My Office, In Handy Box Form

Well, some of it, anyway. There are some more plastic containers to the left of the picture edge which contain more books, and then up in my office there are another 20 or so boxes to shuttle down to the basement from the office, which I will do after lunchtime today, which incidentally I will be spending at Lowe’s, picking out paint for the walls. And then this evening Krissy and I will be breaking down the shelves and the desk and the loveseat, and pulling the art off the walls. So by the time we go to bed tonight my office will be almost totally bare.

What I really think when I see all these boxes is how the hell did I fit all this crap into my office in the first place? The topmost box there is at head height; there are a whole bunch of boxes you’re not seeing seeing here; I still have more stuff to bring down to the basement. My office is not that big. There may be some violations of physical laws here.

One thing which will be true is that much of the stuff that was in my office will not be making the return trip when the office is finished. The vast majority of the books will stay in the basement, not just for storage but also because we’re planning to make a more formal library there (someday…). The office furniture is going entirely; I’ve made the executive decision to graduate from particleboard shelving to something slightly more elegant, and I’ve also realized that having two massive wings on my desk just gives me an excuse to pile lots of crap on them, and I really shouldn’t give myself that excuse.

Beyond this, in a general sense I’ll be looking at everything and asking what it really adds to the feng shui. The fact of the matter is — and I know this will sound weird considering all the pictures you’ve seen of my office — at this point in time too much clutter starts being distracting for me when I write, and I am (alas) all too easily distractable. In one sense it would be lovely to have my office be a desk, a computer, a chair and then not a whole lot else. I don’t think I’ll actually make it that spartan in the end — I’m not that spartan a dude — but my office will be sporting a “less is more” philosophy moving forward. So, lots of stuff in the basement, on a more or less permanent basis. Well, that’s what basements are for.

37 thoughts on “My Office, In Handy Box Form

  1. Don’t go over to the Dark Side! A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind. And I don’t mean the nice kind of sick we expect from a genre author, either. You start thinking Less is More, you’ll start thinking about cutting waste elsewhere — that way leads to Republicanism. Or worse. (grin)

    Remember: Less is More, but Less is also Less.

    Dr. Phil

  2. Congratulations on the new office and sympathy on the transition. Schlepping boxes is a pain. Still the outcome should be worth it. Can we revisit this in about 6 months to a year and see how simple your office remains? Since you have been kind enough to share how many books you receive in any given week, I worry. I do worry.

  3. To keep your office uncluttered going forward, I suggest that rather than taking delivery, you have UPS and/or USPS forward all those ARCs, author copies and such to my house.

  4. Does Zeus get to make the trip back to the office or is he banished to the basement for the long term?

  5. I applaud your effort to declutter! Be ruthless. If you find yourself holding an item and thinking, “I might need this some day,” toss it. (Recycle it, donate it, sell it, gift it, whatever your conscience permits. Just get rid of it.)

    As for maintaining the clutter-free Zen state, good luck. Some people are able to hold to the “bring one in, take one out” zero-growth philosophy but it sounds like you have a lot of other people helping you bring stuff in. I’m not sure how to prevent that short of razor wire.

  6. I don’t recall what your desk arrangement was before, but have you considered putting it so you’re facing a blank wall?

    And then maybe blinders on the sides of your head, and possibly a couple of devices to deliver a painful electric jolt if you turn your body too far out of the chair.

    That would prevent distraction, I’m sure.

  7. “My office is not that big. There may be some violations of physical laws here.”

    Office of Leaves, by John Z. Scalzielewksi.

  8. Correct me if I am mistaken, but is that an Ab Roller front and center in that picture?

    It looks nice and shiny. Funny, from the pictures I have seen of you I expected it to look more… dusty.

  9. I’m somewhat of a cluttery person, but when I work, my work area has to be ordered or it disrupts my mind.

    I find M&Ms help too :)

    Congrats on the upgrade!

  10. Its funny that your moving everything to the basement as I will be moving everything from the basement and putting it elsewhere as we have people comming to spray foam the headers (the ceilling) in the basement. I find myself overwhelemed with the task and only have a few weeks to complete this and have NO idea where to begin.. any suggestions? How did you modivate yourself? Did it help that you work from home?

  11. If you’re going to leave the books in the basement, then for the love of all that’s holy, get them up on shelves ASAP. Basements, even finished basements (can’t tell if that’s carpet or concrete) attract water. It’s pretty flat where you live, isn’t it? Frozen ground, lots of snow. sudden thaw: the water just spreads and will go right down through the basement windows.

    Alternatively, of course, you could make your office into the formal library and plonk a chair, desk and computer down there in the basement. No more distractions!

    And WTH is that wooden thing in the foreground with 3 poles and a shaggy hairdo?

  12. [My office is not that big. There may be some violations of physical laws here.]

    One word: tesseract.

  13. “My office is not that big. There may be some violations of physical laws here.”

    Just try to avoid the Dirk Gently Couch Conundrum.

  14. DemetriosX@15: “And WTH is that wooden thing in the foreground with 3 poles and a shaggy hairdo?”

    My guess is it’s a lock of hair from Hugh the Hugo-Impaled Headcrab’s first haircut.

    I still have my wife’s ponytail from her first haircut when she was eight. It’s an Ohio thing I guess.

  15. You might consider moving partly from shelves to cabinets. Me, I have an “out of sight, out of mind” problem that lets clutter get bad behind the scenes, but having doors on things can reduce distractions.

    I’ve also always wanted a rolltop desk, for similar reasons. Computer goes on one flat desk or table, anything hand-written goes in the rolltop, which is closed when not in use. That’s the theory, anyway.

  16. DemetriosX@15: “And WTH is that wooden thing in the foreground with 3 poles and a shaggy hairdo?”

    I think it is a small end table (possibly designed to hold a mousepad?) that has a pom-pom sitting on it.

  17. When I painted my office this summer and had to move everything out, I’ve been rather puzzled as to why all the books I moved out don’t appear to fit on the shelves when I moved them back in. Weird.

  18. Heads up, your book “Your Hatemail Will Be Graded” was reviewed on SFSIGNAL.COM today.

    I agree about desk space. My desk is also just an attractor for crap. So much so that I bought a laptop, and I use it exclusively. My desktop comptuer is now just a file server, under a pile of junk.

  19. I agree that clutter creates a certain energy that is not very conducive to creativity. I think some people are more inclined to *notice* this than others, but I also think nearly everyone responds when you get the clutter out and there are clean surfaces and the room is peaceful. My “office” is very minimalistic. I use my kitchen breakfast nook for an office. I have an upholstered banquette that has hidden storage inside and underneath. Everything I need for writing is there, but I can hide all of it, including the laptop, when I’m tired of looking at it. Books go in another room entirely. I like the arrangement quite a lot. The one drawback is that my banquette is awfully COMFY when I am feeling sleepy…

  20. Dark side indeed.

    I have no viable surfaces in which to write anything at my desk. I even have those pullouts that create flat surfaces and they’re filled with papers. I do go through them constantly, just like I’m sure you go through all of your stuff.

    We moved our office from one room to another. The other room was much larger though, so I’m having a hard time adjusting. Fitting filing cabinets, scrapbooking stuff, sewing stuff and a desk and office supplies is too much. Don’t bring the books back upstairs. Resist the urge.

  21. “My office is not that big. There may be some violations of physical laws here.”

    isn’t that a line from “and he Built a Crooked House” ?

  22. I’ve also realized that having two massive wings on my desk just gives me an excuse to pile lots of crap on them, and I really shouldn’t give myself that excuse.

    Er, dude — and that’s a “dude” in a respectful tone, of course — I’ve seen pictures of your office. Without wings on your desk, your clutter will just bleed^H^H^H^H^H get stacked onto the floor instead. You could hurt your back picking it up; stick with the desk.

  23. I’ll be looking at everything and asking what it really adds to the feng shui.

    If you’re going to go with hardwood floors, you should get a rug for under the office chair. That’d really tie the room together.

  24. a) warning. Put anything that might possibly be absorbent of water in the basement up onto pallets. You never know when a plumbing failure or severe storm might give you vast amounts of papier maché. Moldy papier maché.

    b) When we moved in 2001, we got an extremely good deal from Office Depot on bookcases. Granted because of entropy and Worlcon bids, we’ve only got about 3/4 of our extensive library up on shelves, but we only have to build four more to do it. If you take your time you can look at sales, and they look really nice.

    c) The small amount of office books (compared to the ‘library”) has been culled a couple of times, and may yet be culled more. So far there are two books on the pile. The Shelf o’Tolkein and the Harry Potter Bloomsbury volumes (youth covers) will remain unviolated. On the other hand, the Doc Savage and E.R. Burroughs paperbacks that I had stored in good shelving at my parents’ house, is going to go. Not sure how, but it’s going.

    Organization is a Good Thing!

  25. Paula@32 does have a point, though it would be quite the trick to have a water resistant library.

  26. Big renovation sounds fun and exciting. How about telling us more about it… (including more about why, why now, how, using what, why you decided on what, etc.) Unless, of course, you are already bored out of your mind with dealing with the renovation…

  27. Gee, John, I thought you were still enough of a Southern Californian (I’ve lived in Covina for over 50 years) to be uncertain about what basements are for. Garages, on the other hand….

  28. Just to say thanks John Scalzi for “The Last Colony” and the two previous novels. Excellent stories with such details of a possible future of humankind. The mix of drama, humor and desperate need for survivor of every character gave me the intensity I look in this kind of novels.
    The problem is the feeling of “what I do know that I finished reading”.
    By the way, I don’t understand why there is not a movie based on your novels. I mean, Avatar’s plot and drama is short compared to John Perry’s endless struggle for a never ending happy life, as a human, a soldier, a colonist.

    Thanks again

    Victor M Santana MD

  29. You sound like you are going the direction of Jerry Pournell. He talks about going to his “Monks Cell” to write as opposed to his more cluttered office.

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