Monday, January 6, 2014

Obstacle Course

I set aside time over the past two weekends to tackle the clutter in my office. In the past year and a half, I've moved the remnants of a work office (in which I spent almost 20 years) to home. I've made more than one set of revisions on a book due out this month. I took on a position as an adjunct professor. The result? A space that had become the dumping ground for mountains of paper. Some of it simply needed to be put away, some thrown away, and the rest needed to find a home. Since the beginning of a new year was also down time between semesters, it seemed like a good time to get to work.

After successfully attacking first the counter, then my desk, I ended up with two marvelously clear spaces in my office. Anything that remains on either of those surfaces is there for a reason and/or serves a purpose. What I'm left with is several small boxes of things that need to be sorted through -- homeless items and things I don't know what to do with -- along with a Thirty-One bin attractively (and temporarily) containing the papers and stuff I discovered when I cleared the counter. Intimidating as it sounds, everything that remains is easy to can chip away at, so it feels approachable, especially given the new, vast expanses of clear space in my office. I'd forgotten how motivating a clear work space can be.

I was so proud of my work that I invited my daughter to check it out when she came home from her basketball game last Saturday. "Wow," she said. "Looks good, Mom. Now if only we could get into the room."

Wow. She was right. I mean, I knew the aforementioned small boxes were stacked precariously in one spot but I'd completely overlooked the things I'd set on the step between the office and the living room.

Maybe it's the fact that I just finished teaching a psych class, but I had to wonder if it was Freudian. I'd set one box on the step as a visual reminder that it needed to go somewhere else, but when combined with the organizing materials (hanging file folders and now-empty accordion folders) I'd stashed on the other side of the step -- temporarily, of course -- only a footstep's worth of space remained on the step down from the living room to the office.

Did I want to keep my family out of my work space? Of course I did. But had I gone so far as to create a barrier that would discourage them from entering?


My husband and I just had a talk last week about how hard it is to work with constant interruptions, a work-from-home liability I'd all but forgotten about until I foolishly thought I might get something accomplished over Christmas break. We'd even looked for a portable folding screen that I could "close" when I was working on a project that required sustained attention.

In the absence of a door, had I created a physical barrier that made it more difficult for people to actually enter the room to interrupt me?

It appears I had.

While I maintain that my intentions were innocent, I must also admit that I bookmarked several sites that had folding screens I liked. And, I'm not at all shy about admitting that I get quite cranky when my train of thought is interrupted for no apparent reason (e.g. "Whatcha doing?").

That said, I have now been embarrassed into removing said items from the step.

But I have no intention of halting the search for a folding screen.

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