I’m intense. I know this about myself, and most of the time I’ll freely admit it. Lately that’s manifested itself in the lists I make, trying to capture order in my little life. Birmingham bucket list (so far only the Zoo, because that’s what I was discussing when I started the list). Activities I belong to (DISCO, MORE, RMC, EOL). Activities I’m taking a break from (CG, PTTR). My essential friends (I’ll leave that one to the imagination). My 30th birthday party guest list (that’s still in process–the party’s not till July).
But today, my intensity showed up in the serious thought I gave to cleaning my office. I’ve worked in journalism for five and a half years, and I believe I still have files for every story I’ve written in that time. (If you figure an average of four stories a week during my year and a half of newspaper writing, an average of 10 stories a month during my first two and a half years of magazine writing and an average closer to five stories a month over the past year and a half, that’s easily 700 stories. And I’m not even counting blog posts–for which, mercifully, I’ve mostly avoided filing away physical notes.)
None of the friends I’ve surveyed have an exact system for determining when they should let go of these reams of paper. Yes, I’m looking for a precise methodology, because that’s what I do. And of course many of my friends are also in media, because we understand each other’s insanity. (Or because we’re too incestuous to make friends outside our industry. I’m not sure. My grad school professors worried about us.) So lacking rhyme or reason for both discarding and retaining files, today I opened a drawer and pulled everything out.
One year of files filled two trash cans.
Though I’m still worried that I was too quick to toss things, it mostly felt good to let go of the past, and of the clutter. My office is a bit of a cave. We’ve got two cubicles jammed in there, and I only have three full file drawers. My 2010 folders have been crammed between magazines atop the extra filing cabinet I rescued from storage, and I don’t have a suitable place for a guest to sit. It’s all very orderly, but I often feel like the stacks of paper are closing in on me. I won’t take meetings in there; the extra chair I keep handy is primarily so a coworker can fill me in on the previous night’s dates.
So as much as it worried me, and as much discussion as it prompted, today was a milestone. I let go of a little control and gained some freedom in return.
And then I rushed home to blog about it. Maybe that (and the fact that I have semi-colon artwork–awesome semi-colon artwork–in my office) is indicative of how much control I could stand to relinquish.