How I finally conquered my envy of the Instagram-perfect workspace
Sometimes, a little clutter can be the key to creativity.
For the last few years, my desk has been facing a wall. One day, I turned it to face an arched window in our bedroom, with a view of Chapman’s Peak.
This simple change opened up my workspace and my headspace. I can’t believe I spent so long staring at a wall.
But as with any furniture rearranging, it had a domino effect. Suddenly, the boxes of papers and piles of books I’d stashed away in a dark corner were laid bare. I was forced to sort through them and find a better storage spot.
As a writer and avid reader, I have a stash of library books, bundles of books borrowed from friends, and piles of books I’ve bought.
Then there’s the small stack of the book I’ve written, to sell at bookish events. Not to mention the books I’m currently reading — a poetry collection, a memoir, and an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre — on my bedside table.
Sometimes I look at these piles, stacked or shelved wherever I can fit them, and I wish my workspace looked more like those minimalistic Instagram workspaces, with their bleached wood surfaces and just one book placed alongside a decorative lamp. So restful and serene.
I imagine the owner of these artful items is perfectly in control of their lives, and never starts a book before having finished another. Nor would they dream of staying up late, reading, and feeling like a zombie the next day.
I’m sure they never have to shift stacks of papers off their desk so they can get to their computer.
Moving my desk inspired a decluttering phase which turned out to be more rewarding than I expected.
I cleared the piles of books, chose one book for my bedside table, and returned the library books, walking out of the library empty-handed.
I tidied my bookshelf, placing the books I didn’t enjoy into a donation box.
Best of all, I unearthed the Moleskine notebooks I’ve kept over the past few decades, and stacked them chronologically on my bookshelf. Those neatly shelved journals, inked with my daily worries, hopes, and dreams, give me great pleasure.
Then I sorted out the piles of papers on my desk, trashed those I no longer needed, and put those I did into colourful folders.
I took a few steps back and surveyed my workspace. For a while, I felt like one of those Instagrammers I admire. I ran my hands over my neat and tidy desk and gazed at the single book on my bedside table.
I scanned my colourful bookshelves, the smart and orderly line-up of books testifying to my eclectic tastes.
But then I went to a book event at the library. And of course I had to buy the authors’ books.
I placed them in a stack on my bedside table. I threw the notes I’d scrawled during the book event onto my desk.
I had even more books to add to my bookshelf, cramming them in wherever they would fit. Jotted-down ideas and scrawled fragments of conversation littered my desk.
Slowly but surely, my uncluttered desk has devolved once again into a messy workspace. But at least I know where everything is. My work gets done.
And when I look out of the window at the mountain beyond, I’m reminded that it’s all about perspective. One person’s mess is another’s creative crucible.