Hey Red! Is my "mess-cellaneous" office hopeless?

Hey Red! 

As a writer I live in my head most of the time. Probably pretty cluttered in there. But my problem is my office. I seem to have developed an organizing system I call "Mess-cellaneous." Everything goes here for now.

I crave organization, but cannot seem to produce it. There are people (like you) who can categorize and prioritize. I am not one of those people.

I hang on to potentially useful items as well, and am sure if I put something away, I'll forget about it. So I keep things, especially things written on paper, out and about...everywhere. Am I hopeless?

Marvelously Mess-cellaneous

Dear Marvelous,

First - You are SO not hopeless!!!! Organizing is a life skill that can be learned. Like all skills, it comes more naturally to some than others but it can totally be done.

Now. I'm a writer too, and MORE than understand being all up in your head.


I guarantee that you can categorize and prioritize. Everyone can but are often too afraid they'll make the "wrong" decision.

Spoiler alert: there is no wrong decision.

Choose categories that make the most sense in your head. One client labeled baskets in her utility closet: "things that stick" for glue, tape, and such. "Things that cut" for knives and scissors. "Varmints" for the basket of various items to get rid of critters. (She lived out in the country.)

Does this look different from other people's ways or what you see in the majority of organizing articles? Hell yeah it does! It's also personal and so more likely to stick. Figure out what works best for you, and don't worry about if it's different from everyone else.

It's your home, and we want to have a space for you that creates the most optimal environment for your writing.

A few other things to think about:

Those potentially useful items: Will you use them? Not *can* you. WILL you? If you won't, let it go because it's not worth the real estate.

"Out of sight, out of mind" is a MAJOR fear with my visual and/or creative clients. However when everything is out for you to "see" then you're no longer able to see anything.

To put organizing into writing metaphors: 

  • What is the goal/look for your office? (What is the takeaway you want your readers to have?)
  • Next, you need to edit/remove everything that you don't need, use, and love. Just as you must edit the story to make sure the reader clearly understands the story you're telling, you must edit your things to make sure you can see/find/use what you need when you need it.
  • Once you're done editing, sort like with like. Think of this like gathering the information that creates the chapters of your book. 
  • Then, think about how you want to function in your space. How can your objects be arranged that creates a system that flows for you? Similar to outlining your book so that the information flows well as the reader reads it. Since you lean towards the visual, how can these systems be visual? 
    • Maybe you take your stacked piles and put each category into its own magazine file box and label the file box? This gives you the same feel of the stacks while taking up less space.
    • Maybe you put each stack into a labeled or color coded binder.
    • Or if you have the wall space and like the stacks - get a bunch of clipboards. Each stack goes into a clipboard. Then the clipboards are hung on the wall in a grid. This way you see everything while not mussing up your desk.

Do you need some mess to function better? Keep some mess. I'm currently reading "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey. It describes the daily rituals of famous creatives. For some of the creatives, it also mentions how their home looks. Some are meticulous. Some are hoarders. It's whatever works best for you.

Find what works for you. If it's not working, change it. Continue to play around with new ideas until you land on what feels really good to you and helps you function fabulously.

Does your "mess-cellaneousness" make you feel hopeless too? There is no such thing as hopeless! Buy "From Hot Mess to Hot Damn!" or contact me today to get started clearing the clutter and creating organizing systems that will rock for you!

Do you have a burning question for "Hey Red!' Send an email to heyred@organizingfabulously.com and we'll answer it in a future post.