Why my office was a mess? ~ A guest post by Andréia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor more than 8 months I have been struggling with my office and my desk. It has been a mess and it has been impossible to solve. It seemed that no matter what kind of organizing system I used, nothing seemed to work on my desk or inside my home office. I asked Colleen for advice time and time again, but it appeared that no matter her suggestion, I could not make it work.

So what was wrong in my home office? Firstly I had a mild depression. I did not recognize it back them but I was depressed. My job is a very emotional one I deal with people’s emotions and their private lives. It can be gruesome and very tiresome. As I also depressed I got deep bone tired of my line of work. All that led me to avoid my office. Instead of solving the problems on my desk I chose to ignore them because I did not have the energy or the will to tackle them. However my working problems or my health problems did not go away because I ignored them. They just got bigger.

I was so tired and depressed that instead of solving the problem I considered just abandoning a profession I love. I did know that I had to take a different approach, not get so involved with the emotional problems of my clients, and be more detached and professional. But I was not doing that.

As I did not know what was wrong, I still could not solve my office’s problem. It was only when I was medicated, a few months ago that I finally understood my whole problem. And now I am tackling my desk one thing at a time.

So, as I discovered, sometimes clutter has a different source than keeping, buying or getting more stuff. Sometimes we are sick, sometimes we are just tired. I had to look really hard for the real source of my problem. So whenever we are struggling with a declutter problem we have to look hard for the real source of that.

Today’s Mini Mission

Return something that you have borrowed from someone else that you should possibly have returned some time ago.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
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  • The problem is acquiring Clutter is very much about being keener to acquire than to let go. We acquire things we need, or more likely just want, but once their usefulness to, or novelty for, us has expired we […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. My desk is a disaster zone too. The weird part is that when I worked in an office (as an employee), my desk was extremely tidy at the end of every day. Not sure why the home desk stays messy…. but like you I am sure it’s rooted in something psychological.
    We make the bed EVERY day (even when travelling) because of the instant gratification that comes with such a large portion of the room being smooth and tidy (also I feel like I will lose something in the sheets if the bed is unkempt) It’s a nice feeling of order to start the day.
    We don’t go to bed until the kitchen is clear, its great waking up to empty sink and cleared counters — clean slate for creating great meals! If the kitchen is messy in the morning it’s instantly depressing for us and muddles the morning routine.
    BUT my home office desk won’t join the tidy party!
    I clean it and a day later it’s back to chaos.
    Maybe it’s because I never know where my next contract is coming from? Is the uncertainty niggling at my subconscious that a messy desk is a busy desk? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s plausible. Or maybe it’ because I am afraid that if I put that stack of papers away, then I’ll forget to do the task associated with it? Actually that has happened before, but in this day and age I just need to let my digital calendar remind me, that would mean TRUSTING the calendar of course.
    Hmmm… it looks like a trust issue is linked to my desk! Trust that jobs will keep coming, trust that I can complete the jobs I have on time… revelation!
    This is why I love 365 Less Things so much, the thought provoking posts that lead to self-reflection and progress!

  2. Thank you for being so honest in your sharing – whenever my depression/anxiety acts up it leads to a cluttered and unorganized home. It’s so important to remember that there is help out there.

    • I have the same thing happen. It’s like my surroundings reflect my inner state of being. The better I feel emotionally, mentally, and physically, the cleaner and more organized the house stays. I hope you are also getting help for your depression and anxiety. I deal with depression and panic attacks.

  3. An excellent post that I can identify with. My kitchen counter is the first place to dump stuff when entering the house and is a waystation for things leaving. I don’t think I’m depressed overall, but the constant chaos there and a few other places is certainly debilitating.

  4. We are in transition, doing major renovations at our house, and we’re living for a few weeks at the neighbors’ while they are not there. I have a messy (actually two) table–just pile stuff up. Right now, I think my issue is not having a place for everything so I can’t put everything in its place.

  5. Hug to you while you deal with your medical condition

  6. Another very thoughtful post, Andreia. Kudos to you for persisting until you found the right answer. You are right, we need to figure out the “why” in order to find the right solution. Thank you for reminding us of this.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. 365 recently hada link about procrastination stimualting the pain part of the brain and taking action stimualtes the happy area. (very rudimentary explanation!) This info and your post are so helpful.

  8. Thank you for posting about your struggle. It is easy to forget or ignore how our state of mind can affect how we deal (or don’t deal) with our surroundings/stuff. Hope you continue to feel better and the meds continue to help. And that you are able to keep doing the job you love.

  9. I am so sorry to hear that this has been a real struggle with you, but I happy that you have found a way to work through this to the betterment of your future. 🙂

    The top of the desk hasn’t been an issue with me . . . but what is lurking UNDER the desk?! Oh yeah, closed filing – which I don’t like to do. Guess I should get to that sometime, someday, someway. 😉 Thanks for sharing with us Andreia – I have always found your posts helpful.

  10. Andreia – thank you for your very brave post. Someone very close to me has battled depression for the last 18 months and it has been a rough journey. It is a very exhausting condition, especially so for the sufferer and also for those around. Medication gives the body/brain/mind a chance to rest, rather than being caught permanently in high gear – much like how ibruprofen is used to reduced swelling/inflammation in a sprain, so you have done the right thing. During the last 18 months I have realised it is more wide spred that people realise and certainly more complex than I had previously realised.

    • I’m so sorry to hear someone close to you is battling depression. It is a painful and insidious disease. I hope your loved one is also getting counseling. I lost a best friend to depression. Sadly the meds the doctors put her on didn’t work as hoped and she slid downhill quickly. It was terrible to watch. I wish more people understood that depression isn’t just being “sad all the time” and people suffering from it won’t “just get over it.” It’s like people telling a cancer patient to just get over it. If it were that easy, nobody would deal with depression. Ugh.

      Sorry for the small rant. It’s a subject very close and painful to me. I really hope your loved one is doing well and thrives.

      • Rachel W – yes I understand everything you are saying. I will use the cancer example. The other thing is that folks assume that’s its just usual ‘feeling a bit down’ – its so much more than that and it is frightening to watch someone sinking into invisible quicksand (of the mental kind) , and it is so much worse for the person experiencing it. Yes, plenty of professional help but its a long journey and it totally changes the game. It is what it is, and we deal with it.

  11. Sometimes a small thing can cause a cascading effect and identifying the sticking point can lead to a bigger solution.
    We had a small 2-drawer filing cabinet and one of the drawers didn’t work properly. It was such a hassle that I procrastinated with many jobs because I didn’t want to have to deal with that horrid filing cabinet. Papers piled up, got stuffed in baskets or pinned on bulletin boards because I hated wrestling with a cabinet which was too small and awkward to use.
    Yesterday we set out to buy a new, larger cabinet and came home with a 3-drawer credenza which we purchased at the ReStore for the grand sum of $18. It holds all of my files in one drawer and the rest will hold binders, craft papers and all manner of oversize items that I’ve stuffed in corners because they wouldn’t fit anywhere. By the time we’ve shifting things around I think my old desk and some smaller storage pieces will have followed the filing cabinet out the door.

  12. Great post Andreia 🙂
    I nodded my head in agreeance with what you are saying.
    We need to look at the whole picture of life.

  13. Well…..decluttering is something I constantly am working at, and the people here at 365 things are way ahead of me. That said however, our mental health is something I am good at and spend a lot of time working on personally. Good for you Andreia at uncovering some of your personal struggles and seeing how they are affecting your life!! And kudos for sticking through it so you don’t abandon something that you love!!

    When working with people who are struggling (because let us be honest, we all are to one degree or another), it is significant to remember and understand that ‘we’ or ‘I’ cannot solve their problems. I can help them come to an awareness, I can offer solutions, I can listen, I can serve. But at some point, the true solution has to come from them and they have to be willing to own it and implement it. If they are not ready emotionally to do that, then they are not quite ready to solve their problem. Though I want to help them, if I take on too much of the responsibility for ‘solving’ or helping with their problem, I can cause my own emotional difficulties or increase them. A healthy balance of recognizing that I can listen and assist without taking responsibility for them is essential.

    And because we are women, and we do care (that is a natural part of our nature to become emotionally involved with those we care for), we all to one degree or another, try to help other people. Sometimes other people’s problems are bigger than we have energy or time for. Taking a step back is not an indicator that we do not care for them. It is realistically evaluating our mental health and ability and not running faster than we are capable of doing. In a job where your clientele is coming to see you because their emotional trials of life have moved them beyond their ability to handle them or they just need some help, that is an extremely demanding responsibility. Taking time to nurture your own emotional health, by getting out and doing other things you love, that do not have the same emotional demand and spending an equivalent amount of time with emotionally healthy relationships and people may help.

    The bigger issue sometimes is just recognizing that though we want to help, we may not have the power to do so. Part of life is learning to manage our emotional responses to the things (circumstances, people, or behaviors) that happen to us. This talk may be of some assistance: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/and-nothing-shall-offend-them?lang=eng Though it is primarily about relationships in church, the principles of emotional health can apply to any situation and people.

    Best wishes in your continued journey!! And thank you for sharing, I think most of us need to be reminded that we all have areas where we are struggling and working on goals, whether that is decluttering our spaces or our emotions! 🙂

  14. Thanks everyone for tour encouraging and warm responses. I am medicated now, but it is not an easy journey. I downplayed my illness to a point where I was very agressive to my own family and those close to me. I will try to answer each comment personally, but as you must have seen on other posts, my energy is not fully restored. Thank you all again!

  15. Andreia, I admire you for your honesty and openness! I believe that it is not an easy journey..I was in a very similar situation..

    I wish you much strength and endurance.

  16. here too. I also struggled with a mild depression, and I also started to declutter at the same time that I got myself some help. I never took meds, but have been going to a psychologist for quite some time now. I know that there is a connection between the state of your life, mind,soul, psyche, or however you want to call it and the place you live in. the worse I feel, the more I tend to hate myself, the more I produce chaos and make myself live in it, although I hate it. strange things people do.
    My mum always said: untidy room, untidy mind. And she was not totally wrong with that.

  17. Great insight. Our physical environment can often represent our mental environment, and can be a symptom of mental and emotional issues rather than the cause of them. One thing that always struck me when watching TV shows about hoarders is that there was almost always some emotional trauma that triggered their tendency to buy and collect things. I think a lot of clutter can be similarly caused by things that are impacting us emotionally. It’s great that you recognized the situation, and thanks for sharing it here so that others can learn from your experience.

    • Hi Eric and welcome to 365 Less Things. I agree with your assessment and then there is simply the modern worlds attitude of wanting it all. Not to mention the advertising crammed down our throats deluding us in to believing we need it all. I am sure Andréia would agree.