Clearing the clutter

Does a clean and tidy desk make for a clean and tidy state of mind?

The Knowledge

August 29 marked my one-year Abu Dhabi anniversary. I hate to think what has happened to my health after a year of brunches and restaurant reviews (I swear I’ve eaten my body weight in truffle mash by now), a whole year of frying myself by the pool, a year of going from the extreme heat of the great and dusty outdoors to the shivering cold of the over air-conditioned office on a daily basis. I’d imagine the spa reviews are the only thing keeping me looking vaguely human at the moment. More worrying than what an entire year of expat life might have done to my body, however, is what it’s done to my desk.

When I first started, my desk was clean, white and shining. Standing proudly in the centre was a large flatscreen monitor and keyboard, to the left a phone and to the right a printer. And that was all. A little bit sterile, so I decided to personalise with a few touches – a photo of my friends from the UK, an origami crane crafted by my former Japanese teacher to wish me luck and a vase of flowers delivered on my first day, so far, so classy. My desk is now virtually unrecognisable from those heady days of chic minimalism and space to swing a cat. As I type, I count a row of seven dust-covered rubber ducks, two orange highlighters (one empty), four bottles of nail varnish, an empty vase that once contained my first-day flowers, one white glove, a quivering mountain of magazines and paperwork and more useless junk than you can shake a stick at.

Some days I’m tempted to just sweep it all into the bin and never look back, clear out all the clutter in one swift and graceful movement. But I know that if I ever did, the one important thing that I really, really need would end up down the garbage chute. So I’ve instead decided to work around the mess. Anything I’m not sure what to do with can be shoved in the drawer until its use reveals itself, anything important goes in one of two piles – left pile and right pile. How do I decide which pile? I choose the most well-balanced and simply shove the item on top. The rubber ducks make useful throwing items for when I need to get a colleague’s attention, so they always stay close at hand. The system works! Now, if I could just find my phone…

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