Messy Desk Pride

Evey thing in its place, and a place for everything. Yep. That’s my workspace. The place for everything is on the return to the right of my desk. The space is piled high with three neat stacks. Want that magazine article on Groupthink? In the second pile, third from the top. The stats for the improvement in the December 18 class? Left stack, in a plaid folder.

Albert Einstein kept a messy desk.

My desk is littered with a collection of  receipts, paper ephemera, a mat for my coffee (or water), and my notebook. It is not neat. I know where everything is. The mess gets better occasionally and rarely worse.

When the receipts begin to gather I file them while waiting on hold for a company who wants me to know my call is important to them, but not enough to actually talk to me. I gather the ephemera for my journals (tickets, fortunes I like from cookies, ribbons) when I go to the studio.

Anna Wintour's desk at Vogue. Is that a ewer and basin on the desk? And is she sitting on a metal chair? Yep. It's a $250 zinc French bistro chair. Chic. Hard, but chic.

It’s a personal preference. Some people like neat desks. I’m not one of them. I have six cartons that clutch the contents of prior file cabinets. They are sealed, and I haven’t opened them in three years. Throw them out, you say? Can’t. They contain the paperwork for the sales of my houses, an old passport, and files that prove tax records.

I’m cursed by an out-of-site, out-of-mind brain. A file in a cabinet has vanished from the real world. I can find nothing in file cabinets, because I don’t call items by the same name all the time. Old checks (when I still kept them) were called Canceled Checks, Checks, Old Checks, CBT stuff, PNC paperwork–all the same, all different names, labels marking the names of banks.

There are some advantages to being a piler, not a filer. The important items work their way to the top of the stacks because i use them frequently. The unimportant items move to the bottom. Once a month, I go through the stacks and throw 75 percent of it out. Were I a filer, I’d be building a room onto the house to hold file cabinets. Important items rise to the top of the stacks, detritus gets churned to the bottom and tossed out.

Efficient. And it works for me. What works for you?

–Quinn McDonald is a tidy person who wrote Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.