Living in Wall-e’s World: Got Leopard Print?

Post written by Monica Gaylor.

I have an Achilles’ heel.  A skeleton in the closet.  It’s called the office.  It is as minimal as the rest of the house.  It has the potential to be very efficient and tidy…but….  I don’t know what the problem is?  I am certain it is a psychological issue of some kind.  I HATE to file!  I HATE to go in there and deal with papers!  I would rather have a root canal or rectal exam.  I am not kidding.  Although – I haven’t actually had either of those things – so… I could be wrong.  But seriously, I have some kind of mental block about filing and dealing with paperwork.  So, the piles of paperwork just keep piling up.  Very oddly – I have no problem getting the checkbook out and paying bills, I just don’t want to open the mail beforehand or deal with the paperwork afterward.  I am a mystery unto myself.

Below is an “assignment” I wrote out about “how I wanted my office to function.”  This came from a “homework” section of Peter Walsh’s book, Its All Too Much.  I did it about 3 years ago.  Sadly, it is the last room / “ideal function” page from Walsh’s book that I am still working on.  The office is my nemesis and my “Office Area Worksheet” keeps getting lost in the office “piles.”  Anyhow – here is what I wrote down:

Office Area

Ideal Function:

  • When I walk into the office area I want to be excited and empowered to keep my personal affairs in order – in a timely manner.
  • I want to happily pay my bills and watch my various accounts accumulate lots of money.
  • When I walk into my office area I want to be inspired to work on my book.

What should it contain:

  • Organized files / put away
  • Organized, clean, uncluttered desk and work areas
  • Office supplies – put away
  • Empty floor space for moving around safely, pacing and thinking
  • A story-line / plot wall poster (or erase board) for book

What has to go:

  • Huge pile of “to be filed” papers (sometimes this is spread around into many little piles)
  • Huge “to be shredded” pile
  • Desk clutter
  • Big “to do” pile of paperwork

About a year ago – I had another feng shui / de-clutter attack and got rid of even more stuff from my already de-cluttered house.  It was at this time that I got rid of my office desk – which was actually a friend’s antique-family heirloom.  I took it back to her because of my personal goal of being able to walk away from everything I own on a moments notice.  It is all part of my philosophy that I should own my possessions – they should not own me and in no way would I want any opportunities in life to pass me by because of a few possessions.  In the old desks’ place I put a side table and 2 chairs thinking that I could do away with the whole need for a desk and that I, under no circumstances, wanted to purchase any more items for my home.

It was a really good idea in theory.  But, since I could do nothing at the little side table, the chairs began functioning as desk space.  One chair held the pile of “to be filed” papers and the other chair held the “to do” pile of paperwork.  In an effort to clear the chairs for a more tidy and uncluttered look, I began separating the “to be filed” pile into lots of smaller piles of similar items.  Pretty soon my floor space began to resemble Wall-e’s world.  And since there was no cute little robot to do the dreaded filing – it stayed that way for a good 4 months.  Christmas party time rolled around and all the piles went back to the chairs for another 5 months.  Did I mention that I hate to file?

So, as summer rolled around again, I began thinking of how I could tackle the office problem.  I have to accept who I am.  I need a desk.  And probably – the bigger the better.  (I can’t believe I said that either.)  Still in the mulling-the-problem-over stage, I began looking at desks wherever I went shopping for supplies – Target, Fry’s, etc.  I was very unenthusiastic about this for several reasons:  I didn’t want to spend the money.  I didn’t want to own anything else.  Any new desk under $100 was an eye sore.  Any desk priced between $100 – $200 was only slightly better and spending any more than that was not even an option.  I would sit in the store and think of how I could alter and paint these desks to fit my needs better and to be more aesthetically pleasing.  But why spend that kind of money to completely change it?

I really prefer second-hand and thrift stores for any purchases I can make without sacrificing cleanliness and style, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind this summer….  However, the whole “Wall-e world” image sticks in my mind and although I look in all the new stores for ideas, I always end up buying used when I can – because really – we have so much overflow in this society.  Why not save a tree or lessen a landfill when you can?

I suspect that artists are the original recyclers, re-users, and re-purposers.  Maybe it is our right brain working overtime?  Or, maybe we just can’t leave things as they are?  It’s the challenge of turning something ordinary in to something better – more unique, more beautiful, more functional, etc.  I definitely fall into the “I can’t leave it alone category.”

So, although I really did not want to spend my “Zen” summer doing, yet another, home improvement project, there really seemed to be no way around it.  I guess fate was on my side because as I unenthusiastically began the thrift store hunt – I live in a state with triple-digit degree summers – I actually found a good desk in store #2.  I left and came home with the desk in less than an hour.  Not only was it the perfect size, it was extremely sturdy (not wobbly), and it required only a little bit of cleaning and cosmetic surgery to be really spectacular and the “perfect fit” for my “unique” little house.  And the best part – it cost $10.

I spent an hour or so cleaning 20 years of grime off of the desk to discover I would have to do less cosmetic surgery (painting) to it than I originally thought.  The legs cleaned up to the perfect polished metal that they originally were.  After looking at my new clean desk and its mostly metal structure, I decided I could paint and duct tape a very small amount of the desk into a whole new incantation of itself.

My house has a very artsy-bohemian feel / style to it.  I love leopard print.  I have spots of it all over my house: some lights, throw carpets, a couple of parsons chairs, etc.  It is not overpowering though.  A week or two before I began the whole “desk” project, I was wandering through the home-improvement aisles at Target and came across a multitude of different duct tapes.  There were all kinds of colors and patterns – it was an artists’ dream.  I really wanted to buy the leopard print duct tape that was on display and use it for something.  It was so cool!  But, alas, I did not.  I don’t just buy stuff willy-nilly, but I was really coveting that duct tape.  So, I filed it in the back of my mind for use in the future – possibly.

In my last post, I discussed Jediism and The Force in great detail.  I discussed my belief in energy / coincidence.  Well, here is another example that proves to me that I am strong with the Force.  I mentioned above that fate was on my side and it was.  I new standing there, in an instant, looking at the desk I had just spent an hour cleaning that I could use my painting skills and that leopard print duct tape to turn my new acquisition into a funky, cool new desk that fits perfectly into my little bohemian home.  See – I am strong with the Force!  (Sci-fi geek alert!)

I realize it is probably too late to make this long story short, but in conclusion, I spent very little time and money on a really cool and much more efficiently-functional desk than I could have spent on a new inadequately-functional desk.  And, I do not think I added to the “Wall-e World effect” that seems to be a plague upon our culture.

The price break-down for the desk is as follows:

  • Desk – $10
  • 1 Roll of Leopard print duct tape – $4
  • Paint – Free (I am an artist, I have it on hand)

Total = $14

The desk was the length I was looking for, but the depth was more than I was hoping to find, so I was able to add on a hutch.  The hutch is what makes this desk more efficiently-functional than it would otherwise be.  The desk has no drawers for storage, so it made sense to create storage.  I used plastic drawers from Target to hold up a piece of wood.  I covered the front of the drawers with a decorative print paper (tiger stipe-y) that went with the leopard print theme and color-way.

The price break-down for the hutch is as follows:

  • Piece of particle board from Home Depot – $9
  • Two plastic drawers from Target – $15 (7.50 each)
  • Decorative paper for front of plastic drawers – Free (something I also keep on hand as an artist)
  • Double-sided stick tape – Free (on hand from Xmas)

Total = $24

Accessories:  2 Pencil holders

The price break-down for the pencil holders is as follows:

  • 2 Soup cans – Free (I ate the soup for dinner – actually 4 dinners – so that counts under food purchases)
  • Left over leopard print duct tape from desk project – Free
  • Left over decorative paper from hutch project – Free

Total = Free

  • Total cost for Desk Project – $38 

(A note about sunk costs:  As an artist and a DIYer, I keep many supplies on hand for those hobbies and activities.  I consider all the paints and papers and supplies I purchase for the act of the creation of art works in that category.  They are sunk costs and not counted in other categories, like painting a desk – but it is great that they are already on hand.  It would be like buying a pair of shoes to wear to work – when you happen to wear those shoes to the movies you don’t count it as part of the entertainment cost.  Or – like when I purchased a drill (15 years ago) for a DIY project.  I did not count it in the project cost because one needs a drill for many things.  It is imperative in keeping a house in good working order.)

It turns out that the “desk project” had enough momentum to it that I was able to make a very big dent in the creation of my “Office Area Ideal Functioning” dream.  I had hoped that by the time I wrote this post I would be able to report that the last of my Walsh Worksheets was complete, but sadly, I cannot.  I made huge strides in filing and de-cluttering the files.  I am down to only a few tiny piles of  “to file” and “to do.”  But, the battle with my nemesis continues on and since school is back in session (year-round education) – I fear the worst (lost momentum.)  I have, however, located all my Walsh Worksheets in a central binder with other important used-daily paperwork so that I can access them conveniently and keep on top of accounts, registers, phone numbers, and other personal goal items.  It is a step in the right direction.

These are pictures of a DIY project I did many years ago.  I turned a chest of drawers into an office.  I reconfigured the 4 drawers in the middle into 2 filing cabinet drawers, so it’s a disguised filing cabinet. I think it is much nicer than actual ugly filing cabinets.  On each side, there is shelving space for office supplies.  I only have enough supplies to fill one side.  The other side is empty.  It is nice to be a minimalist.  I liked this project because I already owned the dresser.  When I de-cluttered my wardrobe, I no longer needed this dresser, so it was a good re-purposing for something I no longer had a use for.  I still have some left over leopard print duct tape so I am thinking….  Oh, sorry, there goes my right brain again.

“There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well.  They must have worked for it.  I only feel angry when I see waste.  When I see people throwing away things we could use.”  –Mother Teresa

There is a wonderful website called Recyclart that has many wonderful ideas and incantations of re-purposed and re-used items.  I highly recommend you check it out.  Here are some of the ideas I really like from their site:

Left – Suitcase Chair

Below – Fork and Spoon iphone Stand

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  –Proverb