Clearing the Clutter

I have a confession to make: I can be a bit of a slob. I still remember, in 2nd or 3rd grade, receiving a dreaded U (for Unsatisfactory) on my report card for “work area.” My desk, all through grade school, was a jumble of books and papers. For the most part, I could find what I needed, but anyone else who dared look through the desk might never be seen again.

Now, nearly thirty years later, not much has changed. I’ve written in the past about how messy my work desk can get, and I admit it’s still a problem. Usually, it goes in streaks: stuff slowly builds up until it gets so messy I finally have to take action. Following a period of relative cleanliness, the stuff begins to accumulate again.

Here’s a shot of my office just this morning.

Now, this isn’t horrible, and it’s been way worse before, but… well, it’s not good enough. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I believe that, for me, a cluttered desk does equal a cluttered mind. When there’s stuff everywhere I find myself having to spend a lot of mental energy to see past all the unnecessary things to get a good look at what I’m actually working on.

Why do I do this? I think it’s based on a lie I tell myself. I’ll come to my office from a meeting or from teaching a class, I’ll be carrying a pile of books and papers, and I’ll think, I don’t have time to put these away right now. Or I think I need to immediately start working on the next thing or immediately set all that stuff down to leave the building. But that’s a lie. I do usually have a few minutes when I could put things away and make sure things are clean. But the lazy lie I’ve been telling myself stops me from doing that.

So, after I took the above picture, I did get my workspace tidied a bit (though there’s still work to do.) But more importantly, I’ve made the decision to make the effort, going forward, to “clear the clutter” every day. Hopefully seeing some of the office clutter disappear will help with the “mind clutter” that tends to grow also. 

I think it will.