Organizing Tip: The Mess Behind the Desk - Christine Kane

Two years ago, I let go of an employee who had been in my record label office for several years. The process was painful, and there were lots of incompletions and unresolved messes that went along with it. Anyone (especially sensitive types!) who has ever let go of an employee knows the challenges involved, and understands the many levels of fall-out that might get left behind at the office.

I went through a summer of cleansing out the old. I got rid of piles. I sorted files. I tossed tons of old papers into recycling. It was freeing, and it allowed me to feel the release that needed to happen. I am a big fan of creating order and letting go of clutter, and I’ve grown to have a deep respect for the very real emotional freedom that comes from clearing physical clutter.

In all the work I did in my office, however, nothing came even close to the good feng-shui effect of tackling one seemingly harmless part of that space: The wires and cables behind the computer, fax, phone and printers.

This may seem a little “Monica-ish,” but let me describe my experience in sorting through the mess behind the desk.

First, you should know that the person who worked for me had occasional moments of emotional outbursts. One time I walked in as this person heaved the headset and phone across the office and into the wall. The office had been left in chaos. There were stacks of paper unfiled. Notes were written in random places everywhere. I’m not placing blame – as I was the employer who had obviously not learned how to manage very well yet – but I am recognizing that there was a lot of “stuff” left behind.

One of the worst areas of disorganization was behind the desk: all the wires and cables were in a tangled mess of insanity. I was tempted to just blow it off, since it was behind the desk. After all, no one looked back there, right?

But it kept gnawing at me. Everytime I noticed it, I felt a twinge of “yuck” in my stomach.

So, one afternoon, I just sat on the floor and went through the wires and cables. There were many extension cords (it’s an old building with few outlets), printer cables, USB cables, router cables, phone cables, fax cables, answering machine cords, and more. All of these were haphazardly tangled up with each other in a mass, covered in dust and dirt. The more I worked at it, the more I realized why this was so important to go through!

First, I pulled each of them apart. Then I took a wet rag and wiped the whole area down. I vacuumed. Then I re-ordered everything and set each item up so that it was in the most logical place and running the shortest distance to its outlet. I also used peel-and-stick cable holders to mount cables onto my desk that needed to be readily accessible to the person who sat at the computer. It was a tedious task.

Though I am no feng-shui master, I do know this: that energy gets stuck in neglected places, in messes, in tangled up stuff, and in corners. When I did this one simple seemingly insignificant activity, I felt something shift and lift. It was like I untangled a whole bunch of wires inside of me as well.

So, now I’m a stickler for keeping the wires and cables and plugs in order. This past weekend, weeks after a big office move, I took about a half hour and went through a process of assessing the cable situation in the office. It’s so easy to randomly plug things in wherever, especially when you’re anxious for things to just start working. The time I took was worth it.

(Of course, my poor husband had to sit through a grand tour as I showed him each and every change I made and explained how much more efficient I had made things!)

If you’ve been wrestling with cables and wires every time you have to move your laptop or unplug your iPod, or if you’ve felt “unclear” or “tangled up,” or if you just happen to feel like it, I highly recommend facing the mess behind your desk and launching a cable overhaul.

  • Chris Owen

    Unfortunately though I need to do the wires tidy-up, the concept of taking the boy on a tour was FAR too resonant!!!!

  • Christine Kane

    hello authormomdognut! You’re absolutely right there. In this case, it took LOTS of scrubbing and throwing out of things to get complete! (I was working with a coach who was quite encouraging of these activities!)

    colin, i’m not sure it’s okay for you to use the word “energy.” someone may have to come take you away! and yes, you’re right there (if your worldview can open up to this), it really is a physical shifting of something in the room, and goes beyond metaphor. (though, it helps some people to think of it as metaphor so that they don’t appear to be going too woo-woo.)

    hey joy! well, i got tired of using the word “cable.” and “wire” didn’t work. so, chord it was… though it’s probably spelled “cord” isn’t it? hmmm. i should go change that! my musician side took over, huh? 😀 (we won’t tell anyone.)

  • Joy Langtry

    Hi Christine,

    I believe you did an Accidental Coining of a New Phrase….
    “answering machine chords” conjures up a very cool audio-visual image for me. Thanks for that!

    🙂 Joy

  • Colin

    I started to write “excellent metaphore”, but then it struck me that one may be actually “cleaning” while cleaning…so, not so much metaphore as literally changing the energy (hey…that ain’t too bad given my worldview!). Be interesting to see if there’s much difference in the way women “untangle” and men do so. Not important…just maybe interesting.
    (PS…guess I’m out of hiding for awhile. Maybe I’m getting untangled too!)

  • Author Mom DogNut

    Also being sensitive, I understand the desire to get a room completely gone of another inhabitant’s presence. I find that, after cleaning, and feng shuing, washing down all surfaces (like you did with the cables) including desk tops, office equipment, walls, floors, etc., really helps free the room and sets it up for a fresh beginning.