I’ve been wondering lately if everything I’ve believed about myself up until recently is false. I always prided myself on my sense of focus and my ability to organize. I’m writing this, weeks after the thought first crossed my mind, and now with a sense of humor. Desktop update? Here’s a corner of the debris in front of me right now.
If I’m organized, it isn’t very obvious. Although I have no trouble focussing on an activity, my focus is probably not apparent. When I’m engrossed in a task and another item arises needing attention, I’m either unable to consider the new issue (I can even manage to block it out completely) or I get so involved in it, I cannot remember what I was doing before. I then go from one item to the next to the next. I appear very distracted, yet I’m fully attentive to each thing. It concerns me that I see my daughter exhibiting the same behavior. Getting her dressed in the morning is sometimes a drama because she gets fixated on other things and can’t easily complete the task at hand. In her defense, she’s three. What’s my excuse?
When I was younger and busily affirming my sense of self, I had a near obsessive rein on myself. I had my mornings rigidly organized into 15 minute increments. This helped me accomplish what I need to do: 15 minutes breakfast, 15 minutes shower, 15 minutes makeup and hair, 15 minutes meditation, until I was out the door. At some point it became unrealistic to get up two hours before I needed to leave. I slowly abandoned the schedule. Now, and for the last twenty years, I’ve been living on a university schedule. I shift my habits every 15 weeks and each day has a different dynamic. Today is “research day” (reminds me of “steak night”) and I get to sit at home and think about the world and scold myself up for not writing faster about it.
I think the reality I’m coming to is that organization does not really come naturally to me. It’s something I’ve learned to impose on myself when necessary because it keeps me afloat. Sometimes it becomes a tricky web to navigate, but without it I might just be endlessly engrossed in the shiny objects dangling before me and never find time to articulate what’s so fascinating about them.
Posted in hoarding identity, hoarding in the profession, Uncategorized
Tagged attention, control, debris, desk, desktop, focus, identity, organization, rigid
I have a spreading problem. D. has been gone for nearly a week for work. I noticed two days ago that with no one to keep my clutter in check, it started to snake its way down the kitchen counter. It has even spread to my office, both home and at work. Fortunately D. will be back soon and I will slay back the clutter demons to prepare for his arrival.
Desk drawer update today. Even I’m disgusted by this.
A friend came to see me while I was packing up and asked if I was going to post a picture of my desktop. It is visibly empty, and all cared-about belongings have been removed from drawers. Last week was a frenzy of sorting, tossing, shoving into suitcases, trying to be clear-headed, vomiting, washing, and leaving behind my most cared about “stuff” in the world – my best friend, D. He has been left with the chaotic mess of empty envelopes, half-filled plastic bags, coat hangers, shampoo bottles, and the like. While absurdly we continue to wait for his paperwork, he has to sift through the rubble. In the meantime, S. and I are on the other side of the planet, shuffling about dazed, waking up at 3 a.m. not knowing what day it is, and feeling empty without him.
the more things change...
The best I can do to describe my present state of disorganization is “spinning.” I grab a very very important new piece of paper — like my bank account information — put it in a logical place, and promptly forget where I put it. Then I grab my passport and join it to the pile where I think I’m going to need it next — like with rental applications — and then I need it for banking and can’t seem to find it. I’m a whirlwind of mess, chronically sleep deprived, untethered, cry at the littlest, “maybe that’s daddy?” when S. hears a noise… and so on. And my “stuff” is not here to hold me down, make me feel embedded, push roots into the earth, or any other metaphorical fodder that it is supposed to do. My landmarks are missing, the biggest one being my partner, and it feels like my legs have been chopped off in a sense.
None of this is to complain, because I’ve fallen into a weird community of genuinely happy, smiling, friendly, eager to serve and please people. Strangers stop and talk, everyone looks relaxed, the sun is so brilliantly white that everything outside seems to sparkle until 4 p.m. when it starts to get dark. Then the lights sparkle some more on the water. I feel guarded and suspicious of all this openness. In fact, I thought I had been living in a very friendly town until yesterday. Now I don’t know what to expect. Unanchored, weightless, temporary, and very sad.
Posted in weight of things
Tagged bag, best friend, chaos, desk, desktop, empty, float, light, mess, packing, roots, rubble, sort, spinning, stuff, untethered, weight
This is my desk as I try to get back to work and finish an article that has been lingering in my to do list for the past few months. Somehow the clutter is strangely comforting today – all that stuff, those words within, that I know and love. Feels like home.
It may not look any better than before, but it is. The neighboring shelves are emptying out as I continue to box up unused books and put them in storage. The drawer has lost a lot of paperweight in the past few months, and the books that remain, well, they’re going with me one way or another. Guess what else? It isn’t just my stuff on those shelves anymore.
desk on Feb. 13, 2011
I actually forgot I left my desk in this state yesterday. I was searching for the missing piece to my Turkish rug … because I had “repaired” a rip in our leather sofa and suddenly had a bright idea about fixing the rug, too. And so I searched in the first logical place, did not find the missing piece, and, as usual, got distracted by bits of saved paper. I sorted some and exiled others to the recycling box, including numerous baby announcements. Then I forgot what I was doing and went upstairs, abandoning my work space.
This runs counter to the feelings I was having this morning while working in glorious sunlight on our balcony. I was thinking about my colleague C, who has the most orderly life I know. She is in her office or teaching from 9 to 5 every day, except for Fridays when she leaves a bit early to go to happy hour at our favorite bar. Her office is tidy, her desk is clean, and the atmosphere there exudes efficiency and work. I used to think if I could have her office space, I would write a lot more. But then I got to know myself a little better over the last few years.
Every time I get that nostalgic longing for tidiness and organization, it is swiftly changed into distracted clutter. It is simply how I work – from piles of stuff sitting in front of me to remind me of what I was previously thinking or doing. The same is true for my laptop desktop. I’m writing in Chrome right now with 16 tabs open. I shut at least 5 or 6 of them earlier today, but each one is open to a page that I want to revisit. Each book in this mountain of papers on my desk has pages I want to revisit. I stop, pause, contemplate the pile, and remember something for my research. That happens more often than me actually picking up the book and flipping to a certain page. Just having the text there is enough to jog my thoughts. Again, I need my stuff in front of me to remind me of what I’m doing and to simultaneously distract me from what I’m doing and to lead me into something else I’m not supposed to be doing. It’s a crooked path, but it has gotten me into a reasonably productive academic life.
That said, I now am confronted with the desire to procrastinate my academic writing to continue sorting the crap on my desk. A few items I couldn’t bear to toss out yesterday today were immediately jettisoned into the recycling box.
Order in my chaos, chaos in my order, clutter in my mind leads to order in my writing, tangled in my head but neatly laid out on the page.
Posted in hoarding identity
Tagged chaos, clutter, crap, desk, memory, mess, order, pile, procrastinate, productive, sort, writing
The room around me is emptying out, but how does my desk look this week? Well….
not pictured - a pair of gloves and a coupon I'll forget to use
In my defense, I’ve started two new research papers and need a few things within arm’s reach. The other part of the issue is the growing stack of tax documents.
It surprises me a bit that I feel defensive about my desk which is still relatively
in under control, but perhaps even more that those piles of books make me (not-so) secretly happy. My brain is working and that means a lot.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged brain, clutter, coupon, desk, desktop, gloves, guilty, papers, research, tax, update
I just had a peek back at my Sept. 25 post, “a high functioning hoarder” in which I wrote, “In general, I keep my desk neatly organized…”
In light of what I saw in my desk today, I am clearly delusional. Although I know basically where everything is on top of my desk, this does not make my desk neatly organized by any objective standards. Is this progress to recognize it now? Outwardly organized, interiorly a mess.
inside my desk
I spent a short hour at my office today to begin sorting what’s there. I was horrified when I really looked at what was in my top desk drawer. See for yourself (photo on left). There were cracker crumbs, tons of baggies, plastic silverware and unused paper towels. It took me less than a minute to trash almost everything except for the six cereal bars, a steak knife, some clorox wipes, and three very sturdy plastic bags I will use to schlep things home.
A colleague of mine in African literature stopped in to see how I was progressing. I told her, “It’s not fun” when she said that I really shouldn’t leave anything in my office that I care about. I was working under the assumption that I have a year or more to decide what to keep until she recounted the tale of another colleague who was on sabbatical. All of his things ended up in boxes in the hallway when a new hire was temporarily placed in his office. I had to immediately switch gears to “what will I be sad about losing forever” instead of throwing what I don’t care about into the trash. The boundary between trashing and preserving is surprisingly fragile.
Posted in hoarding identity, hoarding in the profession
Tagged baggie, boundary, care, cracker, desk, losing, office, preserve, trash, work