The stacks were so high I couldn’t find my desk anymore.

I had put down too many things “temporarily”, in the interest of saving time, and now it had all piled up – staring me in the face and accusing me of being out of control.

“Hah!” I said to myself. “I’m not out of control, I just feel like I’m out of control”. Which, of course, can be the same thing.

So I tackled the mess. Many people have the mistaken idea that professional organizers are never disorganized. And yes, we may know where things should go but that doesn’t mean we always get them there. Being organized is not about being neat; it’s about having good systems in place so that when you’re ready to be neat you know what to do.

But then again, I haven’t been in this house long enough to remember how all my systems were set up. The crucial moment came, as it always does, when I was on the phone and couldn’t locate the piece of paper I needed. I knew it was time to get my act together.

When you feel overwhelmed, the best place to start is by taking everything off your desk, or a section of your desk. First put back only what supplies you need in order to function well in that space. Next, put back or add a small number of things that are fun or inspiring to look at. Then add whatever you’re working on at the moment. That’s it. You will have to create places for active projects and non-active storage, but the idea is not to start covering everything up again. Your desk may return to messy when you’re feeling very creative or are on a deadline, or not feeling well, but if you follow this basic procedure you’ll know how to get back to where you need to be.

Next week I’ll give some suggestions for how to know what to save and what to throw out, or pass on, when your belongings have expanded to the point where they’re chasing you out of your house.

4 Responses to "After the Purge"

  1. colleen

    December 10, 2007

    My stacks of papers are growing like the blob. I might take your suggestion because when I try to look through them I don’t get far. Yesterday one toppled over.

  2. sunny

    December 10, 2007

    Yes, toppling can be depressing, because then you have to straighten it again, which just uses up your energy. Better to sit in front of the pile and just make 1 of 4 decisions for each item you pick up: throw out, pass on, save, act. At least you’ll know what you have, and be ready to take things forward the next time you tackle the job.

  3. Swirly

    December 10, 2007

    I always think it is helpful to have projects broken down into manageable steps. It can be overwhelming to look at piles of piles on a messy desk, but to take that task one step at a times makes it much easier!!

  4. sunny

    December 10, 2007

    Swirly — Good point, and you should know! Keeping an artist’s studio as functional as you keep yours calls for an effective mix of right and left brain thinking.

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