Fall Cleaning. Life Cleaning.

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I cleaned out my office the Monday after session adjourned.

My son and one of his friends drove over and carried it all out.

Now, after leaving them stacked up for months, I’m figuring out what to keep and what to toss from the things I brought home. I remember Princess Diana, after her divorce, selling all her old clothes. That was a smart move.

I’m going through a decidedly low-brow version of that this week. I’m tossing out clothes, shoes, books, files and all manner of things I don’t plan to ever use again.

In the process, I’m also deep-cleaning my house. My asthma has reared its ugly head after a couple years’ grace. I usually shampoo the carpets and clean behind and under all the places I don’t ordinarily clean behind and under a couple of times a year.

But I haven’t done it since before session started last year. Too busy. Too distracted.

Now, the asthma has brought it home that the carpets are holding dirt and the places back behind where I never clean are dusty, too. So, I’m going to take this place apart and put it back together again.

In the process, I will toss the detritus of my “official” life. The Representative Suits and all the stuff that goes with them are going to Goodwill. I’ve also got to figure out where I want to hang paintings and similar things that I brought home, as well as what shelves will hold which whatnots.

Some of these things are deeply meaningful to me, and I want them where I can cherish them as my life goes forward.

At the same time, I’m considering what software I need as a writer vs what software I needed as a legislator. The difference is the difference between a Honda Fit and an 18 wheeler. I used Microsoft Publisher to create my campaign literature, Microsoft Access and then later Filemaker Pro to run my databases, Excel to track financial records, and Word to communicate with my office.

I can’t think of a reason why I will need any of that going forward. I have, just by my daily usage, pretty well switched over to Mars Edit for blogging, Scrivener for book writing, Numbers for spreadsheeting, a free-form document filer for the research on my books called DevonThink Office Pro (Oh, how I love typing that phrase: “my books.) and a combination of Nisus Writer Pro, Mellel and Pages for word processing. My new database is a bitsy little thing called Tap Forms, which I use to keep such things as the serial numbers of my software, and smallish personal mailing lists.

If I had to cull it down to the things I really need for work, I could get by with Scrivener, Mars Edit, Pages, Numbers, DevonThink, Tap Forms and iPhoto. All of these (with the exception of DevonThink) are lightweight and inexpensive.

My only heavy duty software is Aperture and a suite of digital darkroom software from Topaz. But that’s not work. It’s hobby.

As for hardware, I have a desktop and a laptop and I use both. I plan to keep both. No way could the laptop handle the things the desktop does, and no way could I put the desktop in my purse and go.

I’m changing my life around the edges because I’ve changed it at the work core of it. It’s a bit discombobulating, going through such a fundamental change in my life. But it’s also exciting and liberating.

It took me a while to figure out what this lightness and happiness I was feeling actually was. Along with the files and the heavy-duty software, I was tossing away responsibility for tens of thousands of people. I grieved that a bit. I worry about my constituents, about who is going to take care of them.

But I have to let go of taking care of them and move on.

Aside from that, which is a little bit like sending your 5-year-old off to his first day of school, I feel incredibly light and unencumbered. I am awash with choices and the possibilities of new beginnings.

But it’s more than that. It took a while to figure it out, and then one day, it hit me what I was feeling.

I feel free.

What Does Your Workplace Look Like?

I am fascinated by the places people carve out for themselves when they work.

Whether it’s a rest bar a the Post Office, a cubicle, or a spot on an assembly line, we all tend to make nests out of our workplaces.

Writers, in particular, seem to give full vent to their creative nesting impulses when it comes to the places where they put words to paper. The Guardian published a fascinating article a few years ago with photos of different writer’s rooms, described in the writer’s own words. It turns out that famous writers work their magic while standing at lecterns, reclining in their beds, sitting elegantly in beautifully turned out offices and a bit everything in between. Some of them look out their office window at a beautiful view; others prefer to stare at a blank wall.

It seems that the literary muse like many different kinds of nests. But one thing each of these workplaces had in common was the sense of ownership the writer seemed to feel about it. It was “theirs” in a way that the rest of their houses were not. 

So it is with all of us. We humans feel a need to claim our turf. We are more comfortable if we sit in the same place at church, take the same desk at work and dine in the same corner of the company cafeteria. We take comfort from and even find a bit of peace in the predictability of having “our” place when we sit down to work. 

Maybe that’s why I found this article so fascinating. Or maybe it was just that I am such a dedicated nester. Home is important to me. Home is refuge, safety and peace. Even when I’m out and about, I like to have spots that are mine, where I can go and have at least a facsimile of home when I get there. 

My office at the Oklahoma state capitol is no exception. I deliberately chose an office that is a bit off the wide-open path. To get to my office, you have to work your way through a suite, including getting past my secretary. I filled it with things that have meaning to me and I regard it as a sort of retreat in that big, echoey building. There are times when I need to get away from the noise and bother of that place and think things through. I also need a retreat where I can pray. 

I spent hours looking at the photos of writer’s rooms in that article and reading their thoughts about their workplaces. Work is such an important part of all our lives. We spend a huge part of our waking time in these cubicles, offices and stations. That makes them important. 

Here’s a photo of my office. 

What does your workplace look like?

 

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