Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'Tis the season...

I'm not talking about Christmas, not yet, anyway. The current season is Advent, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth. While I wish I were spending it at the convent, that's not in my budget this year. I have already bought all the Christmas presents, so it's not the season to run frantically through the mall while trying to ignore music that more properly belongs to the period between December 25th and January 5th (or January 6th to the beginning of Lent).

What I'm planning to do this Advent is to find my favorite anti-clutter books and dig out my room/computer room/office. I have a copy of It's All Too Much that has been sitting next to the head of my bed for several months. I'm still on page 17, stuck at the "deciding the purpose each room serves" step. At lot of books are designed for people with a spouse and children (and possibly pets), a house, a yard, a car, and so forth. Certainly this is a valid approach, and many people need it. But as one gets older, one's space tends to shrink. I used to live in a Victorian house on a double lot in Berkeley with my boss, three other people, and two large dogs. There were also two office employees who didn't live in, plus the daily home health care workers. The house had a front hall, with an entire wall devoted to Marion's books (just the ones she wrote, not any of the many, many others that she owned), a walled-in sun porch, music room, living room, library, kitchen, pantry, bath, and Marion's office (originally a bedroom). That was the upstairs. The downstairs had three bedrooms, a common room, the laundry room, and another bathroom. Then there was the carriage house: offices upstairs; my quarters downstairs. The car lived in the driveway.

The move from there to a studio apartment in San Francisco required a lot of changes. I am profoundly thankful for eBooks; I have about 1,800 of them. Not only are they not taking up shelf space, but I can adjust the type size to something I find comfortable. With mp3 songs and iTunes, my CD collection now takes up about two linear feet and my DVDs use another three. So I should be organized, right? Well, no.

Despite my use of online bill paying, there are five bills on the desk in front of me, three of which are going to need paper checks. And while going through that pile I found three royalty statements from LSI: July US; July UK; and November US--as well as a September statement for MZB's audiobooks. We haven't been paid for the last two yet; the July payments were electronically deposited on October 30 (US) and November 1 (UK). They're still on my desk because the "title" for every single book they've published for us is "Marion Zimmer Bradley's". I know that they're Sword and Sorceress 22-26, but the only thing that differentiates them on the statement is the ISBNs, so I print out the page that has the detail information and log them in when I get around to it. Given that they don't pay us until three months after they e-mail the statements, it doesn't really seem urgent. Turning to my left I have a bulletin board with a calendar, the cable for my iPod, and a rosary. The paper shredder is under that. Then there's The Table. Some people have junk drawers; I have a junk table. There's a book about using Google for genealogy (under a pencil holder, a paperweight, a paperclip holder and a digital clock/thermometer). Then there's a small vase with a stress ball on top of it, another pencil container, a music box and an L-shaped piece of plastic I can't identify but am keeping because it appears designed to cover something sharp. In front of that is a copy of the Darkover Concordance, which we are working on reprinting, a file of eBook contracts, notes for the next Darkover anthology, and the legal notice from the bank that arrived today. I'll read it tomorrow. Maybe. Then I have a notepad, two spiral notebooks with pens stuck in their rings, and a Sony eReader I haven't used in uh, two years? I think that the pile behind that has mortgage documents on the bottom, Marion's writing workshop notes in the middle, and some documents about emergency planning near the top.

The pile beyond that is genealogical papers. It's not bad enough for me to be a writer and editor, I have to have genealogy as a hobby. There are papers waiting for me to go to the local genealogy library, papers waiting for my next trip to Salt Lake City, and papers waiting for me to find time to go to New York City and look up an old marriage record. (Now is clearly not a good time; I don't know if that part of the city has power back yet.)

What really bothers me is that I haven't seen my library card in over six weeks, but I'm pretty certain that it's somewhere in this room. So it's time to sort, clean up, and put meaningful labels on the storage containers. "To Be Paid" currently has my notes from this year's RWA meetings. I was down to two sheets of white printer paper before I finally got another ream yesterday (and it's still in my tote bag on the floor).

I don't need a book that asks me what I should be using this room for, what I need are books that make me laugh and feel better about the mess I'm facing. Fortunately I have three great ones, all by Don Aslett: Clutter's Last Stand; Not For Packrats Only; and The Office Clutter Cure. Reading statements like "My mother saved everything. My father died ten years ago, and I'm sure he's in the bottom of the freezer" remind me that my life and my stuff are not completely out of control. And I love Mr. Aslett's description of the evolution of the office: "Office supply people came in platoons, one right after another. Gadgets not even God had thought of were created. The electric cords for all this snaked under and around desks and everywhere." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I don't feel so alone now, and I know I can do this. Of course, prayer never hurts. Fortunately it's the season for it.

Happy Advent, everyone.