“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
We have a clean desk policy at the company where I work. It's a high tech industry where protection of company confidential information is treated extremely seriously. Security come round on a regular basis and check whether paperwork or laptops etc are left out, or any drawers are unlocked, and note the names of offenders, who then have to go undergo the shame of a big sticky note on their desk and a trip to security to collect the property in question. Together with working in an environment where pretty much everything has been as paperless as possible for as long as I can remember, I'm therefore used to a clean and decluttered working environment.
I mention this because you probably would not believe it if you saw my home office. The problem is not work clutter, but personal untidiness. You see, my biggest Achilles heel is:
I can run a multi-national department of 70-odd people. I can deal with multi-million-dollar issues needing resolution, I can deal with an email influx of tens per hour, but ask me whether to keep or bin an old piece of paper, and I'm completely lost.
I dread it more than anything else. Even thinking about it fills me with dread, and the knock of the postman can bring me out in a cold sweat as I glimpse more potential things needing to be dealt with and filed. I can just about cope with paying bills, but once the immediate urgency of that is completed the responding piece of paper floats around my office mocking me and my general uselessness.
I've tried to combat it with more paper, and more lists. I've printed checklists, I have organisers and I've bought box files. Yet still the paperwork mountain evades me.
This weekend, my husband declared enough was enough. For three hours he sifted through the piles of paper on my office floor - sifting, filing, shredding and even opening unopened statements from 2008. The pile has now gone, and a weight has been lifted, for which I will forever be eternally grateful to him.
Since then I've tried to deal with each piece of mail as it has come in- two days in and it's not looking too bad. I'm taking it a day at a time, but I'm still searching for my 12-step programme...