Spring Cleaning

by limebirdkate

So, I swapped manuscripts with the lovely, kind, intelligent jmmcdowell for a beta read.  I feel confident that my story is in better hands right now (as I’ve bypassed the obsessive stage and have nosedived into the psycho stage).

Without a 300-page manuscript demanding my attention 12 hours a day, I’m feeling frisky. So, this morning I decided to update my look.

No. I’m not getting a haircut or changing my wardrobe.

I’m going to organize my writing space!

The fact my study is small and cluttered has never bothered me before. I am one of those people who is extremely organized in her head, but not so much in her workspace. In fact, people who have happened to peek in are perplexed (read: aghast) that I work in such chaos. I know where everything is, but I am tripping, fumbling, shifting, making small piles bigger, dividing toppling piles into smaller ones, just to put my hands on a book or a pencil.

As my freelance jobs grow, I am being slowly, steadily choked out of my own workspace. I can’t even be guaranteed a chair to sit in. Here is a list of all the different tools that I use, most of which currently have no assigned place:

books/magazine subscriptions/writing guides/notebooks/journals

hard copies of my writing

pens/pencils/markers/highlighters

loose sticky notes/inspirational quotes/blurbs from other writers/scrap paper galore

thumbtacks/paper clips/sticky pads

binders/folders

writing games/toys

laptop/printer/printing paper/backup ink

loose paper from years of writing workshops/conferences

I would love to hear how other writers keep all their odds and ends organized so that their physical writing space is neat and tidy and accessible. If you have a suggestion about how I can improve my workspace, please comment freely!

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44 Comments to “Spring Cleaning”

  1. I’m jealous. If I’m lucky, I get to write at the computer… I cram all my “hard copy” stuff into a tote bag. That’s it. Dedicated writing space… a pipe dream.

    Good luck though. I suck at organization, so I’m not going to attempt to help (it’d only make things worse).

    • Wow, Shannon, that reminds me of the first house where we lived in which I had to share a study with my husband. He talked or watched TV while I was trying to get writing done. It was awful! Even though I am cramped in a corner of the house, at least I have a door I can close…

      I feel really awful for your situation though and I hope something changes so that you get some space for your writing!

      • While I would love a whole office to myself (say, when the kids go to college and I take over their rooms), I’m not sure it would help. Right now, I’ve just started, so there’s not that much “stuff” to keep track of. However, as I’m chronically disorganized, the more space I have, the more my stuff just spreads out. Useless, really. So, don’t feel too bad for me. :)

      • Haha, okay, I won’t worry about you then. And that’s true, if you don’t have years’ worth of tools/material/equipment then space isn’t much of an issue. But peace and quiet sure would be! As long as your family respects your writing time and tiptoes around…yeah, right! ;)

      • Well, I try to write when they’re not here or napping…

      • Yup, it’s the only successful way when you’ve got kids.

  2. I have no advice! While my workspace is accessible, it’s hardly neat and tidy! I have a tendency to jot things on slips of paper and then put them on either side of my computer. After a while they start to pile up and I can’t find anything that I wrote a week ago. Finally I grab them all and neaten them into a bundle and stick them in one of these desk organizers with slots. There they sit while another pile grows on the desk. In time I get around to looking through the old stuff and say, “Oh, there’s what I was looking for two months ago!” or “What does this hen-scratching mean?” or “This is taking too long – I’m just going to throw out the whole lot!”
    Outside of that, I’m pretty organized! Fortunately, I keep serious notes in the computer.

    • Hi Lorinda,

      Yup, that’s my problem, too. All those little scraps of paper that get misplaced/forgotten. Yes, serious notes go right in the WIP, so I don’t actually lose anything of value.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. My work space looks like a hurricane has hit it! And if I try organizing and cleaning it up, I can’t ever find what I need. So…messy it is. :)

    • Hey there,

      Haha, you sound like my mother. She is disorganized in all areas of her life, and anytime I try to help by cleaning, she can’t ever find anything. I always hear about it later!

      It’s funny, just my work space is like this in my house, so I feel like I just have to make a conscientious effort to really organize it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I never kept anything organized — in fact, my kitchen table was stacked high with piles of years’ worth of junk. I was so lucky; a dear friend of mind volunteered to do an intervention, and she had some great ideas about getting the work done. I was just picking up something off the table, looking at it, and setting it back down. She pulled my recliner over, and emptied the table onto it, washed the table, and we put back only what I wanted on the table. Good strategy!

  5. I tend to do a big “paper purge” every year or so. Old manuscript copies from three drafts ago? Don’t need it. Handout from conference? Bookmark the website with the necessary info and toss the paper. That at least helps get things down to a vaguely manageable level, and so far I haven’t missed anything I’ve tossed. For stuff I keep, I have a desk with a couple of drawers (so nice to have stuff filed out of sight), and then a file folder holder for the top of my desk (which could still be better organized). And then every few weeks there’s another pile of stuff on the desk/chair that has to get cleared off. The never-ending organization cycle!

    • Hi Annie,

      Great idea, a paper purge. And I love the alliteration. Yes, I have a desk with drawers and a file cabinet! Of course, they’re filled with non-writing stuff. Maybe if I dedicate a couple of drawers to just writing material, and go through the non-writing stuff to see if it’s absolutely essential…you have got my wheels turning. Thanks!

  6. Ha-ha, before I went back to work my writing space was my laptop on my lap on the sofa in the living room with the baby crawling round making mischief around me! I’m only starting on the whole planning thing (before I’ve always just launched straight in) so I invested in a lovely patterned plastic-covered notebook to use, which makes me feel a bit like a girlie student. I debated buying a lovely new pen to match but decided the box full of biros upstairs offered plenty of ink. Modest writing tools, but they suffice!

    • That sounds like a great start, Sally. Yes, I’m more inclined to use tools/material with fun graphics than boring office supply stuff. Maybe what I need to do is a complete revamping of my area…? Redecorating or repainting? Then I’ll have a better idea of how to reorganize…Uh-oh, now I’m in trouble! :)

      Thanks for commenting!

  7. I try to be organized! And the rest of the house is (mostly). But right now on the floor alone I can see the 2011 paystubs by the shredder, my day-job office tote bag, a day-job manuscript with edits to be entered into the computer file, two writing notebooks, and my digital camera. Oops. A draft of one manuscript is on the desk next to me, which is currently crowded due to sharing with my scanner and laser printer.

    I try to keep everything corraled on a 3-shelf bookcase, a six-holed storage cube (3 holes open, 3 with fabric baskets for odds and ends like pens, pencils, staplers, batteries, etc.), and a 4-drawer wire unit for separating drafts of various projects. Sometimes spring cleaning wins out—for a while!

    While another bout of spring cleaning might be in order, the evening will be more more enjoyably spent—continuing my read-through of your manuscript. :)

    • Hey there!

      I like the sound of the 6-holed storage cube. I have a bookcase, and as I am looking at it now I realize I can condense a lot of the stuff. When I moved from my first home I just unpacked the books and what-have-you and filled the case without really deciding if I use all of it or just some of it…so that could be a potential area to use for a basket of odds and ends, like you mention.

      Aww, thanks for saying that. I’m glad you’re finding my ms enjoyable :)

  8. Oh goodness I can’t offer any advice, my desk is so cluttered. In fact, just last night it took me about 30 min to find my check book :-O

    • I’m starting to think that a messy work space might be a pre-requisite for writers, lol! Oh no, not the checkbook. That would stress me out, I would immediately think I left it in some public place like, I don’t know, Panera’s or something!

  9. I am without a doubt the worst person to give you ideas on this. I am a believer in heaps, in ideas on scraps, it’s in here somewhere moments. And the stuff it in a drawer concept of filing. I have two folders on my PC, Stuff and Writing. Neither are in any particular order.

    Sorry, don’t feel bad about it though. If you haven’t needed it in 6-12 months you can probably ditch it, I can’t quite bring myself to that yet.
    :-)

    Jim

    • Hey Jim,

      You’re right. Maybe I need to approach it like I do my wardrobe. If I haven’t worn it in a year, I give it to the Salvation Army. Too bad there isn’t a Salvation Army for writers :)

      Thanks for commenting.

  10. I’m naturally a really organized person (as in, if things are cluttered, it bugs me. I have to clean things up before I can start writing). Then again, I don’t really have a “writing space” anyway. Since all my work is on my computer, I just carry it with me and bring it out to write whenever I’ve got the time.

    • That’s how I used to be. Then I had kids and all my sense of organization flew out the window with the damned stork that brought them :)

      I guess if you don’t have a writing space things can’t get out of control. Alas, I am not about to sacrifice my space so I will just have to get my affairs in order.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I like things hanging from the ceiling. You know those things you get in kitchens that you hang pans etc from? if you have one of those above your desk you can hang bulldog clips from them to clip up bits of paper, reminders etc, empty cans that you can throw pens and nick-nacks etc into, even magazine files can hang there (if you have the ones with holes in) – this is good for things that you need access to regularly, it keeps them out of the way of your workspace but are still easily accessible. For things that you’re not sure whether to keep or not, pack them away in an awkward place to get to; leave them there for a few weeks or months, if it feels like to much effort to get them out then you obviously don’t really need them.

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Using the ceiling is a great idea! I think my mom might even have an extra pot rack like you’re talking about…maybe I’ll hit her up for it.

      Oh! I love, love, love that idea about putting the iffy stuff in an awkward place. That is perfect. Yup, I need to psych myself out and that would be perfect.

      Thanks for such great ideas!

  12. I write at my kitchen table, or at an available desk or table at work. I keep it all in my computer, so there’s nothing but it to tote around. I don’t try to write stuff down on scraps anymore, I keep losing them or pulling them out of the visor in the car. They end up wrinkled masses in the bottom of my purse. I try to keep the writing stuff backed up on a thumb drive, but most of it is on my blog anyways.

    • Hey Neeks,

      Sigh, I know, I need to stop doing that scrappy paper thing. I bought myself a journal with the hope that I’d use it and it is never where I need it (like, in my purse but I get great ideas while I’m doing dishes, so I just use a piece of paper towel!) It’s awful.

      Yes, love the thumb drive. That’s a big lifesaver. Thanks for commenting!

  13. I do have a separate room that I’m using for writing and I try to keep it neat. I used the room for years as my secretarial service home office, but I want to rid it of the business feel and transform it into a writing nook. (Search “writing workspace” on my blog). I’ve found a good trick: buy those shoebox-sized, decorated boxes with tops, and throw inside all your pieces of paper, pencils, supplies, receipts, articles, etc. Stack them on your bookcase, desk, table, and it looks organized and attractive (the chaos is hidden inside). Or three-hole-punch the papers, articles you want to keep and store them in a binder; use tabs to categorize. I have a few days off from work next week, so I’m planning to redecorate my office. And now that Martha Stewart is at Staples.com, we have office color and style! Pinterest is another resource I’ll be using to get some ideas. Have fun with it!

    • Hey Darla,

      Yes, I know exactly what you are referring to with those shoeboxes. I know exactly where I can get some! And I love the idea of using them to also brighten the room and make it feel more cozy and less like a business space.

      I’m not on Pinterest, but my mom-in-law is, so maybe I’ll have her look for fun things for me. She’s got a great idea for color/patterns/spatial issues.

      Great idea, thanks!

  14. I love doing this. In fact I love doing this so much tha I can avoid the writing for hours and organise instead. It’s an addiction. Officeworks here I come.

    • Haha, oh yes, don’t I know it. All of these ideas are beckoning me to take a whole week off from writing and organize and redecorate! It can be very dangerous if I’m not careful…;)

  15. File folders: in drawers, on top of desk, on hard drive, on backup hard drive, on flash drive,; this is how I organize, and my head still gets confused. I also have stacks of scratch paper lists that I cross out and combine and eliminate regularly. I spend a lot of time “straightening up” my space in order to get my head organized. Sometimes it works!

    • Hi JM,

      Yes, I suppose if we’re not naturally organized in the head, it won’t matter much what our space looks like. I wonder which is worse, disorganized brain or workspace?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  16. I need a writing space, right now I used my bed or the dinning room table :)

    • Hi Victoria,

      Gosh, I have been there. But seeing how crazed my writing space is, the bed or dining room table doesn’t sound so bad anymore!

      Thanks for commenting.

  17. I’m not there yet. My “writing space” is my lap top.” I’ve just begun printing out drafts of my chapters and putting them in a 3-ring binder so they look like a book (kind of). I’m really new to this. :|

    • Well, Lorna, good luck when things grow and expand! But I’m impressed you’re starting off organized; that’s a step in the right direction!

      Thanks for commenting.

  18. My system is to pile things up until they fall on the floor – then start a new pile!

    Luckily, all of my writing (in electronic form) is far more organised!

    • Hi Dennis,

      Sounds like the lot of us are disorganized to some degree. I keep telling myself to take a whole weekend, clear out the entire room and start fresh.

      Yeah, right. I’d rather be writing. :)

      Thanks for commenting.

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