I had a rather successful night at my middle kid’s nursery school silent auction a few weeks ago. Maybe it was the fact that I was straight off the plane from Japan and too disoriented to focus on anything but winning the stuff I wanted. Maybe it was that my husband was in Dubai, so I didn’t get distracted by talking with him. But not only did I win a silver B. Makowsky handbag that I love — for half off retail, with the money going to my kid’s school! — I also scored a photography package, tables and chairs my kids use, and 76ers tickets.
And, more importantly for the purposes of this post, I won an organizing session with Lauren Sullivan, owner of Square One Organizing. I asked her to come look at my home office, and tell me what I should do differently.
Sullivan had looked me up before hand, and so knew somewhat what to expect (and that she might get written about). Like other organizers have pointed out to me, she could also see that I am not disorganized. My life works pretty well. Yes, there are piles of paper everywhere. There may be something close to 40,000 emails in my inbox. On the other hand, I don’t miss deadlines, and the household organization problems I have tend more toward owning 6 bottles of ketchup, because the ketchup isn’t where it’s supposed to be, and so the household system recognizes it as “out” and buys more. This isn’t efficient, but we earn enough to cover the spread. “You have a lack of structure, but it’s not holding you back, which is awesome,” she said.
Instead, what I was looking for was a better way of coming up with ideas. People mail me lots of books — some of which might have good article ideas in them — and I get about a dozen magazines. We get the Wall Street Journal daily; I often read USA Today. I check out books from the library that sound interesting and then there’s the fascinating nuggets of information I find online, and that wonderful people send me. The organization that is Laura Vanderkam is getting better about having an editorial calendar with fodder scheduled into the future. Nonetheless, I sometimes find myself hiding from editors because I have no idea what I’d write for them.
Sullivan and I discussed that when I can’t see things — if they’re filed — they are dead to me. I once found a package of Sweet Tarts in my desk drawer. I love Sweet Tarts! Clearly I’m the one who put them in there. There are plenty of times I would have loved to have eaten a Sweet Tart in the weeks before my discovery, and there they were, in my desk drawer, and nothing ever got triggered in my brain to remind me where I’d put them.
Her verdict: “You need more table space.” When things are on tables, I can see them. What she suggested? An Idea Desk. Basically, this would be a spot — separate from my work desk — where I would go to think. I’d have little baskets of reading material (so I could take them with me if I wanted to think through things elsewhere). Whenever reading/idea material came in, it would go over to my Idea Desk. And then, at certain points, I’d schedule some time at my Idea Desk.
And hopefully come up with ideas. Any suggestions for what my idea desk should look like? Do you have an idea spot? A thinking chair? I think mine might need some cool, cerebral art over it…or an idea board.
In other news: If you’re looking for a book on organizing a home office, Lorie Marrero, long-time friend of this blog and owner of The Clutter Diet organizing company, has a new book out called The Home Office Handbook, with lots of ideas for making your work life work.
This photo is of my office when it was styled for a photo shoot. It rarely looks like this. The idea desk would be separate from the work desk (pictured).