The messy desk

Old photo taken in June, during a particularly messy phase

I spend a lot of time at my desk. A lot. I communicate here, organize several aspects of my life here, surf the internet, write, pay the bills, process photos, create things, and yes, I occasionally do actual work here. From home, lucky me.

The problem is that this space gets so MESSY! Piles of “stuff” accrue like flies on a cowpie and suddenly I’m pushing debris out of the way so I can have just a few inches of space to move my mouse, or write one more post-it note. Sometimes there are plates or glasses that linger here, dried food and crumbs half hidden by my monitor. Sometimes a pile of library books obscures one of the surviving plants and I’ll barely notice it gasping for water just in time. It is a constant struggle. And honestly, I LOVE when my desk is clean, it just takes so much time. Not surprisingly I usually try to ignore it until there is nothing left but chaos, but even then the thought of cleaning it fills me with such dread that I simply leave it for another day. Or month.

What is weird is that I’ve kept every other desk I’ve had (where I’ve worked out of the home) neat and organized. Just not this one.

Right now, it is almost clean. I’ve been trying all day to finish the job, but it gets really hard with the last odds and ends. The two spools of thread, the pin cushion, the crazy glue, ear plugs, mittens, copy of Saveur, an old camera battery, bobby pins, empty glass of milk, waldorf lantern, water bottle, camera, connector cord, several pieces of jewelry, a sanitary pad, postcard about an art exhibit I’d like to submit to, my wallet, the business checkbook, a piece of wasps nest, sections off a greeting card to reuse, a Wet Ones packet, an oak leaf, pattern pieces, reciepts, paperwork… all this and more – and this is after I’ve cleaned up 99.5% of the desk.

So, why am I writing this? Just to procrastinate more, I guess. Or to guilt myself into completing the task. I know its pitiful. But now that I’ve gotten this far, and said this much, I know I need to finish, if just to keep a shred of self-respect. Right now. I’m putting the computer to sleep and not turning it back on until my desk is clean.

Thirty minutes later… Success!


Ode to our home office (or, yay IKEA!)

What my corner of the office looks like when it’s neat.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about our office space. Not that I think this small room is particularly great in any way. However, when it’s tidy and not too strewn with supplies or works-in-progress, it is decently comfortable and serviceable for two people sitting in desk chairs less than two feet apart.

The first thing I’ll say is IKEA. Over the past 5+ years, we’ve slowly rotated out ugly, semi-useless, and cheap office furniture and replaced it with good-looking, functional and affordable IKEA pieces. The only remainder from that bygone era is David’s ugly, stained, worn-out, circa 1998 Office Depot chair. I don’t know why he won’t replace it. Well, actually he did buy a new one once. He gave me that old one, and used the newer one for a while until he spilled coffee on it, which ended up suspiciously looking like a large urine stain. So disgusting. Eventually, I got fed up and purchased a white IKEA Jules Swivel Chair just so I could throw it out. I like the Jules chair fine, but David doesn’t because he says it’s too hard and has no armrests. Boo hoo.

IKEA items in our office (left to right, top to bottom): Helmer drawer unit, Jules swivel chair,
Handklaver pendant lamp, Expedit bookcase with optional Lekman boxes, Antifoni work lamp,
Salma storage boxes, Erik file cabinet, Galant drawer unit and Kila work lamp.

Basically, our IKEA office consists of these things: two modular Vika Amon desks that butt up against each other on one side of the room (straight for David, slightly curved corner-style desk for me), a wall-sized Expedit bookcase (with 6 Lekman storage box/drawers), a Galant drawer unit, a Helmer drawer unit, and three sets of Effecktiv wall cabinets with doors. Most everything is either birch or white. If we had more space, I would be all over getting an Alex drawer unit perfect for stacks of specialty papers, notions, and general easy-to-see-and-access storage. Instead we use a much smaller flat file organizer from Staples that fits in the closet along with the many Salma clear plastic boxes with lids that hold everything from inspiration and paper sample books to old portfolio pieces and ribbons. Now that I think of it, all of our lighting is IKEA, too: my Antifoni work lamp, David’s Kila work lamp, a Tarby ceiling lamp, and a Handklaver pendant lamp in the corner that we bought as a wedding decoration and never used. Even our old dark blue Vinde rug is IKEA, and matches the two dark blue and two light blue walls of the room. Where else can you find a decent rug for so cheap?

All of these pieces work really well for us. The only problem, especially for me, is taking the time to neaten up my work space and put away my tools every once in a while.

Some Things I’ve Learned

  • Higher wall space is too often overlooked as usable storage space.
  • Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and make a purchase that will outweigh its initial cost by providing long term organization and clutter control.
  • Prioritizing and purchasing individual pieces over time is much more affordable than overhauling a whole room at once. We bought some of these pieces back in college. The good thing about Ikea is that it is easier to match other items later because their styles and colors are pretty standard.
  • Consider buying a few of the additional organizational items, like the Lekman boxes that fit perfectly with the Expedit bookcase, or plastic drawer dividers for filing cabinets to help keep things organized.
  • Don’t overlook lighting. Overhead lighting is important, but individual space lighting comes in handy, especially if it can be repositioned for each job.
  • IKEA furniture alone can look sort of bland, but it is easy to jazz up the space with a colorful rug, complementary wall paint, nice curtains, wall art and/or some easy-care plants.

I should note here, that most of these furniture ideas came from David. He does a really good job of organizing space and choosing the right tools to do it properly. I think part of that skill he got from his mom and part of it from a stint at Pottery Barn many years back. Sometimes it takes him a while to talk me into getting new furniture, like the Effective wall cabinets. I didn’t want to spend the money (despite their comparative affordability) and I didn’t think I’d like the idea of cabinets looming over our desks. However, we were in serious need of more accessible storage. He eventually wore me down and now I’m glad for that extra hidden space.

Now he’s trying to talk me into re-doing the back wall of our laundry room.

We’ll see, honey.

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