Vanessa's Desk Project: Part 1 – The Problem

Vanessa's Desk Project: Part 1 – The Problem

Gregory Han
Feb 16, 2011

You know how it's only when addicts plummet to the bottom that they can begin to rebuild their lives? So it goes with my home office. Which I, over the next many weeks, hope to transform into a beautiful, functioning workspace where thoughts will soar and inspiration will flow in like a spring breeze.

Some  I live in a delightful two-bedroom 1947 condo in Southern California with my über-supportive and well-meaning husband, Steve. We are not terrifically messy people, but we're not completely compulsive either. What the architect intended to be a dining room is my workspace, open for all to see. There's a desk and several bookshelves. And in an attempt to be organized, I have purchased many holdy-things: snappy cardboard boxes in attractive colors and prints, a file rack that goes on the wall, desk organizers and under-desk storage.

I thought it was a genius move to commandeer a cedar hope chest as a filing cabinet and stick one of those press-on lights to the inside of the lid, but I have not opened it since I tucked away papers I apparently can't live without two months ago. Steve tried to put up a shelf but ended up with a precarious installation that seems like it's trying with all its might to escape the wall and go back to Ikea. There is a lot of glue where I think screws are supposed to go.

I think I may have all the tools for effective organization, but there is a user-error issue here. My office is where I write magazine stories and work on my blog. There is always an impending avalanche of paper. My tax guy told me to save all my receipts, but I honestly do not think that the IRS cares that I spent $26.29 on sheep's milk gouda, Valrhona chocolate and lavender-scented laundry detergent at Trader Joe's.  My desk is covered with menus and brochures from travel story research, "inspiration" pages torn from magazines, photos that are not important enough to frame but too dear to toss, mortgage re-fi paperwork, postcards from the vet reminding me that my dog is due for a dental cleaning – you get the idea. Pretty much everything.

Once I hired a woman to help me organize my office, and after her two-hour show of folding and tossing and filing, I thought, "Well that was easy enough. I didn't need to pay anyone, I could have done that." And then everything went to hell the next week.

The issue is that I need a system. I need to know what to do with each piece of paper, each electronic accoutrement, each business card and bank errata that passes my way.

How do you do stay clear and organized in your workspace so that you can actually produce? Welcoming all suggestions, and I thank you in advance.

Originally published at Lifework by Vanessa McGrady

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