My office/workspace is in desperate need of cleaning, so I thought I'd write about it. I have had this workspace for about two months, and already it looks like a hoarder's warehouse. But, what about that? I've written about hoarding before. It was mostly about a friend of mine who took it to the level of art, but now I'm looking at my reflection in the glass of those prints I had made and wondering...
I suppose for a moment I could toss aside the much-used word, 'hoard'. Perhaps what I'm looking at is just a mess. Perhaps I'm not a hoarder, just a slob. I'm relatively certain that there is space to store all of this neatly; I simply haven't done it. That was my plan today, except that it got derailed by my desire to take pictures of it and write about it. (This really isn't ONLY a way to avoid cleaning.)
And then there's the harsh word, 'slob'. I am fond of it since hearing Kory Stamper (author of one of the books in this picture) use it in a Merriam Webster Ask the Editor video on the plural of Octopus. (Fun fact; Kory wrote on Twitter that in doing the audiobook of Word by Word she discovered that she cannot pronounce "some slob".) Maybe I'm not a slob after all. Maybe this is how creative minds work. I explored that idea before, and I'm here to defend it again. But, this time it's personal.
The way I see it, there are two main reactions to the pictures I've posted. Some people could have a mixture of both, but most people I know would probably have a very strong reaction in the direction or the other.
First reaction: Horror. Disgust. Urge to clean. Make it go away. Stop.
There is a lot to be said for keeping things tidy. It helps the mind be calm, it makes you feel comfortable. It brings peace. My friend, Tamara, is the queen of this. "There is a place for everything, and just keep everything in its place. Then you're done." It's true. When I visit her home it's calming, it's beautiful, it's peaceful and she seems happy. So, she'd probably want my workspace to be cleaned immediately, before doing anything else. With good reason. I could be much more productive if I could find the countertop, rather than forever shifting stuff this way and that.
Second reaction: Wonder. Wow. Curiosity. Intrigue. Creative spark.
This describes me more than the first, but mostly when it comes to other people's spaces. So, let me break this into two parts: My Mess and Other People's Messes. I will say, though, that the idea behind this one is not the mess, per se, but the collection of stuff – the tendency to hoard pretty things.
Other people's hoarding: This is magic. This is me when I was very young – before-school young – and we lived in a house that had a shack on it, a shack full of trinkets and knickknacks. I'd sneak in there and look in wonder at the things on the shelves, and think about what else could be in the boxes. It was stolen time; I wasn't supposed to go in there, which made it that much more intriguing. More recently we helped my dear friend, Richella, clean her studio because she was too sick to do it herself. We had very little time to do it in, and so much to clean, but everywhere around me were antique door knobs and gemstones, lamps and bottles. Picture frames were put in one area (some of them with pictures still in them) in case she finally got around to taking up painting. She surrounded herself with pretty, fun things and this (in my humble opinion) kept her creativity flowing. When I go to an estate sale there is STUFF. Everywhere there is stuff and I have to look at all of it. The more cluttered the better. This has led to problems in my own home.
My mess: When I walk in and see this I'm mildly disappointed in myself. I know how to keep things clean. I try to live by the adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Other people I know tend more toward the "Out of sight, out of mind" method of cleaning, but it makes me crazy if I can't find what I'm looking for when I know where it's supposed to be. Still, I enjoy seeing the tiles that I've been working on. I see the foam backing and I am reminded of the project that I acquired those for. Creativity does begin to kick in, even if it is just my own humdrum things that I've already seen.
There is also the question of what specifically it is I'm seeing. If I'm looking at a workspace full of trash that needs to be taken to the dumpster, but it's been raining for a week and the dumpster is full and I don't have shoes on and I just don't want to do it, that's one thing. But, if I see tiles that I've worked on, and blank tiles next to them – that sparks creativity. Paint and paint brushes pull me in, as does paper. Books are happy to look at anywhere. I will grant you that I still believe these things should be in their proper place, but seeing this sort of mess is different than just seeing dirty clothes, dishes or other such horrors.
I love to see other people's artwork. In these pictures I have small plates by an incredibly talented ceramic artist named Kym Owens and a galaxy pendant by Eric Mort. These should have places to be displayed, and they will eventually. But, when I see them in this clutter, there is a spark of happy inside my reaction.
One thing about all of this stuff is the effect it has on a person's state of mind. When I walk into my bedroom I see the things I'm looking for – the dresser, the bed, the sofa. I tune out the cloths on the floor, the books stacked on the dresser, the things stuck into the visible nook of the antique armoir. All of that tuning out takes work and after a while it can wear you down. How much nicer to walk into a neat room with everything dusted and orderly. How much more peaceful that is. It's probably the key thing to making a space into a home. I've just never been terribly good at it.
In my life I think there is a healthy tension between the need to be tidy and the creative wonder of things. At work I tend to be more orderly, mostly because there are others around who see it and I want to make an impression. At home the struggle is real and constant. Like Richella, if I had 10,000 square feet, I would have a 10,000 square foot mess given 6 months. So, now I shall clean. I just wanted to take a moment and put down – again – the benefits of seeing stuff. This has been interesting, but my mind is tired of seeing all of it. I need an orderly desk and workspace.
Thank you for reading.