SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Being a packrat is only a real problem twice in your life: When you die and they have to maneuver around the stacks of newspapers to haul your body out, and when you decide to clean. Until one of those two things happens, it remains a less expensive and safer hobby than almost anything else -- unless you’re married to a neat freak.
Me? I decided to clean.
Specifically, I needed to clean my office, which in other homes would be known as a
dining room. I’d spent the last few years in an emoish fiction writing funk, but it was time to jump back in and become a salesman again. Writing fiction is only a fun hobby, until you convince somebody to buy it from you.
That meant finding all my old records about who I’d tried to sell what to, preparing new manuscript copies, and having office and mailing supplies close at hand. It also meant a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention building a new collection of rejection slips. But where was all the old paperwork? I’d stuffed a lot of it into my filing cabinet, along with everything else I’d used in my fiction selling attempts.
It was all in there -- somewhere.
But then, so was everything else. There had been past times when I’d done panic cleaning – that’s when you have company coming over and don’t have time to do a proper job, so you start stuffing things into drawers, cabinets and closets. This is why I don’t encourage company, but now and then you have to be a little social. So, when I opened my filing cabinet to sort and clean, I discovered a lot of items that aren’t supposed to be in a filing cabinet.
It’s a nice, big, two drawer cabinet made of cherry wood, the wide drawers filled to the brim and the top overflowing. As I cleaned the top off, I was surprised to discover my ink jet printer hadn’t been stolen, after all. Even more surprises waited on the inside, where I labored to find anything that would actually be expected in a filing cabinet. Here’s a partial list of what I located:
Eyeglass cleaning fluid. That was something useful to have at the beginning.
Three picture frames, with no pictures in them. I’m one of those people who sometimes has picture frames nicely displayed, but devoid of photos. There’s a fine line between eccentric and crazy, and I don’t have enough money to be eccentric, so I must have stowed the frames away to prevent idle gossip.
A photo of my youngest daughter in her show choir outfit, without a frame – right by the pictureless frame. There was a problem easily solved.
A U.S. road atlas. I can’t help thinking that would be more useful in the car.
Several newspapers. I sorted through them, thinking I must have saved them for a reason, but I should have known better. I got to read the comics again, though.
My youngest daughter’s show choir account summary, which showed how much money we’d poured into that particular activity. I saved that for future guilt purposes.
A copy of MacLife magazine. It was from last summer, meaning it was now totally useless for modern Apple computers.
Photos from a vacation I took two years ago. I really meant to show those to people …
A gold necklace. A guy’s gotta have his bling, right? Too bad it wasn’t my bling. Too bad I don’t know whose bling it is.
A lilac scented candle. Okay, that one is mine, I’ll admit; lilacs remind me of spring. Don’t judge me – it wasn’t my necklace, I swear.
A CD cleaner, which should probably be with the CD’s.
Two books: The Da Vinci Code, and a romance novel. How the romance novel got in there is a mystery worthy of Dan Brown; I’m sure there was a conspiracy involved. Honest, it wasn’t my necklace.
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book. (Buffy’s having a fling with another woman, and Dawn became a giant after sleeping with a demon. Clearly, comics are not just for kids anymore.)
The Atari’s CD case. Not the music – just the case. The Atari’s have left the building.
A letter from my girlfriend. I’ll pause while you all say “Awwww….”
A rejection letter from a book publisher. Not nearly as romantic. It’s closing in on something that’s actually office related, though.
A napkin. Not used, thank goodness.
A Noble County Historical Society calendar. It was in there for so long that the calendar itself has become historical.
Index tabs. Hey, office related! It was like striking gold, except without the loud squeals and the fight to the death with your partner.
And, finally, at the very bottom, hanging file folders, still in the box. Very useful, if I plan to hang anything besides a participle. (Little writer’s joke, there.)
Oh, and I found one more thing in those drawers: a candy cane.
From Christmas, I assume … I wonder which Christmas? Thank goodness it was still wrapped, but despite my hatred of wasting food I chose discretion, and tossed it into the trash. It joined a bag of garbage and a container of recyclables that came out of the office after my expedition.
It turns out I’d boxed up all of my publishing related stuff and hauled it down to the basement … but that’s another column.
I didn’t get any writing done, but I did get the feeling that I’d accomplished something that day. Who knows? If I can keep the kids out of my office, I might be able to keep the place uncluttered and organized for weeks – maybe months.