Saturday, February 25, 2012

Desk organizing for the chronically untidy

How to tidy up your desk:
• Stick the small scrappy notes and such on something on the wall, like a cork board;
• Put all the loose little things in a couple of bowls and mugs; 
• Gather the objects you want to keep on your desk in one corner, more or less, in a pleasing arrangement, so the rest  of the surface is mostly clear.
• If you're not sure whether to file those loose papers or get rid of them, put them in stackable shallow boxes (aka "document boxes") labeled with broad general categories like "household," "work," "school" etc. Don't use boxes that are very large, and don't allow yourself more than one box for each category! When it gets full, you must thin out the contents, when you'll find that you can discard a lot that you weren't sure about before; the rest either gets filed or remains in the box.

Two very important guidelines:
(1) Don't get too fussy about exactly where everything belongs.
(2) Surround yourself with objects that please you, especially the things you use to help you gather your clutter; and arrange the items that remain on your desk into an attractive vignette — which only needs to be attractive to you.

Although I have long believed in "a place for everything and everything in its place," I often stumble over the idea that each thing's place needs to be precise and separate from each other thing's place. And if I don't know exactly where that place is, or I haven't established it yet, I just leave things lie where they are.

So, I've learned to uncomplicate my method of organizing:
• A few mugs for pencils and other stick-like objects;
• A bowl or two for the assorted small things I like to keep handy and that would get lost in a mug;
• A rolling filing cart near at hand for assorted papers (and a stack of blank file folders on a low shelf, ready to use);
• A few shallow plastic boxes that I can easily label and stack on a low shelf nearby (I use Sterlite clip boxes, which I got at Target).
• A bulletin board for notes to myself and small ephemera I don't want to discard (including a couple of "I love you mom" notes from my kids from many years ago);
• A homemade cork strip for additional notes and arty inspiration from friends. The odd-shaped little wire picture holders are paper clips that I unbent, more or less, at one end and bent a little more at the other end and stuck into the corks. (Click to zoom in for a closer look if you like.)

The ATCs above the corks were made by, from left: Shirley Ende-Saxe, Ann Renee Lighter, and Terry Garrett

The wide shallow bowl in the first picture, that has the jump drive and paper clips and other small items in it, is one I made of papier mache, using pages from MOQ, the little quarterly zine Craig and I used to publish. I spattered it with some paint left over from some other projects and found the result both pleasing and idiosyncratic. I wasn't so sure anyone else would want it, or appreciate it as much as I do, so I put it on my desk to replace a couple of smaller containers I used to use for this sort of thing, and I find that I like this shape and style of bowl much better. It's easy to rummage in it to find the various little items I have put there.

A bowl made from a vintage math book
There are a few versions of papier mache catch-all bowls in my Etsy shop, including some made from the same mold as that one, one of which is pictured above (the mold is a plastic faux basket bowl I bought at a secondhand shop). If you appreciate handmade bowls but would like one that's also lightweight and unbreakable, this may be the thing for you.

I don't really think my system, such as it is, is right for everyone, but I figured I'd share it. Maybe somebody who has trouble tidying up because they're too much of a perfectionist, or simply too overwhelmed, will have found something helpful here.

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