Monday, October 11, 2010

A clean well-lighted space

I envy people who are instinctively neat. You know, those folks who strike the balance between slovenly slob and OCD freak? I tend toward the messy end of the spectrum, as much as I wish it weren’t so. I was reminded of that this weekend when my sister helped me tackle a project I’ve been putting off for awhile.

Every house has at least one room that is a magnet for junk, or at least the stuff you don’t know where else to put and haven’t yet consigned to the junk heap. The room in my house that had been tarred by that brush was my office.

Years ago, the office/study was one of my favorite spots in the entire house. It’s a tiny little thing, but when we first moved in, it was home to all my books, thanks to a wall of built-in bookshelves, and a drop-leaf secretary.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and even after purging a great many books in a quest toward Zen-like bareness, the room bore little resemblance to the place I wrote my first complete manuscript. While you could tell it was sort of an office, the old computer was as obsolete as a dodo bird (it still ran on Windows 95), and in corners were jammed bits and pieces of detritus that was part and parcel of life as the Reeses know it.

An automotive vacuum that didn’t really work? Check. The box of stuff from my dayjob office while I await a new dayjob home? Check. The boxes of leftovers from my personal copies of my books? Check. Usable space and a clean, orderly study? Eh, let me get back to you on that.

My sister had heard my whining and my complaining about this place – and also the whining and complaining of The Husband, who was tired of me working beside him as he tried to sleep. The light from my laptop screen did not a sleep inducer make.

So this weekend The Sister took pity on me and popped the whip. Me? I took one look at the room and threw up my hands. “I don’t even know where to start,” I said.

She shoved the defunct auto vacuum cleaner in my hands. “This. Outside under the garage now.”

And that’s how we did it, piece by piece, decision by decision on each piece of junk, paper, file folder or obsolete hunk of technology we came across. Is it like I want it? Not on your life. Am I typing this on a computer that is not shining in The Husband’s eyes? Oh, yeah.

As usual, I’ve come away not just with a more organized space, but a larger life lesson. Decisions don’t make themselves. People make them, even when they’re busy NOT making them. And so often, the things we put off, whether it’s clearing out an office or deciding what to wear, are choices we’re intimidated about making. By the end of the night, though, I was a pro at giving a piece of “office treasure” a callous glance and saying, “Toss it.”


Kelly Breakey said...

I too have found that I want to simplify my life. I am not a hoarder unless you count my library. Hubs on the other hand. He saves everything. We have parts and pieces of things that he can't even remember and I am ashamed...ASHAMED to admit this but when he is not looking I toss things out. I know I am a bad wife. The upside. He doesn't even know what he has so how can he miss it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you have space to move on in your future. Sad in a way to witness the demise of the computer system that made you a desktop publisher. You figured out pagination on your own and later applied it to broadsheet for your newspaper employer. You photographed, wrote, edited, and took the negatives to press. The Observer, although short-lived, was the best publication with which I was ever associated.
Published author, popular blogger... I can hardly wait to see what's next for you.