Office 1:The Floor

I tried to start cleaning an hour and a half ago, but then I got distracted and ended up IMing with Heidi about small, tacky amusement parks which is research for a book I’m not even sure I’m going to write. So now it’s ten o’clock but I only have to do this for fifteen minutes so PLENTY of time. In fact, I could go get a Diet Coke . . . no, no, fifteen minutes.

And tonight we’re doing the floor. It seems basic. Foundational. It looks like this:


Well, that’s part of it. There’s also this:


And there’s more but the office is small and I can’t get much distance with the camera.

The first thing I’m noticing is that I’m transferring a lot of stuff to other places. The mob books and mystery criticism to the first floor with the rest of the books-that-are-leaving. The big box of shells into the studio. The trash into the garbage. I found out I have five wastebaskets in an office that’s about eight by twelve. Clearly, my heart was in the right place. But after taking out all of that, there’s still a lot of Stuff. So to work.

Half an hour later . . .

So I kept going for a full thirty minutes and it’s clear there will be a Floor Part Two and a Floor Part Three. The biggest things I learned:

I must stop tearing things out of magazines. I’m never going to make those recipes and the other stuff probably won’t work in any collage I’m going to do anyway. So I threw away the recipes and stuck the collage pictures in a box because hope springs eternal.

About half the stuff in here doesn’t belong in here. Most of it went to the studio, which is its own disaster area and getting worse now that I’m cleaning the office, but really, why did I have two cans of blackboard spray paint in here? That huge box of shells? All that collage stuff? It’s insane.

I clearly wanted to clean up the place since there were five wastebaskets, but I think one will do.

A small office is a good thing. It cuts down on the urge to find a box to put that in and you just throw it out instead. I do not want more shelves or more boxes. I want fewer things in this office. If I could find that Morgenstern book again, I’d read what she said about areas. I remember that she said that rooms should be organized like a kindergarten room with a different area/station for each activity or focus. I think. Anyway that would work in here if I could just get rid of more freaking STUFF.

But it’s not bad for half an hour. And no half an hour is not cheating. It’s a minimum of fifteen minutes. If the spirit moves me to do more, I can. Actually it wasn’t the spirit so much as how appalled I was at how much stuff didn’t belong in here. And then the spider the size of my fist was a sign I should stop.

So tomorrow: The Floor, Part Two. Sequels already. But I really think the floor is the only thing that’s going to have to be done in multiples. I’m pretty sure. I’ve got two desks, a window seat, a storage wall, a research and brainstorming wall, and a bookcase that really is part of the library. That’s six things and I’ve got twelve days. I can squander two or three of them on the floor. Okay, maybe four.

And here’s where we are now:



One day on those boxes by my desk, and one day on the boxes in the doorway. I have a feeling that’s going to be more than fifteen minutes, too. But the rest will just FLY by.

I’m sure of it.

47 thoughts on “Office 1:The Floor

  1. (OK, I just really wanted to be the first comment. It was fun. )

    Awesome progress. So what if it takes more than Twelve Days. I love reading about it. Maybe I’ll even clear something out of my studio. Maybe.

  2. Okay, I know I’m supposed to focus on the clutter and how well you cleaned it up (which you did, it looks much better), but all I can think about is that box I saw that’s labeled ‘Slow Men’ and ‘You Again’. It gives me hope that you have that box, so please don’t throw it out. I really want to read those books someday. I’m not saying this year or even next year, just someday. Pretty please.

  3. It’s full of mob research and mystery criticism, CH. I have no idea what I had in it when I put those titles in it. It’s by the stairs to the first floor waiting to go down.

    See my nice floor? Well, part of it. Never mind.

  4. ROFLOL, I love your office! When I worked in the Capitol, a friend of mine came by my office and put a sign on top of a pile of papers: A CLEAN DESK IS A SIGN OF AN EMPTY MIND. I always preferred, “A MESSY DESK IS A SIGN OF GENIUS.” More positive that way, don’t you think?

    I have no office. We’ve outgrown our house–kids don’t want to sleep in the living room unless it’s a slumber party, so I had to give up my den for children and SHARE a desk with my neat-freak husband in the living room, who takes my (relatively) organized piles of paper and stacks them on the dining room table. We’re moving in five months and I’ll finally have my own space. A door. With a lock. Maybe two locks because my 6 year old son seems to be good at picking them. And I can pile my paper, books, notes, manuscripts, wherever I want. I can hardly wait.

  5. What’s that thing that looks like a broken tombstone in the first picture? Do we want to know?

    I have one word for you, well, two: storage shed. I have to get my mother’s house cleaned out completely in a few months. That’s three generations of stuff to go through, much of which I could sell on eBay for big bucks – like the 16″ Bauer platter she got for a wedding present. So, no wild throwing away of things. Sorting things, as someone said, into keep/sell, donate, dump, and I dunno. The I dunno and the keep/sell are going into the storage sheds for future reference. That will take the pressure off.

    Yes, we have more than one shed. Doesn’t everyone? When Brad came for a visit, he just stared. Then he turned to me and said, “I feel like I’m in a FEMA encampment.” LOL! I knew it reminded me of something. I’m told they can be moved (when empty). When I’m done with them, they’ll be dispersed to the far reaches of the place and will morph into guest cottages or offices or studios, or something.

    So, there you go. Problem solved. I can’t wait to have a studio, myself. And a library. Heh. I’ve decided that I should open a library, so I can justify keeping all my books. I’m sure there are lots of Cherrie/CBs who’d love to run your library for you, so you could keep all your books, too. /;+)

    Boy, I do blather on.

  6. ok, if you can do it , i suppose i’ll have to…flylady has a website, i truly hadn’t heard of it untill i read about it here. ok…

  7. Great progress for the first day.
    When I start going through boxes, it takes a looooong time since I read every scrap of everything, just to make sure I’m not through away some of my golden words.

    I’ve begun going through my entire apartment (really doesn’t look like your office, but still “Victorian-style clutter”) but I just have so much stuff – most of it given to me – (aside from furniture, TV, books, etc. of course). First to go was a wall of original modern folk art paintings of cats – all given to me by my former BF (easy to take off the wall since he dumped me). All the paintings are part of an auction – proceeds going to a local no-kill shelter. Then I cleared out 14 grocery bags of books – to a library for their used book sale.

    So, JC – you’re not alone. At least you don’t have litter boxes in your office (the only place I could put them in my 2 bedroom apartment).

  8. Way to go Jenny!!! And Girlfriend, did you see your floors?? They are GORGEOUS!

    Although, I see I’m not the only one with the sticky addiction. ๐Ÿ™‚

    But, really, really pretty floors.

    Go You.

  9. Oooooh! Pretty floor.

    And I have the sticky addiction myself. I could probably wallpaper an entire wall with all of the sticky notes that I own. Perhaps there’s a support group? A twelve-step program?

  10. I have a closet that looks like your office. Only worse. I’ll be moving in 8 months. Maybe if I start on it now, all the crap will be cleared out by then.

    Isn’t it satisfying to see results so quickly? Just watch your back with all those boxes.

    Go Jenny!

  11. You and Heidi must have been talking about Des Moines’s very own Adventureland. ๐Ÿ™‚ The only time I went, I was struck by the number of older people that worked there. Every other amusement park I went to almost exclusively employed older teenagers. It struck me as odd, and I wondered if it said anything about Iowa. *shrug*

    Also, the office is looking much better already! You go, Jenny!

  12. Yay!!! I can see the desk … and the floor …

    Because I worked so hard this past weekend at cleaning and organizing my own stuff and getting two rooms painted, I lay on the couch eating icecream, with low cal chocolate syrup just in case you were wondering, and watched re-runs of the Golden Girls and laughed my ass off. Well, hopefully.

  13. Here’s to a job well done! That lovely floor should be inspiration enough to keep you going for a while. You have inspired me to start cleaning out my junk drawers as a show of support. Although I could live without the spider details. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Ok, 15 minutes a day is just NOT enough. especially when you have collage stuff all over. Took like half an hour to clean up just a few inches of my collage stuff yesterday. But hey, congrats on the great start!

  15. Definite signs of progress, and a very handsome floor. I didn’t spend a whole 15 minutes, but I did spend 5 or 10 this morning tossing things from the top of my dresser. Why was I keeping a watch that didn’t work (changing the battery didn’t make it go) AND had a broken band? And a link to a watch that I lost 3 or 4 years ago? Actually, I’m not sure why I’m keeping a link to my current watch, since I trust I will never need to add one, but I decided to keep that, in case the band breaks in such a way that a replacement link is needed.

    And I moved a couple of things from the kitchen to the spare room and the spare room to my bedroom closet (remember, I’m still unpacking from my move; well, maybe not all of you know that, but I moved 2 1/2 weeks ago, just in time to be in Naperville for Jenny’s signing; NO ONE ever came to Syracuse).

  16. Yay! Floor. And what beautiful floor it is. I’m finishing up the reorganization of our basement sometime next week after a trip to IKEA. I’m so glad we don’t have The Container Store in Canada, I wouldn’t be responsible for my purchases. We’d be homeless but we’d be organized.

    Maybe I’m a freak but I always find it liberating to get rid of stuff I don’t need anymore.

    I always move things to the room they belong to and then I have one more room to organize but somehow it works out in the end. Once you get things where they belong it seems they sort themselves out quicker. You can see that you really don’t need to buy more of X because you have twelve half bottles already.

    One of the best organizing tips I’ve ever heard is to figure out what kind of organizer you are and work with that. If you like to put things in piles, get a tray system for your desk and label the trays so you know what’s in each one.

    The lady who had my job before me was like that and I’m not, I like vertical storage, so one of the first things I did was to buy small hanging file holders and expand the filing cabinet system so I could work. She came to visit about a month later and *flipped* because I was messing her stuff up. Ummm, Louise, you don’t work here anymore.

    Think about how great it’s going to feel to need a green 4×6 sticky and know exactly where it is. Or how much fun it will be to mess the office up again, your choice.

  17. Actually, I always know where my stickies are. I have an entire tray of them on the first shelf on the left hand side of my desk. And all my pens are in a tray on the shelf beneath them.

    After that, it gets more difficult.

  18. When I moved from my own 1,200 sq ft flat in Vermont to Stephen’s 320 sq ft house in Calif, I had to store a lot. Nine months later, it is still stored — IN VERMONT. I miss maybe 4 or 5 things. I wish that I had been more vicious in my tossing out, but I have a feeling that I would have thrown the wrong things. Now it is going to be such a great reunion with my stuff — and then I will have to get vicious at tossing the things that I entirely forgot that I had.

  19. Way to go Jenny!

    Thanks for sharing the info yesterday. I read on the site yesterday, signed up, and did my first 15 minutes. (I cheated, I started with a sink, just not my kitchen sink. I did the main bathroom. It is iun the center of the house, has a clean sink, all trash is gone, and the broken shower curtain hook has been replaced.)

    Tonight, I’m going to start with one of those 27 thing blitzes (picking up books and putting them all in one place) – then do 15 minutes of hanging up clothes.

    We can do this – right?

    Quirky local amusement parks. In Tulsa, we had Bells (on the county fairgrounds site) in the middle of town. It was there for 50 years. Carousel, log ride, tilt-a-whirl, ski ball – the works. Just this year, the county decided NOT to renew the lease for the park, and they started dismantling it. It took all summer long. Now, there is a HUGE hole in the middle of town where the ZINGO wooden roller coaster used to reside.

    Wonder if they found anything interesting from the past 50 years as they tore it all down?

    Good day all.

  20. Been lurking here forever but your photos have inspired me to post – so I can share the sad, shameful fact that they make me want to beg you to let me come and organize this room for you. Undoubtedly, there is some twisted gene within me that accounts for the fact that while I’m looking at the pics, I am mentally sorting, storing, and organizing and enjoying it way too much. Also enjoyed the “Slow Men” box – wish I had put a few I’ve known into one. LOVED ATHM and am re-reading only days later. I enjoyed DLD but have to say that it seems you have hit your stride on Agnes as the collaboration appeared to be seamless – it felt like one voice, one person – not two perspectives. Good luck on the reorg, but if it doesn’t happen, don’t fret. Even though I ruthlessly clean mine regularly, it always returns to this in short order when the creative muse strikes.

  21. Glad to see I’m not the only one in this situation. You’re inspiring me to do my 15 minutes tonight. Although last week it took 20 minutes to bag up all the newspapers I don’t read that get delivered anyway. I need to cancel that subscription…

  22. You’re right – Morgenstern has her kindergarten model, different zones/areas for each activity, and keep ’em simple. Sort of like ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’.

    And to create the areas based on your reality, and not on where you “think” it should be. So, if you go through mail or do the bills at your kitchen table, then don’t create a bills/mail space in your office, create it near your kitchen table. That sort of thing. And then the “stuff” associated with a particular activity has a home.

    I’m typing on memory, so I may be off. But, it really struck a chord in me when I first heard about it, and has stayed with me for years. She said many times the clutter builds up only because we haven’t created a good home for it, rather than lazy/bad habits (though that’s suspiciously PR-ish, to not make us feel bad !).

    I have her organizing book, and the one on time-management. I also have her organizing video. Hope you find your book!

  23. Courtney said…
    “And I have the sticky addiction myself. I could probably wallpaper an entire wall with all of the sticky notes that I own. Perhaps thereโ€™s a support group? A twelve-step program?”

    Hey, don’t knock the stickies. I organized all the quotes and notes on my Master’s thesis by pasting them along one long wall in my living room. Move on to the next section, go pull down the appropriate batch of stickies. Worked really well. The low tech solution. I had HyperCard, but it was more trouble than I wanted to take. Does that give you a clue as to how old I am. Yikes.

  24. This is actually very inspiring. I must go home and do at least 15 minutes. Its going to take me longer than 12 days though as my whole place is worse than that.

    Oh well.

  25. Sorry for the duplicate post but I wandered away and then had to come back to share two more thoughts.

    1) If you’re getting rid of lots of stuff, you could always do a random act of kindness (RAK) for your blog where you give stuff away to your loyal readers


    2) You could also use the stuff you’re getting rid of as doorprizes at your lectures, signings, etc.

    Just a thought! Keep organizing! Can’t wait to see what you did with your 15 minutes tonight:-)

  26. see, i normally start from the top and work my way down…

    guess that’s a plan i can follow for more than cleaning, *snort* (i have such a dirty mind)

    but i always do floors last

    Good Luck

  27. Um Jenny – can I come over and organize your office? You did a fine job, but you can call me Monica. You know, from friends. Seriously. I’m a freak when it comes to my office space. Or space in general. And my DH’s office (which is in the house). I drive him nuts with the constant “organizing”. He leaves one peice of paper out – I’m on it.

    We used to make fun of my mother because you could walk into her living room, move a lamp like an inch and then when she’d walk into the room she would move it back. My family does that to me now just for shits and giggles.

    I love your hardwod floors!

    CONGRATS! On AGNES AND THE HITMAN hitting number 24 on the Times List! That is so awesome!

  28. GP’s Theory of Why We Have Messes: We don’t have somewhere appropriate to put something away properly. So we stack and stack, and the stack slides over, etc.

    So check out what junk is really junk and throw it away. The non-junk? What kind of place (drawer, shelf, cabinet, closet) should it have been put if you could wave a wand and wish?

    Write down your wish list and go buy it.

  29. I’m not sure I get the point. Doesn’t everyone’s study look like that? The only thing that strikes me is that there doesn’t seem to be much dust at all. Also, none of the files and papers are curling and yellowed at the edges because they have been there for 35 years. None of them looks a day over 5 years old. I am really impressed by the tidiness, organisation, and lack of dust. A model study, I should say.


  30. I am a total office supply whore- then there is the added issue that apparently when faced with a print item when in doubt what to do I make a couple of copies and distribute them around my office. sigh.

    Must purge office….

  31. AgTigress is right. That office looks good.
    My office is one rocking chair and this macbook.
    Now JenT AND her DH both have offices at home? Sheesh!

    Slinking back to hovel, sniffling softly.

    Good floors, too.

  32. Cleaning! I’m doing the same thing, only I’m packing instead. I move at the end of the month, so hopefully if I spend a few minutes each day when I have to move it won’t kill me.

    As to the collage stuff, one of my college professors had us do a design book. Basically, we cut stuff out of magazines and newspapers. Then put them into one of those big binders, so we could look at them later and get design ideas. The idea was a book for ideas for each theatre production, but you could do the same thing with collage stuff you like. And then later, you can find it easier. Although I often found the hardest part was getting it from the pile into the book. But it’s an idea for increased organization.

    But looking good! Those are nice floors. And if you keep this up, you’ll be done in no time ๐Ÿ˜€

  33. As others have said, I’m inspired.
    15 minutes a day – I might actually be able to do that!

    I showed my sister the office photos (because it bares more than a passing resemblance to our respective studies) and she spent a good 10 minutes drooling over your floors (she has a thing for polished wood).

    Fight the good fight, Jenny *g*

    – Oh, and I keep meaning to ask, how did the TimTams go?

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