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Spring Cleaning Cobwebs and Cyber Clutter
by Patricia Misiuk
Spring, traditionally a time of rebirth, evokes
images of melting snow, robins and Easter lilies. On the flip side, however, the
same season triggers less pleasant givens such as filing income taxes and spring
cleaning. Do I hear a collective groan? Good.
OK, I admit the dust bunnies in my house
approach the size of elephants and my closets constitute a virtual time capsule.
But when I'm spinning my wheels in search of files instead of writing, 'tis time
to knuckle down and clean, streamline and fine-tune the components of my home
office. The end result- more time for writing, marketing and cashing royalty
checks- is worth a few hours of grunt work.
GOT CLEANING SUPPLIES?
Chances are, if you're as cleaning challenged as
I am, you'll need to restock your supply caddy. Be sure you have:
(1) Glass cleaner- for the dust magnet, aka
the computer monitor's screen. The payoff? No more blurry text. Brighter
(2) Can of compressed air- to blow dust away
from the keyboard, the breeding ground where organisms resembling a science
fair project reside and reproduce.
(3) Vacuum cleaner with a long, flexible hose-
to inhale the fuzz from the hard-to-reach cable network that provides the
juice so your cyber machine can lose files and crash.
(4) Dust cloths- don't cut corners here by
using rejection slips.
(5) Shredder- for those of you who still use
that centuries-old invention: paper. In these times of identity piracy,
discarded documents with personal information should be destroyed.
(6) Trash receptacle- surefire job security
for sanitation workers.
GETTING DOWN TO THE NITTY GRITTY
No use dwelling on the how-tos of cleaning.
Just a few tips and reminders. Let gravity work in your favor. Since dust
drifts downward, start with top shelves. Spritz, swab and swipe your way to
floor level. Out of sight, though, should not mean out of mind. Be sure to
clean under and behind the computer and peripheral components. Don't miss any
surfaces, especially the tower since it requires clean free-flowing air for
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Looking good? Don't rest on your laurels just
yet. Keep in mind: your computer cleaning is not finished. Plop yourself in an
ergonomically friendly chair, boot up and let the cyber clean sweep begin.
Scan the list of "favorites" sites and deep-six the ones you no longer visit.
How 'bout text files? Make sure keepers are on disk. Increase your machine's
memory by dumping the oldies but no longer goodies. Ditto for screen savers,
photos and other downloaded must-haves that are now has-beens.
If your computer seems stuck in slo-mo, try
some techie tricks- scan disk, defrag, emptying cache and recycle bin- to
satisfy your instant gratification we want it (to respond) now
PAPERLESS WORKPLACE? NOT!
A reminder from pre e-mail times, a metal file
cabinet, stands in my office's corner. I methodically cull and organize the
contents of each manila folder. Your filing system will vary, but here are some
Considering the musical chairs mobility of
editorial personnel and the belly-up tendencies of some publications,
guidelines for writers may be...well, let's just say the quart of milk in your
fridge may have a longer shelf life than some guidelines in your
Update the information on each guideline by
verifying on the Internet or by telephoning. Note changes and date your
entries. Then file, either alphabetically or by
(2) Financial and Legal Documents.
Last year's check stubs and expenditure
receipts should already be organized on a ledger sheet and close to tax files.
Contracts from defunct magazines should be shredder bound. I keep the rest as
reminders of my obligations and rights, should I segue into a "recycle an
Some hoard toilet paper; others, plastic bags.
My downfall: published clips. It's an ego trip to see my name and words
plastered on paper, again and again. Truth is, I don't need 15 copies of the
same article. With the prevalence of scanners and copiers, I can easily up my
inventory. Ditto for duplicate magazines and newspapers showcasing my words.
Save a few favorites and recycle the rest.
(4) Magazines about writing.
I tear out reference articles targeted to my
areas of expertise and keep them in a loose-leaf notebook. Recycle the
I save hard copies of my pre-computer queries
and ones from the current year, mostly as ready reference since they are also
I keep a log listing date submitted,
publication, article title, and status.
(7) Hard Copies of Articles.
Those I save. If I rework one (and all my
writings are forever works in progress) I toss the old and replace with the
(8) Idea File.
I keep the contents of this catch-all file:
middle-of-the-night epiphanies scrawled on scrap paper, clever word phrases
and other minutiae.
(9) Rejection Slips.
Put the ho-hum ones where they belong- in the
trash can. Better yet, dump them all. Unfortunately, new ones will filter
Cleaning parallels writing. The transition from
inertia to action is often terrifying but the end result- a home office that
passes Mr. Clean's white glove test- creates an ambiance that invites you to
linger, write and, once again, fill your files with- think positively now-
copies of acceptance letters, contracts and royalty checks.
© Copyright 2002, Patricia Misiuk
Patricia Misiuk could have been the sole interviewee for Studs Terkel's "Working." Her jobs have ranged from migrant work in New Zealand to the replenishment of sanitary products in the "Big Apple's" restrooms. When she grows up (she is 61) she wants to be a columnist. She still works at "McJobs" but "writing is what she does."
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