A clean desk is the sign of a what?

Since it’s the end of the year and even more precisely, the end of a decade, I have been taking the time here at work to do a bit of housecleaning.  Or deskcleaning I guess it is.  (and incidentally, did you catch that?  Still blogging from work.  Santa clearly did not get the memo about the adorable netbook I so desperately need)  So where was I?  Yes, deskcleaning.  I am a fairly organized person, but when it comes to my desk, I seem to have trouble.  Sometimes it’s not entirely my fault.  People give me things.  Articles, pieces of paper, drafts of patient education materials, handbooks.  For the most part I manage to file things accordingly or give them back to their owners when possible, but every so often, shit gets away from me and I wind up with stacks of paper and other stuff that I just can’t seem to clear.  So yesterday and today I have been spending a good chunk of quality time with the surface of my desk; clearing, filing, dusting (omg ewww…), wiping surfaces with lovely Method French Lavender-scented wipes (I am totally serious), and just generally getting the place shipshape in time for the new year.  And I have to admit that I am loving it, and am going to do my best to keep it this way for the entire year.  Ahaha – no really.

When I was doing my library skooling, I did a placement at a special library.  Which is, for those of you who aren’t hip to the ‘brary-speak, a library that is part of an organization or company, as opposed to a public, school, academic, etc. library.  So not special as in “awww, special!” just, you know, specialIZED.  Or something.  Anyway, I was working there for about a month, and was paired with a lovely woman in cataloguing who was rather eccentric in the best possible ways.  She was very smart, had an amazing sense of style which had nothing to do with the 20th century, and she was extremely good at helping me understand subject cataloguing.  Which is pretty awesome because while I have mad library skillz, they do not lie in the cataloguing.  But, by the time I was finished with this placement, I had actually grown to enjoy it.  And even considered applying for cataloguing jobs.  Yeah, she was that good.

The one thing I remember most about her was her desk.  It was always clean.  Not during work hours, where she’d have zillions of books and papers on it in order to do her job, but at the end of every day she would straighten and organize and only then would she shut off her computer and make her way home.  This fascinated me to no end.  And not only would her desk be clean, but she had the habit of lining up her pencils and pens (she only ever had one or two on the go at any time) vertically in the centre of the desk, in preparation for the next day.  The whole process was so zen, so ritualized.  And do you know what happened?  By the end of my time there, I was doing the exact same thing.  Clearing things away, straightening, EVEN LINING UP MY PENS.  And each morning I came back in to work I felt this sense of calm, as the quiet writing tools greeted me, grounding me and allowing me to get right down to business.

So, what happened?  Why have I lost that sense of order? 

Have you ever had a job where you had to look busy all the time?  Even if you’re checking the movie listings online or reading blogs or whatever because you really have nothing to do, even after you’ve asked for stuff to do?  I spent many years in jobs like that, and it seemed that the more files you had on your desk, the more journals that were open to interesting (and work-related) articles, the more pieces of paper that were stacked up around you meant that you were working hard and were busy.  Those kind of jobs?  Are soul-sucking and I have had more than my share.  But now, I am in a fantastic job where I am busy most of the time and if I’m not, it’s ok to take an extended lunch or read a couple of blogs.  It’s real grown-up work, and the only reason I have a fortress of paper around me now is that it’s become habit.  So what better way to start the new year than to make a fresh start, to file the articles, put away the journals and shred the papers that need to be shredded.  And, of course, make a resolution to never let it get that bad again.  So now, the old “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind” quote?  Does not apply.  Think of the calming properties of a clean desk, think of arriving in the morning to a desk with nothing staring at you, nothing commanding you to get right to work on this or that project before you have even taken off your coat.  Feels pretty damned good to me.

Lining up your pencils is optional.

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