Deconstructing My Workroom

In my small workroom two mismatched and battered metal file cabinets form the base to a desk. They want painting because in the new house, my even smaller work space will be right off the kitchen and much more in view.

So for several days (encouraged by the inviting blue plastic banker’s boxes provided by my new neighbor), I emptied the file cabinets. Paper, each piece once deemed important enough to archive, seems manageable and orderly when contained, but multiplies into a mess when liberated.

Some disposal decisions are clear. I don’t need years of sales reports from the gallery on Bainbridge (but they are nice to encounter), don’t need every greeting card ever received (but keep anyway). It’s hard not to keep a handful of airletters from my landlady in England with stories of my time there, or copies of emails from our sons, written from Antarctica or South America, or a marketplace in Nepal. Rereading slows things down. But the recycle pile grows.

So much paper, torn out magazine articles about houses or writing or artists, a file of little notebooks, worn and bent, once carried in a purse – it’s tempting to dip in to see what times they record – small originals of paintings, old show invites, newspaper tear sheets of garden articles, rejection letters dashing hopes, and happy words of acceptances.

A stamped envelope, addressed to my painter friend, makes me think I should stop and send her something. I discover an idea for a Christmas present, and walk in a little circle in my room, wondering where to safely put it.

One drawer contains the files from when we built this house, they should remain, but I debate the fate of the wrinkled-with-raindrops original drawings of the garden layout. Then I wander to a window to see hellebore, snowdrops, daffodils, and a ribes pink with blossom – that garden drawing come to life.

Approaching the rest of the room I realize that, over the years, things belonging together (office, framing, and sewing supplies, paintbrushes, tape, scissors, ink, rulers, colored pencils) have dispersed and migrated around this small space. Gathering them together with their kin is my goal as I assign these tools of the trade to their transport boxes. I put off tackling framed things squirreled away here and there.

And I’m derailed from this task in the same way I get distracted from real work – phone calls, appointments, things needing immediate (or so it seems) attention. I’m happiest the days I make a list full of small requests that, with focus, become accomplishments by the end of the day.

Isn’t that always the way, moving or not!

8 thoughts on “Deconstructing My Workroom

    • Such a sweeet note Jana, thank you — of course all I do is complain to myself about what’s not getting done, the sort of giving back to the community that you do, and wishing I’d attended the kids’ march!

  1. Yes! That is exactly the way! I have a small pad of paper and pen under a small lamp in my kitchen, and it’s my reference for the day- every day. Welcome to the club. Sent from my iPhone

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  2. I’m usually happiest on the days when I ignore the list and just make art, but that seems to never happen lately. It’s very hard to ignore those to-do lists – both the ones on paper and the ones constantly in my head. What a good idea to paint the file cabinets. I hate the way file cabinets usually look, but am very grateful for their usefulness. Will you miss that sweet garden?

    • Now I’ve painted – and what an easy thing to do – highly recommended – used chalk paint, no priming, no fuss – cheerful change. And yes, I will miss this garden, but it has sturdy bones, just perennials, should keep going. And I am excited to think about a teeny, tiny gardening space.

  3. Oh, this is all so familiar. I, too, have masses of ephemera — meaningful only to me but so pleasant to revisit now and then. And the lists — sometimes I start to put something on my list and then realize that I could just do it now … then put it on the list and cross it off. The games people play…

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