I had run out of surfaces, except for the laptop keyboard. Lunch was sitting perilously on a pile of mail. There was a Garnet Hill box (free exchanges!) that needed to be mailed, Italian candy to be shipped to my dad... heck, there were still Paris souvenirs in a pile from March 2.
When my desk gets this bad, I have two options.
- Go through everything carefully and toss, file, and put stuff away.
- Pack the mess in a shopping bag and worry about it later.
I made a trip to the post office, too, which helped. The rest fits nicely into that little shopping bag.
This is my favorite housekeeping trick. I call it the "ghetto" method of cleaning. In the old days, when my whole apartment often grew as cluttered as my messy desk, I used to gather up everything that was out of place — clothing, books, mail, papers, miscellaneous bits — and pile it on the bed. If I wanted to go to sleep that night, it meant that all that stuff had to go somewhere more appropriate. In the meantime, I had a perfectly neat apartment, except for the bed. For me, this was a great incentive to work quickly and seriously as I dealt with the pile. And if I wanted to take a break from sorting, it was much easier to vacuum and dust without all that clutter everywhere.
Since I've been unemployed, I have loads of time to keep our apartment neat, so I don't use this approach often. But it still works for my desk, which gets out of control every couple of months. After hiding the mess in the bag, I can breathe again as I sit here. I don't have to worry about iced tea tipping into my keyboard (in its final hours anyway, since the Apple Store finally has new MacBook Pros in stock).
You, too, can do my cleaning trick, if you have a bag. If you're like me, you have about 40 of them. If you aren't, run to your favorite store with cool bags and buy a little something. Reward yourself in advance for straightening up. Can cleaning get any better than that?
I will confront the scary contents of the bag later. I'll toss and file most of it, put souvenirs away, and then enjoy that particular serenity and feeling of accomplishment that comes from a neat desk. After a few minutes of that, I'll be back in the business of messing it up again.