August 27, 2007

Making room

It's been three years since I did a thorough cleaning of my home office. This weekend, I decided it was time. I went through the piles of papers, the canvas bags of miscellaneous folders, the baskets of random stuff. I emptied the desk drawers and threw away anything I no longer needed. I weeded the files in the overstuffed file cabinet, making room for new files. I cleaned away the various items that had accumulated on the edges of the book shelves and rearranged the books to make room for the stacks on the floor.

During this archeological dig, I discovered bits and pieces of my life. I found conference nametags, stuffed with the cards and email addresses of colleagues, stirring memories of trips to other parts of the country. When my husband is out of town, he often sends me flowers, and I always save the little cards with the affectionate messages on them, even though it's always strange to see his words in someone else's handwriting. I found holiday cards made by my kids, artwork by With-a-Why, scribbled messages to myself, ticket stubs, play bills, a burned CD of sad music, and a worn friendship bracelet.

Perhaps the toughest part of cleaning my office are the feathers, rocks, and seashells that are gathered on the windowsill and bookshelves. I can't part with any of those, so they just keep getting moved around. I have a snakeskin draped across one shelf, as a reminder to myself that growing and changing sometimes means the painful shedding of old skin.

Of course, unlike my kids, who all have minimalistic tendencies, my inclination is to be a pack rat. Cleaning doesn't really mean, for me, putting anything in the trash or the recycling bin. Instead I filled a cardboard box with stuff and piled it neatly in the crawlspace below the house, near the other boxes I put down there the last time I cleaned. I am comforted somehow by the idea that I haven't really gotten rid of any of these bits and pieces of my life; they are safely stored. Someday after I die, my kids can toss this stuff away for me.

By the end of the weekend, the top of my desk was empty, the file drawers were no longer bulging, the shelves were organized, and all the carpet on the floor had been uncovered and vacuumed. I love the feel of new space, room for new projects and growth.

14 comments:

landismom said...

I've been through a similar transition lately, as I am moving my office out of the dining room, so that we can once again eat somewhere besides our kitchen. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who's hanging onto scraps of paper from their kids.

Just today, I noticed that I was using a picture my son drew of me as a bookmark, and wondered if I'll still be able to put my hands on it 20 years from now.

PPB said...

I'm impressed. My motivation to do such organizational things is about 0 this time of year, so you're impressing me.

Sarah Sometimes said...

That's what I need, a crawl space! I can't throw anything away either, but I'm seriously running out of places to store things in my little apartment.

timna said...

this is really what I need to do this weekend. I've cleared out other peoples' spaces in the house, but I tend to take anything that I can't quite toss and put it on the pile on my side of the office. can't get to the files or shelves anymore without risk.

I really need that empty, clear space for this school year.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

One of the nicest things about the rhythm of schooling is that it creates beginnings and endings. In my corporate job the closest we come is the end of an "accounting period." Most of the time I can't even remember when that is.

Ampersand said...

Inspiring -- maybe I'll clean a junk drawer today. :)

I love how you describe your memories and the items they are attached to.

AF said...

Just reading this makes me feel shiny and new.

listie said...

My job this week is cleaning and organizing the basement. I find it very satisfying to sort and organize, not that anything stays organized for very long.

EA said...

Me too! Me too! Me too! (Well, not the pack rat stuff, but the new space for new projects, and new growth, and new...)

YourFireAnt said...

Have you got any room under there for some of my stuff? I'll pay rent!!

FA

Yankee T said...

Yes. And what I love is going through the boxes of keepsakes from time to time. I have every letter either of my parents ever wrote me, and that is a substantial number. When I go through the really old boxes, if I find myself saying something like, "John WHO???" when I read a birthday card from 1971, I throw it out. Otherwise, I keep everything.

kathy a. said...

oh, one of these days... my home office is a wreck, boxes and piles of things to sort through, and that's just the work stuff. i think i still have all my notes from college in the garage, not to mention many boxes of things from the kids' school years. there are also "to sort" boxes from years back, stashed here and there -- believe it or not, they were what was left after earlier attempts to bring the volumes of stuff under control.

BeachMama said...

I love clearing up the office, but unfortunately it means that there is a lot of purging going on here. When we clean it means that we have run out of room for the stuff we have.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Autumn is here in Alaska and that has brought on several bouts of "fall cleaning" in my world too. Somehow it helps the transition to clean and organize while swapping the summer gear out and making sure the winter gear is in proper order.