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Creating Order Out of Chaos

by Margaret Powling-

I needed to give my ‘end’ of our shared desk (aka bench) a tidy up today.  I hadn’t done any filing since before Christmas and it’s surprising how things mount up … newspapers from which I needed to clip features that have been published; old receipts needing to be shredded, personal letters and Christmas thank you notes from friends – to keep or to discard? always a difficult decision for me as some of the cards are so pretty, but I decided all must go – and just the general detritus of three or four months of accumulated ‘things’.

The photo above – which I’m sure I’ve used on this blog before – shows how husband and I have  our twin computers on a long wall-to-wall bench (he has a larger monitor screen as he does Inventor 3D design work).  This photo was taken a couple of years ago when the room was looking especially clean and tidy.   I usually have flowers on my ‘end’ of the desk, but not this week as I’ve not shopped for any thus far.  But this is how it should look!

Below is what my ‘end’ looked like this morning. I’m almost too ashamed to show you!

What a tip!  Both baskets filled to capacity and paperwork piled on top of the baskets.  Not a pretty sight, it is? Not dirty, nothing that was growing mould, just very untidy. 

I had had a busy morning and also made a roast chicken lunch and  I really felt like having a good sit down and read this afternoon but instead decided enough was enough, so I fetched the shredder and the waste paper basket close to the desk and set to work. 

And now all is neat and tidy again …

Or as neat and tidy that the paperwork will allow.  I still have some files to sort out, but I think you will admit this looks a bit better.  The ‘mountain silhouette’ little letter rack was a promotional gift from Farrow & Ball; I have found it very useful and keep my thank you cards and correspondence cards in it.  The little miniature chest of drawers is of paper-covered cardboard, and has faded over the years but I have had it about 30 years and it’s ideal for stamps and business cards and those miniature address labels you stick on the back of envelopes. 

I hope there is a discernible difference between the photo of the messy desk and the photo of the tidy desk as it has taken me the better part of three hours to get it sorted!

Is your desk messy or are you a very tidy person?  Or perhaps somewhere in between, like me – tidy for much of the time and then suddenly you realize you need to have a good sort out?

 

 

Margaret Powling

14 Comments

  1. Eloise

    We share a long “worktop-type” desk with a shared PC at one end and and my husband’s laptop at the other. On the opposite wall is my desk with laptop. This set up is left over from The days when we both had jobs which involved a lot of driving but were home-based for office purposes. Nowadays I mostly use the desk top and an iPad so my ‘other’ desk is largely redundant, though I find it useful for dealing with post. As to whether it’s tidy, I think the answer has to be….in theory yes but in practice it could do with sorting out a little more regularly. It’s the filing -I just can’t believe how much paperwork we seem to amass. I was so organised when I worked from home but I think I have got out of practice.

    06 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, paperwork seems to breed without any help from ourselves! My problem is that I tend to keep everything, so that in the end it’s difficult to know which bits are important and those which aren’t … and to think that we thought that computers would put an end to paperwork!

      06 . Mar . 2017
  2. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Love your shared desk/bench area, it easy to let things build up isn’t it, I bought a couple of in and out trays to help be more organised, I have one of those mini chests as well.

    06 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, only too true, Marlene, to allow things to build up. Life used to be so much more simple. When we first married we had about 7 folders – one for banking, one for mortgage, one for gas, one for electricity, one for insurance, one for the car bumph, and one for rates. I used my pedestal desk which we now have in our hall, and it was never in a muddle. How has life become so much more complicated when computers were meant to make life easier? There’s no answer to that! I would love a real, wooden mini-chest of drawers but even though this is really a paper product, it has lasted very well.

      06 . Mar . 2017
  3. Elaine

    I can with with a certain amount of organised chaos on my desk for a while, but then I have to knuckle down and clear it, otherwise I feel I cannot hear myself think. My trouble is that I have my desk in my sewing room, which is also my ironing room. Inevitably odd projects get put down on the desk, along with the books which I have with me for the day, then I may decide to have a go at lino-cutting, or a little embroidery and suddenly the desk is submerged, especially when the grandchildren join in with their projects. I must develop a better system. One day.

    06 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I usually try and clear my desk before I start work on a new writing project, Elaine. Because when I do, I have all kinds of books and pamphlets spread hither and thither and they make sufficient mess of their own. Then, after I’ve finished a project, I try and clear all that away, put away the books and pamphlets before I start on the next project.
      How lovely to have a sewing/ironing room. I would love to have a dedicated laundry/ironing room, with large cupboards for all the linen.

      06 . Mar . 2017
  4. Eloise

    Yes, that is exactly how the introduction of computer technology was sold to us – it will do away with the need for paper! Some hope; in my previous business experience, people simply print of copies of every communication…just in case.
    Last year we bought an incinerator ( grand name for a metal dustbin with some holes in it) and burnt the equivalent of a small forest of paperwork…it went back for years. We have a shredder but it simply couldn’t have coped with the amount. I resolved there and then to shred on a weekly basis. Needless to say my determination lasted for about a fortnight!

    06 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      You are right, an incinerator would be much better (aka holey-dustbin!) as our shredder finds it hard to cope, too. I end up simply ripping up a lot of things. But I do love it – well, for a day or two – when the desk is tidy and all is in order.

      06 . Mar . 2017
  5. Luna Crone

    So proud of you! You decided against keep those Christmas things…. Yes, wonderful decision. I do like to eliminate unnecessary things. -smile-

    My computer desk is usually neat. The surface. I have “cubbies” up on the back of it, and there, necessary items can be stashed. I admit, that part doesn’t look totally neat, but I know where things are. (Mostly)

    I prefer neat, everywhere. But do let the “cubbies” go, at times. It is amazing, what we think we ought to “keep”! Yikes~~~

    Again, congratulations on all the de-clutter-ing and neet-ing-up.

    06 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I like to keep things, Luna, because without people having kept things down the generations we’d have no letters, diaries, receipts, written archives of information for future historians. I will never be clutter-free because I keep all my magazines and I used always to keep all my correspondence, too, and still have files of letters going back decades, with my copies interleaved with them. If we had a larger house, I’d have kept more. It has really pained me at times to have got rid of certain things, but space is finite.

      06 . Mar . 2017
  6. Lara

    I need a tidy desk or else I get into a flap. Mine is second hand, white and a bit smaller than I’d wanted but since decided it’s just right. I have a square cotton tablecloth with pink embroidered roses which my grandmother gave me about 20 years ago and barely used as it was too small for a dining table. I have a lamp (good lighting is required), cut crystal bowl which I use to store my pens, notepad with a permanent ‘to do’ list that gets updated as I go and a few trinkets from dear friends. I place any outstanding bills, filing, recharging iPad, etc on my desk and know they’re safe – anywhere else and they get lost. Unlike my former work spaces (when I worked in offices), I don’t eat or drink at my desk. Husband had originally suggested I share his office space (our third bedroom) but he is too messy for me and I’m too neat for him (and ne’er the twain shall meet!) so I figured having my own space would be better for domestic harmony 🙂 I used to have a small case of flowers but got out of the habit. I think I’ll reinstate the flowers when the heatwave leaves us otherwise they’d simply perish.

    I actually enjoy filing. I know, I know, people think I’m mad when I say it but I like things to be ordered and so that I can easily retrieve things when I need them. Filing is like basket weaving to me. When I worked in an office I would often file in the afternoons when I was having an energy slump – it was something I could do that didn’t require any deep thought and was productive. The other thing I loved doing was folding letters and sealing them into envelopes when there was 10s of them to be done. The administrative staff would often leave them for me as a treat and I was as happy as a pig in mud. Whipping off the strip that covered the adhesive on the envelope and stacking the sealed envelopes neatly with a thud was very therapeutic. Boring but true 😉

    07 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Your desk sounds delightful, Lara! I have rather too much stuff, accumulated over years of writing. If I didn’t write for magazines I am sure I would keep fewer things but I always think “that will come in useful”. But I am going to make a concerted effort to go through all the files and get rid of things which are out of date or are irrelevant. I tend to keep things like the receipts for our sofa and curtains when we moved here in 1985. I just think things like that are fun to read in years to come, when we thought that £1200 was a lot of money (well it was 31 years ago) for a sofa! It cost more recently to have new covers made for one of our sofas! Indeed, a lot more money! They are small historic documents; I have similar documents when my uncle bought some antique furniture in the 1930s, and it’s fun to look at them now, plus receipts from my grandparents’ wedding in 1897, for the “carriage and pair” to take them to the church (in the days before motorised vehicles for such things!) Hence, I’m a keeper rather than a thrower. But I like things in order, too. Hence yesterday’s tidying up. I love your story of filling envelopes being a treat! But we all like different things, and sometimes a mindless occupation like that is relaxing, we don’t have to think about it.

      07 . Mar . 2017
  7. Eloise

    The benefit and delight of carrying out a repetitive, mundane task is underrated. It provides thinking time and the process of a repeated action can be very calming. That said, I wouldn’t want to do it too often! I find sorting, throwing out and creating order to be quite cathartic. I do, however, think that we have a duty to save certain items of historic interest for future generations. One of my most treasured is the 1953 New Year’s Eve menu from Singapore’s Raffles Hotel. My parents were there.

    07 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      How lovely to have that menu from Raffles! Yes, you are right, a duty to save certain items of historic interest. But as you also say, it’s quite cathartic to have a good clear our every so often.

      07 . Mar . 2017

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