My name is Susan, and I have a very messy desk.
I’m hoping that out there is a chorus of people shouting “Hi, Susan,” in recognition, solidarity, and non-judgment. Though I’m sure some looking at the actual, real-life photo of my desk that accompanies this post are recoiling in horror.
The inability to maintain workspace order is a lifelong condition. When I’m working, whether on a fifth-grade book report, a grad school thesis, or a mystery novel, silently, unknowingly, unintentionally, I begin piling up detritus, until my desk appears as it does now, in the throes of writing the ninth book in the Leah Nash series, Dangerous Deception. At this point my work area includes but is not limited to:
• A reference book for the writing software I use, sitting on my printer
• An oversize mug for water
• Colored markers
• My phone
• A cup full of pencils
• A small cactus
• A file stand filled with folders I want quick access to
• A family photo
• An empty can of sparkling water
• A stapler
• A stack of notebooks, reference books, and reading books
• Lots of sticky notes
• Reading glasses
• A discarded sweater
• A pile of yet more papers
However, there comes a point in each messy desk growth cycle when the scales tip, and my need to hold that thought, capture that phrase, or finish that chapter is outweighed by my need to find my cell phone, locate a hastily scrawled message, or retrieve a lost earring. At that juncture, I regroup and declutter by tossing, filing, discarding and/or returning to their proper places all the leavings I’ve deposited, and reclaim my workspace, restoring it to a place of order instead of chaos.
I always intend for it to stay that way, but it never does.
I have finally come to accept that there is something in me that doesn’t love a clean desk, and sets about littering it with notebooks, pens, books, manila folders, and piles of paper and doesn’t stop until it once again resembles a hoarder’s paradise. But I take some solace in Carl Jung’s observation, “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”
So, to all those who shut every drawer they open, re-file every document they review, discard every used item in its proper receptacle, and sit down to a well-organized workspace every day—I salute you. But I am not one of you, nor, I fear, will I ever be.