In mid-1987 I was hired as a runner/mail clerk for a paging company. It was my first real job after college. I had a decently-sized work area with a desk, phone and postage/folding equipment. We used a lot of #10 envelopes in 500/ct boxes. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping the area tidy and got in trouble for it. One thing that exacerbated the mess was a compulsion I had for keeping those boxes for shipping. I didn’t think about the fact that we were going through envelopes at a rate that would guarantee a supply of boxes should I need to ship something. So I had them stacked which took up space and in my unconscious state I let it all crowd around me. My boss cleaned up the area one morning and left a note to just keep a couple of the boxes on hand. When I did that it got better. But the whole time I was there I struggled with the space.
The other thing I didn’t understand was how to manage people and their requests and I hadn’t learned anything about prioritizing. As a result, several types of clutter, people, noise, unprioritized tasks and stuff quickly became overwhelming. I straightened the place up several times while I was there but because the problem wasn’t being addressed it would get back in a pile before long.
Cleaning up by itself is only a temporary thing. It doesn’t matter whether the decision is mine alone or if I’m doing it as the result of someone else’s ultimatum. I have to wake up and become aware of myself, the space I’m in and my relationship to it. Maybe some people are naturally aware. Some are compulsively tidy and drive the people around them nuts with the compulsion. I know neatness comes every easy for some people. I’m not one of them. For me it’s a learning process and it’s not easy all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.