Clearing the Clutter—Making Space for Creativity

By the time my AU studies wrapped up in April, my office space was a disaster zone.  An explosion of textbooks covered every available surface, mingling with a backlog of books and magazines languishing in to-be-read piles.  Writing projects, research materials, and photography equipment added to the chaos, along with the inevitable piles of filing, newspaper clippings, and to-do lists.

My office space occupies a portion of our guest room.  We don’t often have overnight guests, so the bed becomes extended desk space, piled with work-in-progress and items looking for permanent homes elsewhere.  The bed seldom got cleared off except just before guests arrived.

One such guest arrived early in May.  Since my studies were over, I decided to take the opportunity to really clean out the office/guestroom.

First step was to simply box up anything that was taking up valuable floor, bed, closet, or desk space.  I temporarily stored those boxes in the basement, where they sat untouched for a week.  In the meantime, the newly tidy guestroom got a good cleaning.  I set up temporary desk quarters in another room.

Flash forward to after our guest’s departure.  I looked forward to reclaiming my office space.  However, I liked the room’s newly spartan and spacious look and I was determined not to flood it with the boxes of clutter I’d put in the basement.

Instead of sifting through the boxes that had come out of the office to identify what could or could not return to the office, I began working with just my computer.  Whenever I identified a real lack—a need to have something close at hand—I would go to the basement and retrieve that one item.

Finding essential items in many hastily-packed boxes sometimes become an adventure in itself.  In which box did I pack away library books that are soon due?  Where is my stapler? Envelopes?  Zoom lens?  It’s tempting to unpack the boxes one-by-one and find everything but I’m afraid I’d end up with the same mess I started with.

I apply the same discipline I used during my AU studies by creating self-imposed rules:  nothing goes on the bed or the floor, nothing rests temporarily until a better home is found.  By considering each item individually, indentifying its purpose and assigning it a permanent home, I hope to avoid the shifting detritus of university studies and other projects.

After a few weeks, I plan to go through the remaining packed-away items.  If I haven’t needed them by then, perhaps I don’t need them at all.  Even if we never have another overnight guest, I get to enjoy working in a de-cluttered space.  A sense of order frees the mind—creativity thrives in open spaces.