by Beth Bracale
I pushed the stuff on the kitchen table aside so I could set down my bowl of cereal.
My friend, Marni, looked at the table, then up at me. She frowned. “How can you eat with all that junk piled up around you?”
First of all, there were no piles. Just a few things strewn around that had nothing to do with me eating my breakfast. Secondly, but more importantly, I had already poured the milk into my bowl. Tidying up would mean soggy cereal. Housekeeping could wait.
Marni’s glaring didn’t let up, so after breakfast, I cleared off the table. When I set my bowl of soup on the table at lunchtime, there was even a little vase of flowers in front of me to enjoy. I had to admit, lunch was much more pleasant than breakfast. Partly because Marni wasn’t glaring at me, but mostly because of the restful ambiance I created by clearing off the table.
I’ve also found that I work better if I clear away any clutter on and around my desk. I feel lighter, more focused, and less anxious. There are critics who would say cleaning is procrastinating, that writing is the important task, not decluttering. However, I know that I’m going to write better material, and more of it, if I feel organized and have room to spread out. The trick is keeping up with the continually accumulating post-it notes, letters, bills – and yes, the cat hair and curled up plant leaves – so all it takes is a quick tidy, not a Massive Undertaking.
“What if,” you ask, “my work area has already reached the MU (Massive Undertaking) stage?” There’s nothing for it but to dig in and clear it out. (Unless you have a magic wand, but would you be reading this if you did?) Think of how powerful and accomplished you’ll feel when it’s done. Envision knowing where all your tools are, and not because they’re crunching under your feet. Imagine how freely your creative endeavors will flow when you have room to work on them because everything is in its place.
Rule #1: Don’t think about it too much. You’ll wear yourself out before you even get started.
Rule #2: Divide the work into chunks. If you look at the Big Picture – the entire mess all at once – you risk inertia and depression setting in which lead to being glued to the couch. Right now, while your whatsit is up off the sofa, just do one thing. When that’s done, do one more thing. Before you know it – Voila! – it’s all done!
Rule #3: Stay focused. Don’t fall for the devilish suggestion that you should clean the basement first. Now that would be procrastination! Clean your work area only. Save the basement for the weekend, or when you need an excuse to avoid your nit-picking Aunt Griselda.