Cleaning Up (Start With the Desk)

leaning-stack-of-papers-and-filesSome days you are the pigeon. Some days you are the statue. And some days you have to clean your desk, table, studio space. You just have to.

Either that or plow it under and call one of those reality shows where Ryan Seacrest shows up with 50 cat carriers and has a desperate housewife fire you and send you to rehab. I’m sorry, I don’t watch TV, so it all sounds alike. Back to cleaning.

Here are some tough love tips for cleaning that worked for me today.

1. Don’t look back. I tried being serious about saving all those articles I’ll read someday. Then I realized that if I really had wanted to read them, I would have. In the time that I’ve collected the articles, I’ve read four books. So I’m not really motivated to read the articles. Toss them.

This is a perfectionism stumble. “If I were a really good X, I would read, file, remember, sketch, write, use this article, image, scrap of ephemera.” Deep breath. It’s a perfectionist thing. Toss it.

Yes, you will probably need it within 10 minutes of the trash truck vanishing down the street with it. Toss it anyway.

2. You won’t buy it anyway. Catalogs marked with turned-down page corners for storage, filing, clothing items. Largely waiting for a windfall. When windfall comes, will need something else. Toss catalogs.

3. Compare and act. Two of the items I wanted in the winter catalog are now on half-price sale. Pick up phone and order. Done. Move on.

4. Even if you teach, throw it out. I have a huge stack of magazines, catalogs, flyers that are “perfect” for that collage class that I’m not teaching this month. Or next. More stuff will accumulate. Toss it out.

5. Start where you are. Don’t try to catch up. More paper is mistakenly saved because you are scared to throw it out, for fear of forgetting, falling behind or forgetting. Unless it bank or tax stuff, make NOW your starting point. Easier and saves the nerves.

–Quinn McDonald wishes she would clean up more often. The desk has a nice wood grain she rarely sees.


23 thoughts on “Cleaning Up (Start With the Desk)

  1. You really did follow me around on Monday, didn’t you? I went through my storage for carvings and started tossing old carves–the ones that I already have in rubber and those which don’t print properly anymore. Thank heavens I ‘channel Quinn’ every so often!

  2. As a collage artist, when you “throw it all out”, is that another form of collage? Or possibly collage-performance-art? Videotaped, musical background, audience…just sayin’.

  3. Hi Quinn,

    Some time ago you sent me an email regarding my intent to buy your new book after you sold all the copies you’d brought to our CASA meeting in Tucson. You asked if I’d prefer sending you a check or PayPal. I responded immediately that I’d prefer PayPal since I have an account. Since then, nothing. Should I just order from Amazon? I’m happy to do that, but don’t want to have two books in case you are working on this.

    JoAnne Hungate

    Live in the moment

  4. Perfect for today! Today is the day I go through the pile of “important papers” and either file or shred. Besides, there is stuff there I need to finish the taxes. Next is a regimen of clearing out at least one shelf, drawer, or closet until I’ve gone through this entire house! Looking forward to seeing clean horizontal surfaces that haven’t shown themselves for years. Can you say spring cleaning?

  5. You’re in my head too! I really love the line in #1, “Then I realized that if I really had wanted to read them, I would have.” Such a great, and important, realization.

      • Yes me too. And a jewelry artist. And a visual journalist. And… and… and… I have to have every tool, glitter in every different color and size, sequins in every color, shape and size, findings, papers, embellishments, found objects, papers, papers and more papers, clippings, paints, pencils, markers, ribbons, fibers, oh what else, stamps (mounted and unmounted), notebooks, books, sea glass, shells, stones, leaves, um…

        • I’m not sure I want to see my face on a Smucker’s jelly jar. (This is an American joke. On the Today show, there is a segment in which centenarians are featured. The sponsor is Smucker’s Jams, so the faces are merged into a frame of a jam jar. Even as I explain it, it sounds awkward.)

          • I checked out Google Images and couldn’t see what you meant but I almost felt sick looking at all that sugar! And then . . . oh ick! I saw something called Goober grape. Goober? Think mucus! Double ick! Talk about cultural divide! I could NEVER EVER EAT IT! I am recoiling in disgust.

          • It’s not as bad as you think. “Goober” is a Southern nickname for a peanut. (It’s also a slang name for a hillbilly.) And grape jelly is the traditional American jelly eaten with peanut butter on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So Goober grape is the softer-consistency jam that spreads easily on bread and topped with peanut butter.

  6. You crack me up Quinn! I can be rather ruthless about pitching things and I love going through catalogs and marking them with sticky notes. When the next one comes in, I throw out the previous one and figure I got my shopping fix in without spending a dime or leaving the house! My desk and drawing table really do need to be excavted!

    • I let it pile up and then I throw it out. But if I file it, it’s gone from my mind. When I cleaned out the garage, I threw out eight boxes of “files”–none of which contained anything I needed to keep.

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