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mess » Jolana Malkston
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Dec 032013

Jolana Malkston 2Every so often, Macho Guy complains that my home office becomes so, well, messy that it needs, oh, let’s call it decluttering. That’s probably being kind. Actually, I know it’s being kind. In fact, it’s being too kind.

My family thinks of my home office as the local landfill. The bottomless pit. The Michigan Triangle. Macho Guy once offered to help me declutter with a blowtorch.

I accumulate stuff—books, old magazines, CDs, magnets, photos, certificates, plaques, souvenirs, conference materials, an overflowing source file, the empty boxes the stuff I bought came in, bills, receipts, unopened junk mail, newspapers, sections of manuscripts, binders filled with research material, and little scraps of paper upon which I scribble notes and ideas that eventually become buried under most of the other stuff.

I procrastinate. I don’t follow through with tasks immediately if I can help it, especially if those tasks involve paperwork and filing. I hate to file. Most of my stuff piles up in stacks on my desk and worktable so I have to import TV snack tables to expand my work surface—to even have a work surface.

Sometimes the stacks spill over onto the floor. Somehow that stuff grows in size making entry to my office a challenge in navigation. I suspect said growth is the result of reproduction by mitosis.

Things seem to disappear into my stacks of stuff never to be found again, but occasionally I do discover buried treasure, usually when I’m searching for something else. [Firstborn is convinced that one day I will uncover Jimmy Hoffa’s body.]

I have difficulty finding something in my office on short notice. It is imperative to give me plenty of advance warning. My mind goes blank the moment I hear a request for me to find something ASAP. It takes a long, long while for me to recollect which stack of stuff I might have set the requested item on, about how long ago I set the requested item on the stack of stuff, and on what strata in the stack of stuff the requested item might currently reside. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting.

Macho Guy once offered to help me organize my office. I panicked. I thought he was armed with the blowtorch. He wasn’t. He was armed with an organizational plan that he expected me to follow. He decided to be my organization coach. O joy.

Macho Guy laid down the law. Never take unopened junk mail into my office. Whenever I opened mail, I was to make an immediate decision on its disposition. I should either respond or toss it. I was to handle paper only once. I was to file important papers immediately—and not lay them on my desk or any other flat surface. Then Macho Guy began to demonstrate how it’s done. He started going through my stacks of stuff. He took a quick look at each item and tossed most of them out. My blood chilled. I felt violated. I broke out in hives. When he was through, I did not recognize my own office.

Something about a tidy office had a negative effect on me. I felt ill at ease. I couldn’t concentrate. I was blocked—my creativity took a hike.

For me, there is something comforting about being surrounded by clutter. I missed it, so I did my best to restore the status quo. I succeeded. The clutter is back. I even found another magnet that speaks to me, and I stuck it on my file cabinet. It says, It’s my mess and I love it! Read it and weep, Macho Guy. The Queen of Clutter is back. 🙂

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