Things To Do at Time Goes By
Falls Are a Serious Risk to Elders

Messy Work Spaces

Several people have written to say they like the new “Where Elders Blog” feature, but wouldn’t dare show their own because it’s so messy.

Well, my friends, let me tell you a story…

Many years ago, in the mid-1970s to be exact, I shared an office with another producer on a morning television talk show in New York City. When we returned to our office each day at 10AM, after the live program ended, the stack of new mail on our chairs (the mail guy always put it on our chairs) often reached two feet high: new books, magazines, newspapers, various products PR people wanted us to feature on the show, promotional tchotchkes, invitations, and dozens of press releases to wade through.

Most of mine went in the round file, but when a booking was made as a result of one of these mailings, I saved the press release in a neatly-labeled folder on my desk so that when the time came to write the segment, I would have the facts at my fingertips.

My officemate, Tom, on the other hand, never threw out anything. Months of detritus was thrown helter-skelter onto the bookshelves on his side of our office, in piles on the floor around his feet with more in a jumbled mountain of paper on his desk that only grew taller over time; it never got smaller.

There was so much stuff on Tom’s side of the room, so disordered and chaotic that to look at it messed with my mind. It was so hard to think I had Tom help me move my desk so that when I was at my typewriter (yes! a typewriter in those days) I wasn’t facing his massive clutter.

Inevitably - because everyone loses things at some time or another - the day arrived when I, on deadline, trying to write an introduction to a guest for the next day's show, couldn’t find the folder with my notes, the press release and other information. I tore my desk apart, searched through my files, shelves and drawers. No folder. No information anywhere. No way to write the intro.

As a last resort and not really imagining Tom could possibly help, I asked if he had the press release about – well, whatever it was.

Tom plowed through the tangle of paper on his desk and in under 15 seconds said, “Here it is,” as he handed it to me.

I was stunned. It couldn’t be anything but a fluke, right? So I tested him. Did he have a certain book? He pulled it out of the middle of stack next to him. What about that hockey puck some PR person sent to promote god knows what. “Sure, right here,” said Tom as he snagged it off a shelf.

His side of our office always looked like a hurricane had blown through, but Tom knew where every piece of paper was and could always retrieve whatever he needed when the time came.

Since then, I’ve known other people like Tom. However disorganized their space, they have a different kind of file system in their heads than I do and they know exactly where everything is.

Of course, there are plenty of others who are messy and can’t find anything. In the end, we each do these things differently and one way isn’t necessarily better or more efficient than another.

I am reminded of one of my favorite posts from Frank Paynter of listics which he wrote a couple of years ago when his blog was still called Sandhill Trek:

“It seems to me like the chaotic distribution of my footwear across the house when I return after a day's absence may have certain algorithmic properties that only an Australian Shepherd is capable of getting its teeth into…

“Oddly, I am sure the dog doesn't think the distribution of shoes is messy, but rather that it has order and beauty best appreciated by creatures closer to the floor than the housemonkeys that provide the food and water.”

So go ahead and send in that photo of your messy blogging place - think of it as a better filing system with an order and beauty all its own.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Temiz tells of a month-long, annual ritual in Turkey that could give you a real headache in Ramazan Drummer.]

Comments

I'm of the...."look, I'm right at home," school of thinking when I see a messy desk. Too neat, and I don't think it is ever used. Too messy, and I am like you in that it messes with my mind. But I like the used desk look. I admit that it can become overwhelming, and that's when I bulldoze it off. Until then, I'm a comfortable soul.

So please, send your pictures.

My problem is, I tend to be like Tom when mail comes in and save stuff like 'that catalog with the lovely top that I may order someday'. The pile of 'maybe someday' gets higher in the basket until I go on a clean up streak. When that day arrives I get super organized and refile everything. After that I can never find anything when I need it.

The surest way for me to lose something is to put it in a logical place where I will know right where to find it.

My problem is, I tend to be like Tom when mail comes in and save stuff like 'that catalog with the lovely top that I may order someday'. The pile of 'maybe someday' gets higher in the basket until I go on a clean up streak. When that day arrives I get super organized and refile everything. After that I can never find anything when I need it.

The surest way for me to lose something is to put it in a logical place where I will know right where to find it.

Some of us just need an assistant. My secretary used to warn me not to touch any of the files. If I wanted something, she would get it for me; if I had something, she would file it for me. She was one sharp cooky. My desk/office is always a mess and I know not where anything is! I waste far too much of my time searching for things. [Has anyone seen my passport--last seen in October 2005?????]

I can find anything in my house in less than five minutes.

And yes, it looks messy.

The fun part is, I can find my kids' or husband's stuff in less than five minutes. It's great whenever they lose something and I bet them I can find it. ;^)

I do sort my mail right over the circular file, though, and most of it goes there. And we have the one red bill folder where anything to be paid or that we don't want lost goes.

My kids have been known to comment when walking into a new acquaintance's perfectly neat, apparently paper-free home, "Where are the books? Don't you read?"

That is so true! My husband is a very organised person but is always losing things. I claim that he couldn't find his backside with both hands and that is why he HAS to be organised and tidy. I on the other hand am not quite so organised but I rarely lose things.

A very compassionate blog post today, Ronni! Ha.

My husband and I are both rather tidy (but not fanatical) by nature, which is quite handy since neither of us could be comfortable otherwise. Putting things back where we got them is also handy as we get older and forget things. :)

We have friends of both stripes. Some who are fanatically clean and tidy – and sorry, but I’m sorta uncomfortable being in their homes. Some who are so messy I feel compelled to clean before I use their bathroom or sit on their couch. Good people, all.

Ronni, I absolutely love this photo idea for your blog!
I'm so curious about everyone's workspace -- that's probably the reason I became a professional organizer. ;-)
When my first book came out, I was asked to organize the one-room office of the 7 producers of what was at that time Regis and Kathie Lee. All I can say is that my hat goes off to all TV production people. I don't know how you manage to stay on top of all the stuff that crosses your desk.

OK. Mine is in the mail. It's not just messy. It's dirty. You can see that I haven't vacuumed for a long time. I could have cropped the floor but that would have meant cropping out Molly and then it wouldn't have been my workspace.

There are no coincidences. I just happened on your post as I work to clear clutter in my workspace and indeed, in my entire house. Newly retired and filled with a strong urge to sort, rearrange and toss stuff out to the universe. To lessen the paper coming into my house, I even stopped newspaper subscriptions for a while and read on line. Found that i still don't have control of all my piles and sure did miss the papers.

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