Room for new things


I have a new desk at work.

It’s a simple thing, really: changing spaces within an office. In the eight years I’ve been with my company, I have moved within the building four times and been seated in four different departments. I’m no stranger to packing up my paper clips, highlighters and bric-a-brac, but this move is different.

For the last six years, I shared an office with two people who were my teammates. When you sit with someone for eight-plus hours a day, spending more time with them than you do your own family, it’s wonderful if you can get along. It’s even better if you are friendly, and the best if you become close friends.

I miss them.

I’ve been given new responsibilities and am tackling new challenges, and that feels good. I’m writing more than ever, and moving into a new phase of my career.

My new responsibilities are awesome, and I love the corner of the newsroom where I hang my metaphorical hat each day. My desk is new and clean, and I’ve quickly adopted a minimalist approach to my workspace.

After being a pack rat, an office hoarder of sorts, I shocked myself by . . . completely changing this time. Totally a 180.

Back when I had a physical office of my own, I treated it like an extension of my living room. Artwork hung on the walls; freestanding lamps took the place of fluorescent lighting. It had a cozy, homey feel, a refuge of sorts. And given I had no windows or natural light, it could also feel like a cave.

Hence all the lamps.

But that was three moves ago. I haven’t had my own office since 2010 or 2011, yet until last week? I was still carting around all those old photographs and trinkets from my larger space, never bothering to pack them up and take ’em home. I was surrounded by boxes, actually: boxes of random belongings from years and years ago.

After a while, you stop seeing stuff. It becomes a part of the background, a backdrop to your daily life; you forget about the Christmas decor on which you’re propping your swollen pregnant feet (hey, it was actually a good footrest), or the boxes and boxes of tea — so much tea — you must paw through to find a stupid spoon in your drawers.

Last week, I cleared it out. I spared nothing. I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but haven’t extended any of her principles to my own home yet. I’ve been afraid to take the plunge, scared of starting the tidying process, but at work? I was ruthless. It was time.

I easily purged half of my belongings without thinking about it, bagging up tons of stuff I’ve been moving from desk to desk for years. Why did I still have it? What purpose did it serve? Who did it benefit?

No one.

Though I must confess that those belongings are now at home in a spare room waiting for me to bag most up for Goodwill, the physical act of getting them out of my office and away from where I sit all day, brainstorming and writing and working, has made such a difference for me — a major difference.

Everything feels scrubbed clean and new. My workspace is tidy, dust-free, uncluttered. I love having a desk clear of papers and junk and Post-Its, a place I can spread out the newspaper or my planner and not knock over ten random objects.

Why didn’t I do this ages ago . . . years ago? Why did I let myself sit each day surrounded by so much clutter? I can’t say, really. Force of habit? Laziness? Regardless, I’m never doing that again.

Though I’m still not ready to extend Kondo’s tidying principles to our home, this first cleaning hurdle at work was a powerful one.

Being a “stuff” person, I never thought I’d see an empty surface as anything but that: unfinished, barren, dull.

But now I see cleanliness and possibilities . . . room for new things.

Life-changing magic, indeed.

Taming the clutter (and piles)

Kitchen table

It’s never this clean.

Piles are my downfall.

I’m really bad about them. Truly. Piles of mail, shoes, errant candy plucked from my purse — things that have homes, maybe, but somehow wind up on the coffee table or kitchen counter or in a mass near the door.

Living at home until I was 28, I grew quite used to piling up my things in one edge or other of my bedroom — not because I didn’t have free reign of the house but, you know, it was my parents’ house. I spread beyond the four corners of my own space sometimes, but for the most part? Everything was there. There in my childhood bedroom.

If it sounds crazy for a woman in her late twenties to have all her worldly goods in one cramped space, it sort of was. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure how I managed to cram so much stuff in there. If you’re thinking this gave me an appreciation for minimalism and making do with less, well . . . it’s a beautiful thought! But no. No. Though not a pack rat, I do like my things.

Too much, sometimes.

As I’ve been feeling under the weather recently, Spence has been caring for me — and the house has suffered. I mean, it’s not a pig sty, but let’s just say it’s not “company ready” — a condition I aim to be in about 80 percent of the time. I don’t want to be the type of person that panics if friends and family say they’re dropping by, you know? I just want to relax, say “The door is always open!” and actually mean it.

It’s a goal, anyway.

I felt better today. Really better. Rested, alert, awake — for the first time in ages. If I play my cards right, I usually have an extra 15 minutes in the morning between getting showered, dressed, etc. and actually having to run out the door. I usually reserve that time for mindlessly watching television, reading emails or, occasionally, flipping absently through a magazine. Rarely is it used for anything productive.

Today, I felt the burn.

In less than 15 minutes, I raced through projects that had been bugging me for days, weeks: a pile of mail on the kitchen counter; a mountain of clean clothing that needed to be hung in the closet; a disastrous heap of shoes I’d shucked near the door.

It’s nothing momentous. Nothing auspicious. But it felt so good to have the energy — and the presence of mind — to want to do something, and when I was finished? Well. I marched off to work with a light, uncluttered heart.

Though I’ll be the first one to admit I’m prone to laziness, I’m really trying to focus on how good it felt to get a few simple, nagging things accomplished and use that momentum to carry me forward into other parts of the house. Every day. My husband is great about many things — and does just as much, if not more, around our place — but, you know . . . there are certain aspects of clutter I’m more likely to notice than he is.

Marriage. Two people makin’ it work.

Hoping this continues, I can hold myself together — and only good things are afoot.

And if nothing else, well . . . the piles are gone. For today.

(Also, look: I wrote a blog post! A truly productive morning, indeed. Hi!)