Thursday, January 14, 2010

Confessions of a clutterer,

I am what I eat is a phrase we hear. I've just finished a mammoth spring clean of my office and I have to say that in my case it's I am what I collect.I like things around me--to distract me from my writing. I like toys to play with, pretty views to admire. And so I have pictures by Monet on the wall, as well as Robert Redford in an open shirt, and Redford and Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I have an Edgar Allen Poe bobblehead with a stuffed lizard sitting on it. I havea jeweled enamel owl sent to me by my friend Katherine Neville. Open it and there is a star inside. I have snow globes containing my book covers, an antique miniature teddy bear, a cow that moos when squeezed, Mr. Jeremy Fisher from Beatrice Potter and a kookaburra from Australia.

My favorites are a cube of Monet pictures that can be changed according to my mood--the snowscape is rarely chosen in winter. Instead it's the beach in Dauville. I have a tiny wooden top that a craftmsn in Udaipur India made for me. it spins beautifully. I also have a spinning disk with holograms on it.And I like wind up toys. A cat that plays a saxophone and mechanical teeth are the latest.

Then we come to my greatest treasure and distraction: my Celtic harp sits right behind my desk with music on the stand, ready to play when I need a break from writing. So what does this mean--that I have a cluttered mind? Or are these toys a demonstration of my childlike creativity? I'd like to go on with this post but there is a little box of carved African animals just begging to be opened and lined up across my desk....
I do have my award nominations framed on one wall, to remind me that if I don't get back to work, I'll never win another award in my life.
Please tell me, dear Jungle Reds, that you don't have pristine offices!

JAN: I just cleaned my office and already its a mess again. There's just no containing me. Or making me put things back where they belong. In my office, I keep my guitar on a stand next to the desk. Also the music I'm working. On the desk there's a framed photo of me and my mother, and her crystal candy jar where I keep receipts that have to be recorded. There's nail polish I never wear and cuticle cream I sometimes remember to put on. Also two brass tennis rackets that are paper weights.
On the wall, I have my Gerald Loeb award, a journalism award, framed covers of my novels, a poster of Aix En Provence, where I spent a semester in college and month last summer. Also three -- count em -- three bulletin boards. One is for moving around scene cards when organizing a novel or screenplay. . One is for stuff I don't want to lose, and one is filled with letters from people I love.

HALLIE: I have the riding trophy I won at Camp Tocaloma. I started the summeroff by falling off a horse and ended up winning this timed race around barrels. I have the award I won in high school for "Best Newswriting" and it always reminds me how stunned I was to win it. I have a collection of feathers I've found on our many bird walks, the badge from every conference I've attended. and piles and piles and piles and piles of books, organized by "keepers" and "on their way out the door."
RO: I can't say that my office is neat. It's a bit more tidy now than it's ever been but it is filled with things that I love to look at. I've got two walls of windows so that I can look at the trees and the birds. The telescope takes up a lot of space. The sofa and curtains are 40's barkcloth and there are lots of throw pillows. On the walls..dozens of bird and flower prints, a Hopper poster, a Vladimir Tretchikoff print (one of his blue ladies from the 50's) and a cherry blossom painting I picked up on the street in China. Shell and coral collections, ceramic deer vases, a china cabinet filled with vintage linens, a plastic angel that lights up, a pink flamingo stuck into the pot of a very large plant, a squeezable brain, three vintage lamps, lots of plants. And tons of books. It's a wonder I can think with all of this stuff here, but I love it!

ROBERTA: I'm not at home right now, but I can picture the slanted wall of my writing nook in Connecticut. It started out with a few photos taped up, but now every square inch is covered: photocopies of friends and relations, funny cartoons, my Agatha and Anthony nominations, a certificate of appreciation for my years as the faculty adviser to the Yale peer counselors, book covers, and lots more. I love looking at it when I'm wasting time. As for my desk, I try to be neat. But the further I get into a project, the messier things are. Unfortunately, this creeping paper affliction reaches the bedroom too.

RHYS: I knew I was among like minds at Jungle Red. When I am writing I have to have all my research materials around me, like a bastion, so I can swivel around and reach for any of my books on New York, history, forensics etc etc.They all came with me to Arizona and here I don't work at a desk but sit with my laptop next to one of our tall arched windows, so I can gaze out at palm trees and sunshine.
And I took some fun pictures of all the stuff in my office at home and of course I downloaded it to the wrong computer. Sorry, you'll just have to imagine how it looks!


  1. I love walking into a place that's full of interesting clutter. I even have a book upstairs that analyzes people through the clutter in their spaces. I wonder if my clutter tells visitors that's she's too lazy to walk up two flights to find a book title...

  2. I don't live in an architectural digest home ... it is *well* lived in. I would say the preponderence of books everywhere is my design style. :)

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  4. OH, I do love you guys! My office at home is a lovely room, big bay windows looking out over maple trees and sky. But whoa, the office itself. Piles and piles of books on the floor, because I might need them.

    Like Hallie, badges from all the conferences. On my desk are little original drawings by Robery Pinsky and Gregory Maguire. There are the boxes from champagne bottles (champagne gone!) that pals gave me when my books got published. And three little gifts from Sue Grafton.

    A fire place. Floor to ceiling bookshelves, with tons more books and all my Emmys and awards (including a certain teapot!)

    I have an easel with a wonderful photo, but you can't see it because I've clipped posters from my book signings on top of it.

    There's a couch, but you can't sit on it because it's covered with--oh, yeah. Books.

    So relieved you all are just like me! Sometimes I wonder if I should "get organized"--but I know where everything is now!

  5. I have a large corkboard with images that relate to whatever I'm working on--at the moment it includes goats, barns, and Emily Dickinson's kitchen. We will not talk about the piles of stuff on the floor (including five years of conference badges--what are we supposed to do with those?).

    But my prize is a gravestone rubbing of an ancestor who lived in the house from One Bad Apple. Close second is a wonderful color photo of a deserted beach (by a local photographer), which is very soothing to look at.

    Can I have a fireplace and an Irish harp?

  6. My office has the usual writerly conglomeration of books, plus photos and plants. On top of that, I used a cool magnet paint on one wall so the girls' school artwork gets magneted to that wall. I have a few mementoes from my Air Force years, a dumbbell set, and an exercise ball I do sit-ups on when I'm avoiding my work in progress. The best thing, however, is my gorgeous view of Pikes Peak.

  7. Laura,

    Magnet paint?? I never heard of it, but HOW COOL (not to mention the Air Force years. Must hear more about that later.)

    Bobbi -
    Thank you for liking clutter. You don't know how much that does for my self esteem.

    I'm going to guess from all these comments that clutter goes with the reading/writing territory.

    Must be those math people who are so neat.

  8. My office is the former breezeway-turned-sunporch off my kitchen. I have a space-heater and a Snuggie, three of my kids' basketballs, a Frisbee, two dusty dried flower arrangements, a bag of expired medications for Hazardous Waste day at the DPW, gardening gloves, a plant sprayer, a stack of textbooks to list on Amazon, a rabbit-ears antenna with a cord that passes through a window into the kitchen where the TV is, two old candles, boxes of papers to file, boxes of file folders I haven't put the papers in yet, a file cabinet I haven't put the folders in yet...
    And books. Books on the bookshelves, books on my desk, books on the file cabinet, books on the floor, books in boxes, books in the file cabinet (where the folders are supposed to go). All the outside windows are covered with heavy thermal curtains. The window over my desk looks into the kitchen. that's a whole 'nother clutter story.

    I have two framed pictures--a small oil in sepia tones of snow-covred trees surrounding a pond and a photo from National Geographic of an egg nested in reindeer grass on the tundra.

    I also have a magnet from my husband: "Dull Women Have Immaculate Houses."

    That's why he's a Keeper.

  9. I truly believe that interesting people need interesting things around them. At least that's my excuse!

  10. I guess everyone's office is kinda the same. I have so much stuff that I can't seem to part with. Toys mostly and my husband keeps buying me more and books that I keep buying. I can't work until I clean off my half circle desk. I feel that I need lots of room to spread out. Besides, even if I don't get much writing done, cleaning my desk makes me feel like I've ccomplished something. My favorite place to write is not my office, it's in the den, in front of the fireplace.