Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cleaning My Desk, a Nightmare

You may recall that last week, the Jane Eyre portion of my conscience exhorted me to clean up my desk in exchange for a pair of tall brown boots I'd been eyeing at Lord & Taylor.

Reader, I tried.  I'm still trying.

In December, I had great zeal for decluttering, prompted by the massive clean-out we did of a relative's house. I couldn't wait to attack our apartment. I'm still weirdly attracted to dumpsters but, somewhere in January, I lost my energy for tossing and organizing. A sticky, sludge-like malaise descended upon me, where I really, truly don't want all this stuff but I'm incapable of the movements required to get rid of it. I suppose this is normal: most of us have too much stuff, messy desks, and overflowing closets, and we're lazy. But when you live in less than 800 square feet and you stop being vigilant, things can reach crisis proportions almost as quickly as a few days' worth of mail piles up.

My desk was (and is) a disaster. I couldn't find a safe place to put down a glass; I balanced my breakfast toast on a tilting pile of stuff aiming for my keyboard. My desk is a poor design choice for anyone but the strictest Minimalist as it has no drawers or shelves; it's merely a marble slab on metal legs. I have a small metal caddy for papers and bills, an antique tin box that acts as a drawer, and some tiny Japanese baskets to hold odd bits like keys and my cell phone. A little rattan trunk holds files on the floor. I keep a larger file box under the bed. (Wendy sleeps on it, and if you reach under the bedskirt and pet her, she will purr, even though she is cornered.)

My two file boxes were so overloaded that I couldn't add anything without first going through them and weeding and tossing.

I procrastinated mightily over that, but finally spent part of the weekend on it, and then I filed most of the paper covering my desk. It was mentally exhausting; I diverted myself by napping, polishing silver, shining boots, and doing any other chore that didn't require so much decision-making. My papers are now under control, organized in folders instead of stuffed randomly into a shopping bag or drifting in tall piles. Two grocery bags full of papers went out for recycling; a third one held papers to be shredded.

Shredding is time-consuming, boring, and noisy, so I do it too quickly, adding more paper than our $3 Target shredder can handle at one time. That jams or breaks the shredder, which adds to my loathing of the whole affair.

I felt there had to be a better way — and I think I found it. Staples will shred your papers for 79 cents a pound. They weigh them, you pay them, and you leave it all behind.

I just called our Back Bay Staples and they not only shred, they are having a shredding promotion this month. Your first five pounds of papers are free, and you only pay for the rest. I'm going there shortly.

But my desk is still a wreck. There was plenty of stuff hiding under the papers so I have to deal with that now. I see six tubes of hand cream. Cat toys, sunglasses, eyeglasses, little floral sacks that once held Anthropologie receipts and are too cute to easily toss. Tiny, empty Kusmi tea tins, also too nice to toss without some thought about repurposing them. Cables and stray bits from my laptop and camera that should be kept safe. Cough drops, contact lens cases, cleaning cloths, business cards, small tools, pots of lip balm, dried horse chestnuts (?), coupons. Before I can find homes for some of this, I will have to make room inside my antique tin box and certain packed drawers in the bedroom.

I'll have a fabulously clean desk eventually, I promise. I'll take a photo. But there will be no further reward for all that suffering — those Joan & David boots are too big. I brought them home, admired them, and took them back. They gap hugely at the top. You shouldn't be able to tuck six Snickers bars, a paperback, or a small kitten into the top of a boot. The salesman thought I was nuts to return them because they were such a deal. But I know I will shortly be cleaning out our two overfilled clothes closets.


  1. I can never get my desk in order! I am finally starting to learn to love the mes ;)

  2. I snickered at the boot story...or maybe it was a snort! I am still taking down xmas decos...


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