sorting out this area of my life here, here and here. This part of the house has come to symbolize my writing life––even though usually when I write at home, I do it on the futon in the sun room––so when I'm feeling out of sorts with my writing, I try to sort out my writing desk (and there's no better way to feel out-of-sorts with writing than struggling with a first draft that refuses to submit to one's will).

I got most of my inspiration for the the new look from this blog, and most of what I used I already had on hand, although I did make the lace rock and the stone picture-holder, above. I bought the doily for the rock (no, I did not crochet it that night––that would be really insane) and the little vintage bird Christmas tree ornament, below(my mom bought the ink bottle for me when she was visiting this summer, and I've never been able to keep any plant alive the tiny aqua flower pot/pencil holder).

Heart-shaped rocks, journals and colored pencils.

One of the biggest issues with the desk is the papers that pile up, waiting to be put away in the filing cabinet which we moved to the basement last winter in preparation for the piano (okay, truth be told, I let papers pile up, even when the filing cabinet was sitting right there). To help alleviate this problem, I sewed up a little file hammock, using a vintage linen calendar towel, two sticks cut from a dead dogwood tree and an old pair of shoelaces. I saw the design on Pinterest, for use as a laptop hammock. While I wouldn't quite trust it to hold my computer, I think I can pile quite a few bank statements and insurance papers in it without too much trouble. Out of sight, out of mind.

So, when I got up at five the next morning, did I get straight to work, filled with new inspiration and fresh ideas? No.  I sat and admired my handy-work for a good half hour. But then I did get to work, and I eventually finished my story (Saturday while the boys were at soccer, sitting in the mudroom).

So, I'm not sure whether to call this a burst of creativity and energy, or a slightly crazy mania about which I should be concerned. On the one hand, with a full-time job, three kids and graduate school, the only way to get anything accomplished is to go manic. On the other hand, what is so important about having a clean, well-organized house (or tiny corner of the house) that it all has to get done right now? 

October seems to be an introspective time of year for me (the earth turning in on itself and all that) and I find I've been thinking about what things, habits and people are not healthy in my life right now and how to eliminate that which does not nourish me or bring something positive to my life. How do I balance a healthy desire to be surrounded by beauty against an unhealthy dissatisfaction with my surroundings because they aren't as perfect as those I admire online?

This post here Let's All Compare Our Perfect Lives Then Try To Enjoy Our Day at Revolution from Home especially has me thinking.

In the meantime, all that blank horizontal space on the top of my desk is driving M and C crazy so that whenever either of them walks into the house, he has to pile something on top of it.

What do you think? Do you get manic and try to reign your house into order, or do you just go with the flow of family chaos (or are you one of those naturally orderly people who cannot understand what the hell I'm talking about)?

Edited to add: I just read this post and found it also inspiring and connected to these thoughts in ways it's far too early in the morning to articulate, but some key phrases include: "Relentlessly prioritize." "Be deliberate about your choices." "Meaningful work is nourishing." "Surround yourself with people who fill you with peace and energy; stay away from negative people."


  1. Your writing area looks lovely! Those heart-shaped rocks are terrific. Now I'll be keeping my eyes out for some on my walks.

    I too go through bursts of "organizational craziness." Things will start to overwhelm me and the only way I know how to respond is to declutter them into submission. Lately, though, I've been trying to apply my tiny turtle steps philosophy to my homemaking. I try for a few minutes every day with the kids to tidy up and 10-15 by myself to declutter - and then offer myself a lot of forgiveness when neither of those things happen.

  2. I have my own outbursts of orderliness, thinking if only I had a clean closet, cupboard, laundry room, floor, bathroom, then I could finally quiet my brain and become creative. Sigh. Hasn't worked yet.


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