The need for a workspace at home started when I went back to school in 1999. I was working on Wall Street and attending Dowling College on Long Island. Some classes started at 5:20 PM. This was not compatible with a minimum 2 hour mass transit commute (each way), so on school days I got permission to work from home. Along about 2005 I became a full time telecommuter, visiting the office once or twice a month. I was very efficient and got lots of things done. I really pioneered telecommuting for the company and was a prime example of how the work-from-home arrangement could benefit both the employee and the organization.
The fact that I was a successful telecommuter is what enabled me to relocate from Long Island to Southwest Florida. When I moved to Florida, I continued to visit the most local office at least once a month, if not more – two hours away by car (each way), up in Tampa. But I had a lovely dedicated office at home that was quite useful, functional and practical in addition to being very comfortable. The closet in the home office was crammed with Rubbermaid bins of stuff that I needed to go through “someday” but the rest of the room was furnished and outfitted as a study/library/workspace rivaling many of the SVP offices I’d seen on Wall Street and Park Avenue.
After being laid off in September 2010, the first thing I did was go on a shredding spree. I had to properly dispose of any company information. In fact, I burned out my shredder and had to get a new one. My work diaries – notebook after notebook ennumerating what I did each day, who I talked to, what was decided and why, meeting notes, To Do items and daily accomplishments – all went into a Rubbermaid bin. Although I no longer work for Too Big To Fail, I no longer trust them, either. Therefore, I think it’s wise, for the time being, to retain proof of my at-home productivity.
Fast forward to January 2011. My friend and fellow militant sheller “steinbecke” persuaded me to perform a “cleanse” of the office and re-purpose it for studying for certification exams. The office had lain fallow lo those many months and had become somewhat of a repository for “whatever” kind of stuff that was lying around and didn’t have a home. I re-homed the homeless, and then I purged the desk and the bookshelves of anything having to do with my old professional life – old Excel manuals, professional books that everyone “should” read, awards I’d won, miscellaneous cubicle fodder. I trashed a lot of it and made a Goodwill run with the rest. I dusted, I vacuumed and I set up my netbook in there with my school books on the desk and a new monitor I’d found on sale at BJs. Great, now I have a dedicated space for studying, writing papers, etc. Yay!
March 1st, 2011: my online “sistas”, a group of women who congregate in a particular forum for daily support and camaraderie, were comparing photos of their wedding dresses. Well, I was married at one time, and I wore a dress that had been hand-made for me by my best friend and maid of honor. So into the office closet I went, to try and find a decent photo of me (I hate most photos of me) that didn’t include the ex-husband but showed off the dress nicely. The closet contained eight huge Rubbermaid bins full of “stuff”, stacked in two side-by-side towers of four, plus a wooden bookcase hand-made by my grandfather. Upon these shelves I’ve stored all my opera scores and vocal music. Miscellaneous office supplies were crammed in there too, on whatever surface was available. The top shelves of the closet bear the burden of original packing materials for things like Disney collectible figurines and computer equipment. Since the ceilings are 10 feet high in this house, this is a good use of space that would otherwise go wasted.
After I’d had a good rummage, pulling nearly everything out of the closet, I finally found the wedding photos in the very LAST bin in the corner. As I surveyed the carnage of the closet having spilled it’s considerable guts all over the room, it became apparent to me that I was not done with the “cleanse”. I had too much STUFF and I needed to seriously go through it all and purge it. So I did that over the course of the next few days. Again, there was a Goodwill run, this time with office and school supplies plus some CDs that I’d already ripped to my hard drive and imported into iTunes. Eight bins became four and the bookcase shelves were cleared of anything that didn’t have to do with vocal music.
This actually worked out pretty well, because I was expecting my niece and her roommate for spring break. Dusting, vacuuming, cleaning of bathroom and linens and such ensued. I pulled out the twin bed from my comfy overstuffed office chair and made it up. By the time I was done, the room looked like a very neat and well-appointed dorm. It came in handy, while she was here – she let her roommate have the guest room and she took the “study” so she could finish some papers and continue working on her thesis. The girls spent some hours lounging and studying in there during their “break” from school, and I was glad I had purged the closet, for there was space on the closet floor for suitcases to be put out of the way.
A couple of weeks have gone by since the spring breakers were here. I have been sort of lazy and not on my game – unmotivated, not following my food and exercise plan consistently, even skipping “RPM” (rise, pee, meditate”) several times. Saturday evening I decided to spend some quality time with my iPod and the Tibetan singing bowls before turning in. Once I’d finished meditating and disengaged the iPod, I thought I heard something dripping. Thinking it had started to rain, I peeked into the night from the guest room window. There was no sign of rain. I walked down the narrow hallway to the office and looked out that window – no rain. I continued to hear dripping, and walked into the guest bathroom where my socks began to slake their thirst on a puddle on the floor.
I quickly remembered that last year, during the Olympic hockey final, I’d discovered a puddle in the garage and thought the water heater was leaking. I called a plumber, and he discovered it wasn’t the water heater – the master bath was on the other side of the garage wall, and the hose that fed the toilet had sprung a leak. That was a very expensive lesson, one I will not soon forget – not only because it cost me so much to replace a dumb hose, but because I missed most of the gold medal game. Now I knew what to do. I shut off the valve to the toilet, flushed a couple of times to empty the tank, and the dripping stopped. Ah, same shitty hose, same problem!
And then I remembered – seepage! What’s on the other side of the guest bath wall? Why, it’s the closet in the office!
I raced to the closet, F-bombing the entire time in every combination and permutation of every phrase in which I’d ever heard the word – and a few that I made up on the spot, special for this occasion. The carpet was SOAKED in there. The creative F-bomb droppage increased as I hauled everything from the closet into the room. I rummaged a bunch of towels from the laundry, flung them to the closet floor and made like Lucille Ball stomping grapes. Each soaked towel was then flung into the washer before stomping another, and I didn’t stop until they started to come away merely damp. In between the cussin’ and the stompin’ and the haulin’ of shit away from the seepage, I was sending f-bomb-laden texts full of frustration and fury to my friend Lisa, and she was doing her best to make me laugh. But I can’t help it – I get a little existential during crises such as these. WHY had I carpeted the bedrooms? WHY didn’t I have someone heavier than me around, with bigger feet, to perform more efficient stomping? WHY do I not own a shop vac? WHY were all the hoses in the house failing (we’d done this at Christmas with the refrigerator, too)?
I retrieved my AC/DC powered fan from the hurricane closet, found the plug and propped it up on one of the bins. Aiming it at the closet floor, I jacked it up to “HIGH”. I also set the air conditioning on “frigid” and changed into dry, warm socks to help protect myself from the encroaching chill.
And I surveyed the carnage of the closet having spilled it’s still considerable guts all over the room… am I not done in here? Did I not “cleanse” enough? I considered what had been left in the closet after the last purge – four bins and a book case. The bins are labeled thusly:
[pullquote]I am beginning to understand that the closet no longer wishes to serve as a repository for the past. The closet keeps finding reasons to regurgitate into my workspace, its contents standing in mute accusation of pack-rattery. The closet, I have come to realize (in a very “come to Jesus” kind of way) wishes to be purged of the past entirely.[/pullquote]
- Bin No. 1: “PERSONAL DOCUMENTS” – 7 years of financial records, plus probably my marriage license and divorce papers.
- Bin No. 2: “ALBUMS PHOTOS NEGATIVES” – candidates to be scanned and eliminated
- Bin No. 3: “SCAN ME” – more photos and also programs, posters and reviews/news clippings and such from my former life as a performer
- Bin No. 4: “SCHOOL BOOKS AND LECTURE NOTES” – these are from my BA in psychology.
Everything from the closet represents an era from the past. I am beginning to understand that the closet no longer wishes to serve as a repository for the past. The closet keeps finding reasons to regurgitate into my workspace, its contents standing in mute accusation of pack-rattery. The closet, I have come to realize (in a very “come to Jesus” kind of way) wishes to be purged of the past entirely.
If I examine my heart really closely, I have to confess that the study of human behavior still fascinates me but not enough to endure a couple of years of grad school and the low pay that would ensue from doing clinic. So I’m probably NOT going to become a pshrink and I should shred the lecture notes and sell the text books. Bin No. 4, gone.
The other bins are a bit harder, because it’s going to be REALLY time-consuming and – let’s face it – BORING to scan all those photos and negatives, sort them, label them, store them and back them up. Maybe I should look into how much it would cost to have someone do that for me. This would eliminate Bin No. 3 and Bin No. 2
The closet is just going to have to bite me – HARD – about Bin No. 1. Talk to the US Government about why it’s a great idea to keep 7 years worth of financial records.
The book case was hand-made by my grandfather, and it’s not up for discussion. Bite me again.
The opera scores and other vocal music… ugh, I DON’T want to think about this. It’s freakin’ USELESS to go there. I don’t see how this is going to make me a living. Really, I just can’t see it. Plus, I owned all of this vocal music while I was still smoking, in the house in Oakdale – it all REEKS of old cigarette smoke.
So if I’m not going to use them and they smell bad anyway, I guess I should just get rid of all the old scores.
Why does that feel wrong? Is it just sentiment? I think that’s part of it. I also think donating them is not going to be of benefit to anyone, really. Scores become so personalized while you’re studying them – all of MY notes about what works for ME in this or that role have been carefully preserved on those pages. They represent tutelage and advice from MY teacher, fine-tuned for MY voice. Sometimes, as the voice matures, revisiting a score years after learning the role will cause the crossing-out of notes and the recording of fresh advice and/or new insights. Using someone else’s score can be disconcerting – yeah, all the musical notes are there, but the breath marks are not YOUR breath marks, and the phrasing, dramatic pauses, not to mention blocking notes for moving about the stage, would be of little use to someone else. So if donating the scores would not be the right thing to do, what’s left – burning them?
I’m not sure the ENTIRE past needs to be purged. Even if I never look at any of those scores again, there is something stopping me from getting rid of them. I don’t know what it is, this “something”, and I don’t know if it’s the same as that other “something” I’ve written about prior to this… but I think I probably need to find out. Because really, I don’t care to do this again, this hauling of shit in and out of that closet ONE MORE TIME, this stomping of the grapes, this living in chilly disarray while it dries out. I don’t want to keep looking back at what I’ve done but have put aside, and I don’t want to carry it around with me anymore, either. It’s inconvenient and topsy-turvy and not at all how I want to live.
I need to get this sorted before yet another hose fail strikes.