Things I found while cleaning out our office

Since the freelance work is light right now and I’m not going anywhere for the holidays, I’ve decided to clean out my office (which is really just our second bedroom) once and for all. I have piles of paper that are four years old. I have computers that, if they were human, would be in the 7th grade. I have a “filing system” that hasn’t been touched in, uh, well, I don’t know how long.

Going through piles of papers requires focus as well as a certain kind of ruthlessness. It’s easy to pick up something, such as an article from some random magazine that mentions small business health plans, and go off into the weeds with it, looking at web sites and creating, yes, more paper. Focus. Focus. Focus. Discard. File. Shred.

But I have gotten tripped up a few times in these last few days, by things like this:

  • Race bibs. I have dozens. What do I do with these things? I can’t bear to throw them away. I’ll just file them.
  • Ephemeral holiday notes from my grandmother, who died nearly three years ago. There’s nothing deep in them and I hate being a pack rat. I’ve decided I’m keeping one and throwing out the rest.
  • One of my cat’s whiskers. I don’t know how that got in there.
  • An attempt by me to analyze what was going wrong with my running last year: a list of races from 2008 and early 2009 with paces and heart rates and baffled notes for each, collectively asking the same question: “Why am I getting slower?” If I’d only known what lay ahead.
  • Project plans and schedules for Sisyphean IBM projects that were destined to run long and go over budget (if not fail outright), drafts for annual “interactive strategies,” phone call notes (in one set it looks like I couldn’t figure out the name of the person I was talking to and I wrote: “Dairy?”). Jesus. I do not miss that gig.
  • Draft of a terrible short story. I should actually keep this around in a prominent place so I stop being tempted to write fiction.
  • Copies of the police statements given to a Greyton, South Africa detective by Jonathan and his brother, Rob, on the evening that our rental place was broken into by the local meth heads.
  • The 2008 Spring Catalog from Westchester Community College. What was I interested in? Was it the “Salsa Cruise”? Or maybe it was “Make Extra Cash!” Or perhaps “Healthy Cooking with Carol.” I have no idea.
  • A copy of an outraged letter, along with proof of certified delivery, addressed to our bank. They switched us to some ridiculous new status, which would impose a big monthly fee on us if we dropped below a certain balance. We threatened to pull all of our money (“All of our holdings!” I’m sure this got a big laugh.) if they switched us. They switched us anyway. We did nothing. Ah, inertia. Incidentally, while I do write a great outraged letter, it’s nothing compared to this one.
  • A recipe for something called “Addictive Pumpkin Muffins.” Like I don’t have enough problems already.

This is just my area. Jonathan has two feet of papers on his desk that I am insisting he go through. And then there’s the office closet, which we can barely close. Gads.

One Response

  1. It’s good to have a clean-out. I’ll do it one year. I picked up a couple of good tips for when that happens:
    1. Three boxes: When cleaning out, have three boxes. One for stuff that’s used regularly. One for stuff that might be used or has value (you used it in the previous 12 months). One for rubbish/recycling.
    2. Every time you walk into your house, think about what you’re bringing with you. Do you actually need it in your house?

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