cleaning the desk

Client's desk BEFORE
Dick Lourie’s desk BEFORE
Client's desk AFTER
Dick Lourie’s desk AFTER

I wrote a blog post two months ago about a client of mine, Dick Lourie, who I had been working with to help him clear his clutter and organize his office. I also included his poem titled, ‘baggage’. We are still on the journey to achieve his goals, which he is admirably accomplishing.

Before our organizing journey began, his file drawer folders that were stored in a dilapidated big blue file cabinet were mislabeled and out of order. There were several duplicate files of the same subjects in different file drawers; making it very confusing as to which folder to use when filing. He also had lots and lots of papers and newsletters stacked in boxes; some cardboard, some plastic milk crates, some even in old suitcases.

During additional sessions, Dick got rid of a third of the paper stuff (recycled & shredded), sorted the rest, and labeled new folders appropriately. Then, true to his word, he replaced the rusty blue cabinet that was missing a drawer, with new file cabinets.

At the last  organizing session, we tackled clearing, relocating, recycling and disposing of the abundance of clutter on his desk, and making sense of his files. He purchased a ‘step’ file holder for the desk, and we created ‘Action’ folders labeled ‘Action NOW’, ‘Read This Week’, ‘Bills to Pay’, and ‘Pending’ for things he needed to take care of within the next week or two. Dick is thrilled that he can now find documents from his files that he needs to deal with, and take care of his to-do’s in a timely manner.

His wife told me his desk hadn’t been so clear and neat since they moved into this particular house many years before. During our organizing sessions, Dick has stayed committed and motivated to achieve his goal; to have an uncluttered and usable office space.  Even though there are still bookshelves to work on,  he feels so much freer, and his office no longer controls him. 

I encourage everyone reading this blog post, who is aware that they need to clear up the clutter on their desk or anywhere else, to write down your organizing goal/goals. And, to take the necessary steps to bring them to fruition. Let Dick Lourie be your inspiration!  Make a commitment to yourself, tackle your clutter a little bit at a time, and ask your friend’s or family to be your cheer-leading squad and help you un-clutter, get organized and stay motivated.

This post was inspired not only by Dick’s enthusiasm, but by the following poem he wrote titled  ‘cleaning the desk’. I have his permission to publish it here. (Please do not share it on Facebook, as the poem is copyrighted.)

‘cleaning the desk’

by Dick Lourie

Ghost Radio, available from Hanging Loose Press, information at

before I came home from the hospital
I had started planning to clean my desk–
two days after surgery dozing on
morphine I opened my eyes and wondered
how many stackable plastic letter
trays I had at home and what would be the
most practical categories for sorting
the dusty piles of mail that lay everywhere

last time I cleaned up it was a different desk
I took all the stuff off the old door balanced
on the two filing cabinets so that
Larry could build my elegant new desk:
fifty third birthday present to myself

I also cleaned my desk when I was
forty-two      Abby and I getting married
and I lugged everything to Boston from
Ithaca where actually I had
two desks     big ones     though I don’t remember why

before that I’d had no desk for several
years–so many apartments     Peekskill     New Paltz
and that tiny house where Virginia and I
tried to be happy     no room for desks there

In the mid-sixties      cheap East Village pads
I distinctly recall just using the
kitchen table for everything      of course
I cleaned my desk thoroughly when I left
college though the one at home in New Jersey
I had used all through high school just kept on
accumulating papers–I should ask
my mother whatever happened to that one

and I had a little blue desk when I
was eight but I believe it was the kind where
everything got stuffed underneath the hinged
desk top so it never needed cleaning

the question is (when you’re trying to plan
something as I was     lying there relaxed
and thoughtful)     whether you’d be better off
reviewing the history a little–
how did you get your desks clean in the past?
why did that first marriage fail?–or just looking
ahead:     suppose I have say fourteen letter trays
will they make one big stack without falling down


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