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What does your desk say about you?

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Once upon a time, I had a desk in an office outside of my home. And it was always messy.

No matter how pristine it was when I first sat down at it, within a few weeks it was cluttered with papers and strewn with pens. When I first started doing layout for a large, metropolitan newspaper, the company was still using actual pieces of paper and pens to sketch out the pages, so my ability to generate clutter was on overdrive. But even when we switched to those new-fangled computer things—with massive tube-filled monitors that took up most of the desk space—I merely transferred my clutter to the walls and called it “decor.”

My workspace at home has always had something on the walls, too. When I was in high school, the wall above my desk was festooned with note cards bearing inspirational quotes. When I went to college, I kept photos of friends and family in view of my books and files and folders, and added a calligraphy copy of The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann and pictures of the Earth as seen from the Moon and, as the years progressed, sticky notes and to-do list and whimsical pictures that struck a chord with me.

After 20 years of desks in offices, I work from home now (when I’m not traveling), and I’ve recently reclaimed my home office. It had become the nursery when my youngest children were born, and will be a guest room when our house is full of big kids and grandparents and extended family during the summers, but for now, I’m slowly adding to the “decor.” There are framed newspaper front pages declaring “War” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec. 7, 1941) and “Peace” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 15, 1945) above my desk, which holds two laptops, a cell phone, a land-line, a printer, and a small set of shallow drawers and… that’s it, so far. Oh, and a cup of coffee. But I’m sure that the clutter will find it’s way back in soon.

So, what does my desk say about me? I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess that it’s a reflection of my multitasking superpowers, the fact that I’m in the media, that I live on caffeine, and that, given my cluttered track record, I haven’t been in this particular home office for very long yet.

What does your workspace look like? What do you think it says about you?



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3 comments so far...

  • My desk is the kitchen table, which is exactly as problematic as it sounds, especially since I’m the type of person who tends to forget about things if they’re not staring right at me, hence papers and postcards and odds and ends all over the place. Since we eat at the kitchen table but I can’t sweep everything clear each night, we end up putting our plates on top of my clutter, which is…not good. What does this say about me? That I need a new organization system, I think!

    agirlandaboy  |  June 3rd, 2011 at 2:03 pm

  • It depends on what day it is! Normally I like to keep clutter to a minimum. Otherwise it distracts me. So when things are relatively normal, my spaces - work and otherwise - are so neat, it makes people think I don’t have enough work to do, LOL. But when I am super busy, I just pile papers on top of papers. Somehow when the work is most urgent, I don’t get easily distracted by what’s happening around me.

    Long ago, I used to do the “sticky note” thing. One day I just got sick of seeing the dang things everywhere, and I got rid of them. I use calendar notes and my inbox to remind me what I need to do. I also don’t print anything unless I really need to. So while I may have up to 100 files open on my computer desktop, my physical desktop is clearer.

    My work table is in my bedroom. It’s an old folding table with some stackers and some gifted decorations on top. I have a cabinet to my left for personal stuff, and a low bookcase to my right, which holds files, my boombox, my cell phone, and my coffee cup warmer. When things get crazy I use my bed as temporary shelf space.

    SKL  |  June 3rd, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  • I teach, I have a beautiful classroom and a large desk with filing cabinets nearby. I have storage out the ying-yang, cubbies and nooks to hide everything.
    My desk is still messy. Always. Mostly papers.

    Meg  |  June 8th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

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