As part of my recent promotion I was invited to move into a larger office. Moving the computer was easy, but moving the rest of my assorted knick knacks and relics from projects I worked on two jobs ago was something altogether different.
I like a relatively tidy work-space. My stapler and tape dispenser are hidden away because I once heard that was a trick to make you appear more important to outsiders as it implied you have people to take care of your stapling needs for you. I get stressed out when the surface is littered with paper, but I don’t always have the time to take action on every page that comes my way. If the contents aren’t immediately important, it goes into a to-be-filed folder mixed alongside of several non-related subjects. There it waits, out of sight, until I have a chance to return to it.
But those things weren’t the only items I had held far beyond their useful date. Inside those drawers I also had a handful of baby blocks, a memento from the surprise baby shower my work threw me. I had a postcard a staffer sent me from France early in my tenure and a collection of other assorted thank you cards. I had a safety light, luggage tag, and various swag I received at a trade shows. I always intended to bring these home, but never did. I was even storing a PEZ dispenser that was always empty, because it made me smile. All of these things were associated with either positive memories or positive intentions, but did nothing for me professionally. All they did at my office was take up space.
I would like to tell you that I tossed everything out, but that would be a lie. While I sent many items to the garbage and recycling bin, I wasn’t able to bring myself to part with everything. I did however keep them in a box rather than restore them to their previous desk drawer status. I have to accept that as tidy as the surface of my desk looks, I am well on my way towards becoming a hoarder at work, albeit an organized one. I’ve decided that if I haven’t opened the box in a few weeks, I don’t need its contents, and it will be to discard those items too.
Perhaps it is fitting that I am cleaning out the office at the same time as I am revising my manuscript. By taking a harsher stance on my physical belongings, I have been better able to take a more critical view of my manuscript. I like to believe that I’ve come along way since I started this project as a writer. It’s a much more positive reason for the amount of edits I’ve made to the early chapters.
Sure, I had fun writing certain scenes and dialogue, but as much as it pains me, if they aren’t working for the story they have to go in my computer’s virtual trash can or otherwise set aside for recycling. It’s time to get ruthless.
What has been interesting about this process is that although I have cut out sections of the manuscript, my word count has actually gone up rather than gone down. It is as if by removing those sections I allowed room for other, better scenes, to grow fuller.
I can only hope that my office space move proves to be as beneficial.
- The reason you can’t get organized (sandglaz.com)
- Inside a Hoarder’s Brain: Why They Can’t Ditch Their Stuff (livescience.com)
- Clutter vs. Hoarding: When Should You Worry About the Mess? (webmd.com)
- Four Tips to Start Rewriting a Novel (michelleule.com)
- Manuscript Editing Demystified (changeitupediting.com)
- How to Avoid the Red (Pen of) Death (tammysalyer.wordpress.com)
4 thoughts on “It is time to de-clutter the organized chaos”
What a great analogy, and thanks for sharing my blog post, too!
When I left my editing job at a traditional publisher to become a freelance editor, of course I had to remove everything I’d brought into my office over my tenure. The pictures and knick knacks were one thing, but the files and assorted papers were another! Two years later, I still have a couple of unpacked boxes waiting for me; I say I’m not a hoarder, but if I’m honest, I think maybe I am!
Yet I have no problem AT ALL suggesting a purge to someone else, especially when we’re talking about a manuscript. I especially like your comment that “although I have cut out sections of the manuscript, my word count has actually gone up rather than gone down. It is as if by removing those sections I allowed room for other, better scenes, to grow fuller.” That’s been my experience with every writer I’ve worked with on substantive edits; if you can be objective about your own work, you actually free yourself to create better work in the end.
Now if we can just figure out how to keep those recycling folders from getting out of control!
It really is so hard to get rid of those papers. You know that as soon as you shred them you will need them.
I am hoping other visitors on my site interested in writing stop over and visit yours. Very good tips.
You had quite stressful experience there. The office I work in moved from one building to another last year and everybody’s important and unimportant papers were mixed or disappeared. It was a great mess. The computers were the easiest part.Thank you for sharing your experience! The post is great!
It was only stressful figuring out how to fit in my regular work day needs around the move. Once everything was in place it was actually quite nice to know I was living without as much clutter. I was responsible for moving myself, so at least I knew where most everything went. I don’t know how well I would have responded to someone else touching my papers.