Shut the Door!

Jan 10, 2012 | 4 comments

     My office is a shambles!  The plus side of that means I’m deep into a couple of writing projects.  The downside is that working in the midst of clutter drives me nuts.
     If there is such a thing as “good clutter” then these piles of books and papers that threaten to bury my computer keyboard are a positive thing.  Like most of my writing, my current projects concern the past.  The volumes of local history, diaries of my ancestors, files from my personal archive that are piled around me are all a necessary part of my research.
     Fortunately, I’ve built a pretty good reference library over the years.  I seldom have to go far afield to find the information I want.  When I need to clarify a point or make sure of a fact I usually can find it quickly and get back to writing without much break in my train of thought.  But, I seldom take time to return my resource material to the proper shelf or file drawer.  The piles of “stuff” grow daily, even hourly.  And my discomfort with my work space grows apace.
     When I was teaching, one of my colleagues referred to herself as “A Messy Bessie.”  She was a fabulous teacher – creative, spontaneous, charismatic.  But she lacked whatever DNA is required to keep a neat working environment.  Once when she needed her picture taken ‘in situ’ for some publication or other she realized that her own desk might make a negative statement so she arranged to have the photo taken sitting at the desk of the teacher across the hall!  I loved that!
     I always wondered how my friend could teach in her cluttered environment and, more importantly, how kids could learn.  But they did!  I, on the other hand, felt compelled to tidy up as we went along and built time for that into each lesson.  And, of course, my students also learned.  Fortunately, teaching and learning depend upon far more than one’s surroundings.
     These days, as my office elbow room shrinks amid the ever-growing piles around me, I occasionally wonder what happened to my clean-up-and-put-away-as-you-go gene.  Though that characteristic applied to my job as a teacher, there is apparently no carry-over to my work as a writer.  Clean up will happen when I run out of space or when my current projects are finished, whichever comes first.  Meanwhile, I keep my office door firmly shut when there are visitors in the house.     


  1. Cheryl Kocher

    We are truly related! I cannot work without “messing up” my environment. When I was teaching and preparing for a music program my desk would look like a bomb went off, but I knew EXACTLY where everything was! I am confident you will finish your project and return your desk to its proper order!


  2. Miki

    Ha! All those years of being joined at the hip rubbed off on you! Now where is my clean as you go gene????? Lately I have been “purging” but that is a bit scary… as soon as I unload something in excess, I decide I need it. The worst part is that I don’t remember I got rid of it, so I search fruitlessly for a long while. (I find a lot of other “lost” stuff though!)
    I want to hear about your latest writing project (soon).

  3. Kitt

    Being retired is being relaxed, and not a slave to our preconceived ideas as to how things are “Suppose to Be!” You will know when the time is right to put things back in order so continue to write and enjoy the moment! 😉

    • sydney

      Kitt, your comment made me smile. I know it’s time to create order out of chaos when I can no longer find what I’m looking for and the search time surpasses the actual time I’m utilizing the reference. Nevertheless, I am much more comfortable in tidy surroundings — something about an orderly workspace generating orderly thoughts. But I gave up on all that long ago as a matter of practicality!


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