The Problem With My Desk

Michelle TauteThis week I did a phone interview with an organization expert, and during the entire conversation, I guiltily glanced around my desk at the towering piles.

If I’m being honest, these paper stacks are on the floor and the printer, too, and even the top of the file cabinet on a bad day.

Why on Earth do I have so much paper? Here’s one conclusion I came to this morning: My home office desk doubles as my personal desk. It’s where I hit deadlines, pay bills and even make out birthday cards. So it’s doing double duty and failing a little bit on both accounts.

The only desk I’ve managed to keep free of paper is the one I rent at Cincinnati CoWorks. I tend to head there with my laptop for some focused writing-only time and thankfully, I leave all those papers at home. In fact, I probably focus better there because I don’t have any clutter around me, reminding me about all the other to-dos on my list.

In general, I enjoy the flexibility to take care of a few personal tasks during the work day. I don’t have to head for a conversation closet—as one friend jokingly refers to the tiny conference rooms at her company—to make a doctor’s appointment. Or worry about logging in to pay my credit card bill.

But I’m beginning to re-think this whole shared desk thing. Maybe I need another spot around the house to divide and conquer all these paper stacks.

If you work at home, do you have separate desks for work and personal tasks? Or any killer secrets for slaying the paper monster?

6 thoughts on “The Problem With My Desk

  1. Jessica

    OMG, thanks for sharing. I could never figure out why my office is such a mess…. but wait! its because its also my one personal space in the house, so i keep all my personal papers, projects, hobbies and junk in there, duh.

    thanks, need to rethink the separation of personal and business

  2. Bryn Mooth

    Great post! Even though I’m not a freelancer, I do a lot of writing at home and my desk has to do double duty. I post to my blog several times a week and I pick up the occasional freelance project that lands in my lap. I find it difficult to write when I’m surrounded by bills and correspondence. My solution is to take the laptop into the kitchen — which resolves one distraction but adds others.

  3. Aimee Yllanes

    I know exactly how you feel. My “work” desk does double duty as well. I recently set up separate file cabinets and basket in-boxes for business and home. As for the home stuff, I also have switched most of my bills to paperless e-bills. It helps cut down on the amount of paper as well.
    I still have paper piles, but they are separated and once they reach the top of the bin, which is relatively small, they get filed into the cabinets.

  4. Michelle Taute

    Jessica–Thank you for the kind words! I’m right there with you working in a messy office.

    Bryn–I think moving around the house is a great idea. One I should take advantage of more often. Though I suspect your kitchen has better (homemade?) snacks than mine!

    Aimee–I love the idea of separate file cabinets and in-boxes. Actually, just having in-boxes would be an improvement for me. Right now there’s only an ugly “needs to be filed” pile.

  5. Ann Pawley

    I thought I’d solved this problem when I had the great idea to have two desks – one for work and one for the rest. Great theory. In practice I simply now have two desks both entirely covered with an array of paper, artist materials, letters from the girls’ school, post, folders, library books, a rug (don’t ask), and coffee mugs.

    The answer? It’s just who I am – sometimes tidy, often not. I’m learning to live with it!