De-Cluttering my Daughter’s Desk

The messy desk of a creative mind

I am sitting at my daughter’s desk attempting to cure her computer of a virus. There is a lot of waiting involved in this task, as the computer chugs through scans and multiples re-boots. As I sit, I contemplate the chaos of objects littering the surface of her desk. My daughter is much like her father, filing things by the ‘pile’ method. Her desk is littered with objects: fish food, eyeglass cleaner, three vampire books, lip gloss, homework that was due three months ago, a card from a board game, a scattering of markers, some of which actually have lids. She isn’t the least bit bothered by the apparent disorder. I say “apparent” because my husband claims that there is order in this type of mess and that only the creative genius who sits here can see it.

Perhaps so.

My daughter, unlike my husband, isn’t the least bothered by my tendency to clean up and re-organize her room, her stuff and her life. “I won’t be able to find anything,” he’ll say, so I have to supress the urge to stack his papers and escort sunglasses, cough candies and sailing equipment out of our shared office. Do we really need a spinnaker pole in here?

My daughter though? She doesn’t mind at all. Good thing too, because I find it next to impossible to sit here and not do something. My mind automatically sorts and categorizes: trash, recycle, put away, repair. Perhaps I have read one too many books about conquering clutter because the messy stage set before me feels like an enemy I must engage. I begin to make piles, stacking school work here and novels there. I throw out the gum wrappers and take the empty milk glass to the kitchen. I check which markers still mark, which pencils need sharpening, and then I file them carefully in their respective cases.

By the time I have fixed her computer, I will have cleared her desk, too. “Thanks, mom!” she’ll say when she walks in the room. She will drop her school bag beside the chair, give me a hug and then head to the kitchen for a glass of milk. When she returns, she’ll put the cup down on the freshly cleaned surface, possibly sloshing a few drops over the side. She’ll grab a mitt-full of paper for making notes, and start pulling textbooks out of her bag. She may even pull a half-dead marker out of the trash.  In other words, she’ll begin to make use of the clean space to create fresh chaos. And that’s okay. It’s her space. I’m a guest. (Kitchen counter? That’s a different story).

Should I nag her to create this fresh space herself once in a while? I don’t think so, not least of all because it gives me a headache to nag. It’s a way that I can share my love and express my organizational skill, however short-lived the results may be. Kind of like the hippo and the tooth-cleaning bird: a symbiotic relationship.