The Stuff of Life

I want to be Bandita Tawny.

Yes, I do.

I mean seriously, have you seen photos of Tawny’s office—the space where she writes? It’s an awesome, cute, table-style desk with hardly anything on it.   Except a dog basket.

Yep, one corner of her desk has a basket for her teensy weensy little dog, Daisy Mae. A dog that wears cute sweaters and has an adorable bow in her hair.

That’s cuz Tawny is uber-organized.

Yesterday I poured my coffee and went to my office, just a few steps away from the coffee maker

Dear. Lord.Thank God for the things that I do not own quote

Obviously, it was time for an intervention.

My office, you see, is my kitchen table. Not because I can’t write somewhere else–technically my writing space is in one corner of the bedroom.

Ummm, that’s not working.  I avoid that corner.

My office is my table because this is the part of the house where I can actually sit and write without constantly getting up to go know…the kitchen. Apparently my muse likes this part of the house best. Yeah. I have to stay in the kitchen to write.

Anyway…a few weeks ago I cleaned out and painted the computer armoire in the front foyer–the one that holds our desktop computer–so yesterday when I walked into my…ahem…office, everything that came OUT of that armoire was still piled on the table.

Even with the leaf adding almost a foot to the round oak dining table, no wood was showing between the piles.

MakoOh and there were some dust-bunny-dog-hair-combo thingies wedged under the table’s claw feet, know…both of our dogs have heads bigger than Tawny’s entire dog.

A basket for one of my dogs would be bigger than my whole kitchen table.

Okay. It’s that time of year anyhow, right? Might as well get a head start on spring cleaning, starting with my kitchen-slash-office.

I do this at least once a year, though I never seem to actually finish the job.

The interesting thing to me is that every time I do this, I find that I’ve let go of my attachment to more stuff, and I’m able to either donate—or throw away—a bunch, which is the goal after all—lighten the load I carry through life, so I’m hauling around less physical baggage.

Still, in spite of all this, there are a few things that, no maClearing Space photo of Stevetter how cramped my space has been, have survived every cleaning and clearing through the years, and they still hold a place of honor in my writing space.

First is the most important one. It’s a photo of my husband, Steve, not too long after we moved into our house. We’ve been working on the house for years, but at this point there wasn’t much furniture. It was almost Christmas. This photo always makes me smile.

Next is a little bear.  I can’t tell you for certain the year that picture of Steve was tclearing space golden heart bearaken, but I can tell you pretty much to the day when this bear came into my possession.  It was July, 2006, and I was in Atlanta, Georgia, getting ready for the Romance Writers Of America Golden Heart awards.  I was a finalist.  My friends, also my conference roommates, were my critique partners at the time.  They gave me this bear right before we went down to the awards show.  Every time I look at it, I remember that moment.

That’s also how I came to be a Romance Bandit, and meet the other awesome writers who make up the Bandit Lair.clearing space sugar bowl

That photo over there on the right…that’s a sugar bowl.  It’s the only thing I have in my home that belonged to my paternal grandmother–my father’s mother. She died when I was a small child.  I don’t have much from her because, honestly, she didn’t have much.

The sugar bowl has no lid, so it holds pens and markers.  No matter how much tossing I do, I always hold onto this.  It’s one of the things that keeps me connected to my roots.

clearing space cards from dianna I always have a card or three clipped to my file holder, and more often than not, they’re from Dianna Love.  It’s true that I work with her, but it’s also true that she sends the best cards at just the right time I need to receive them..  They make me feel good, so I keep them around, even through the serious, heavy-duty cleanings.

clearing space coffee signOne day last year, a box came in the mail, and it was full of fun things that made me laugh.  One of those was this wooden sign over there on the right–the one about coffee. It came from Banditas Jeanne and Nancy, who were off on a trip, doing research and having fun.

I couldn’t go on the trip, so they sent me this to let me know they were thinking of me, even though I wasn’t there.  It was a thoughtful gift from people who know me well, and every time I look at it, my heart smiles.

clearing space sticky holder Okay see that caddy full of sticky notes over there on the left?

Yes, it’s true that I love office supplies (what writer doesn’t?) and in particular I love stickies.

But stickies are the equivalent of Thor’s hammer for me. If I have the right stickies, I can do anything.

That caddy full of stickies is my security blanket.  Cuz see thclearing sticky white boardat white board over there on the right?  Yeah, I know it looks nothing like a book, but that’s what it is. That’s the book I’m working on right now.   So no matter how thorough my cleaning and purging, the sticky notes stay.

They make me feel safe.

clearing space florida bottleThat bottle over there, the one with the sand and the seashells, is one I brought from Florida.  I was at a conference there in the dead of winter, and being near the ocean always heals my soul.  The conference organizer was kind enough to give me this little bottle to fill with stuff from the beach, and sometimes I get it down and just stare at it for a while.  The joy of the sun and the sand and picking up seashells at the edge of the surf comes back to me and renews me.  There’s a whole escape for me, right there in that little bottle.

This is the last one.  See that little rock down there on the right beside my computer mouse?

I was a young woman when I went on a really special retreat.  This was a women’s retreat run by the Catholic and Epclearing space first stoneiscopal churches in the region. I was neither Catholic nor Episcopalian, but that retreat touched me in profound ways.  Many groups sent small gifts to make us all feel special, but the monks from a monastery not far away sent each of us a beautiful long-stemmed rose, and a small stone painted with the word “FIRST.” The retreat leader read a letter from the monks.  For each stone, several hours of prayer had been dedicated, that the receiver would be blessed in whatever way was needed.

The lovely rose was withered within a week, but I’ve kept that stone on my desk, wherever that desk has been, for almost 30 years. It was a reminder of a story in the Bible.  A group of people were accusing a woman of adultery, and wanted to stone the woman to death.  They demanded that Jesus agree with them.  Instead he said, (paraphrase) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at her.”

I am a person of deep faith, but I’m not at all religious.  But for me, that little rock is a reminder of the unconditional love I felt at that retreat, and a reminder that if I ever feel inclined to judge another person, there’s a stone right there, handy, that I can throw.  But I should maybe take a look at myself before I throw it.

I keep a few quotes around–some framed and some just cut out and taped to the edge of a shelf.  The one at the top of the blog, from St. Teresa of Avila, is one clearing quotethat makes me laugh every time I start trying to get rid of the piles of stuff in my life.

The one here, on the left, reminds me to pet my dogs more often, and worry how the yard looks less often.

That stone, the sugar bowl and the photo of Steve have been with me the longest of all the treasures I keep in my writing space.  I have a few other small trinkets, but none stick with me the way these do.

The sticky notes I could replace of course, but when I think about what I would keep if I could only choose a few things, these others always seem to make the list.

What about you, Bandits and Buddies?  clearing space cards from dianna2

When you clean and clear your space, what things remain year after year?

Are there certain things you’ve had on your desk for a long time, maybe even through more than one job?

Whether it’s a space for writing, cooking, knitting, or relaxing, what do you keep near you that’s meaningful, that makes your space your own?

Up there on the right is one more card I keep in my office. (Yes, it’s from Dianna.) I’ve decided I’m going to frame this one, because  I love it so much.

Posted in , , , , ,



  • Helen says:

    Is he coming back to visit me ?

    Have Fun

    • Cassondra says:

      Helen, he is yours for the day! He’s probably working it out that way to stay away from the cold!
      Besides, he loves you and your grandkids.

  • Helen says:


    Great post I have so many little things that I would never part with but most of those things are put away in cupboards with the amount of children I have at my house I never leave anything that is special to me on my computer desk LOL.

    I do keep a lot of books on my keeper shelf especially books that have been signed by the author they are really special to me 🙂

    But I do try to clean up at least once a year and get rid of some of the things that I have I really need to de-horde again it is time

    Have Fun

    • Cassondra says:

      OHHHHH, Helen, that’s a good word. de-horde.

      I am so stealing that word!

      And yes, it’s hard to keep special things around with kids. Heck, it’s hard with cats! They climb on everything and knock stuff off. Most of what I have isn’t breakable, but if it is breakable, it’s behind a cabinet door. :0)

  • Mozette says:

    What a post! I love my writing space, as it’s in its own little room of its very own: where my book collection is.

    I have a proper corner student desk and a very boring view outside my window… so, it’s all roof tiles and blue sky or rain I see day in and day out.

    My desk is messy. I have pens, pencils, bookmarks, old stamps, old book, piles of Post-It notes in one place, a messy corner of papers (of I don’t know what!) in the other…two boxes of old work I meant to put onto a thumb driver (and never got around to) then I have a Dr Who one-hand clock (very cool once you get used to reading it). I haven’t got a printer though. All my printers give up the ghost on me – eventually – after I stop using them after a while. They just simply close the programs down by themselves without giving me any choices… so I don’t have a printer as I edit on-screen.

    So where the printer goes is a collection of cool little retro toys I have bought and been given over the years. I even have a toy Badger called ‘Mr Peabody’ who (Mum has told me) I’ve had since I was around 3 years old.

    Otherwise, the desk is rarely cleaned up – if ever – because if I do clean it, I tend to spend half my time looking for what I need. So, messy it stays… 😀

    • Cassondra says:

      Mozette, I love your process, and I love that you know it and respect it. That’s cool.

      And Mr. Peabody sounds like a wonderful thing to keep around.

      AS to technology–I have a love-hate relationship with it. This year I’m trying to embrace it more and have a more positive attitude than I’ve had in the past. Hoping technology will appreciate my new mentality and make my life easier. *grin*

  • Amy Conley says:

    I have a waterbed, yes I’ve had it for 30 years and love it, it keeps me warm. But, since June I have been sleeping on a twin mattress sitting in the frame of my waterbed, since the wb mattress was attacked by a 6 week oldcrazy kitten when I was out of town. Clawing through my mattress was her way to show me she was not happy I was gone. So I had to shop for a new mattress and liner. Thank you Amazon for carrying a little bit of everything. Mattress and liner were ordered and received, and sat on my chest in my living room. A couple weeks ago I got the hose in the house to fill the mattress, and told hubby we were going to set my bed up…ummm, nope, didn’t happen. Tonight I was sitting on the twin mattress, looking at all the things which I had accumulated in the empty space of the bed frame, stood up started removing the bedding, took out the twin mattress, removed all my junk to the toddler bed which is set up in my bedroom for the grands when they stay the night.
    All of that took me less than 30 minutes. I spent the next hour running between the bathroom and my bedroom trying to get the airiator off the bathroom sink, the hose hooked up so it didn’t leak, run to bedroom, make sure the hose is on tight and not leaking. This process took me over an hour.Finally time to turn the water on and wait for the bed to fill up. Before 10pm it was filled and I was happy. Now it was time to make my bed and get it ready for my body, I grabbed the comforter I bought last summer and wouldn’t put on my bed until physco kitten got declawed.
    Now I have to go through all the stuff on the toddler bed.I keep cards, and I have a box in my closet for them, unfortunately I have a stack on one of my nightstands which need to be put away. I also had enough light to see how dirty my lampshades are, and because of my new for me conforter I need different curtians, and, and, and….yeah, started spring cleaning tonight.
    And let’s not forget all the books which need a new home now ( I have a feeling books and kindle will end up on the side of the bed where no one sleeps).
    BTW, we can’t eat at our kitchen table either. It is our catch-all spot.

    • Cassondra says:

      Haha, Amy! I love it!

      I have gone through a LOT of those, “can’t get this done til I get that done” days. It’s aggravating. Finally I give up and just start tossing things.
      I so want some horizontal spaces in my house with nothing on them.
      Zen. I need to get me some o’ that Zen.
      And I lived with a waterbed for nearly as long as you did. I had one when we got married–the kind with the wooden frame and the big plastic water bladder inside. It’s still the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, but ours gave up the ghost and I got a regular bed. I do NOT miss the running back adn forth from the faucet to the bed, the leaking, the “cold” shivers if the waterbed isn’t warm enough the first night you sleep on it. But when it was right, it was really, really right.

      • Tawny Weber says:

        OMG Major Cold Shiver Flashback!!!

        • Amy Conley says:

          I always tell hubby if we get a divorce I get the waterbed. And the key to making sure you don’t freeze is a nice thick bedliner. I just grabbed the. Blanket closez to me when I made up the bed, and it isn’t near think enough so I grabbed my down filled little blankets and laid them down. Nos it is petfect. Of. Ourse mg thrkw blankets sill need to be removed shortly and mattress cover added.

  • Dianna Love says:

    Good post, Cassondra, because I’m close to that ‘time to clear stuff out’ moment. I’ve been on a hard run of work for 3 months (of which you and my husband know better than anyone) and I can’t wait to get a day to clear the clutter.

    But even so, some things always remain (my cards from you are in a box where I keep the special ones so they never go missing) and those things are tied to some moment in time or someone that was (is) important to me. We (me and hubby) are always purging to get rid of stuff that we just don’t need/use/want anymore, because of having to move those things aside to get to the things that do matter.

    Thankfully, the majority of clutter is in my office and my writing cave so that i can walk away from it at the end of the day. Life in my cave is very much like when I used to paint big murals – my cave has notes, whiteboard and pages around me that are all related to the project, similar to the many buckets and containers of paint for when I was in the middle of turning out multiple billboards/paintings on a tight deadline. As soon as the deadline was met, I’d start sorting everything, cleaning and organizing so I was ready for the next big run of work. I loved that feeling of having completed something and having reorganized. It’s like constant new beginnings. 🙂 Now, back to the cave because you have me really longing for that clean up day.

    • Cassondra says:

      Hi Dianna! *waves*

      That’s amazing that you still keep any cards. I’ve actually been inspired by the way you let things go when their time is done, and make room for new things in your life, and I’ve found that as esoteric as that is, it actually works. I would need about a month of solid cleaning/reorganizing to get the whole house the way I want it. Alas, that’s a pipe dream.

      So I’m chipping away at it one small space at a time. :0)

  • Cassondra, what a fun peek into your life! We have those fur ball/dust bunny combos, too, and no matter how much we clean before company arrives, there is guaranteed to be one such clump under the furniture and directly in the guest’s line of sight. I think Herself does it on purpose.

    Anyway, to your questions:

    When you clean and clear your space, what things remain year after year?

    This presupposes I do clean and clear my space, which really not a regular thing. I work at a computer cart that doesn’t have a big surface. Papers tend to accumulate and have to be gone through and pitched, but I don’t have other things on it.

    Are there certain things you’ve had on your desk for a long time, maybe even through more than one job?

    No, but I do have a some superhero magnets and others I enjoy put up where I can see them.

    Whether it’s a space for writing, cooking, knitting, or relaxing, what do you keep near you that’s meaningful, that makes your space your own?

    My big picture of Richard III pretty much guarantees no one else in the family is going to claim this space. *g* I also have family photos scattered around. There are framed contest certificates on the walls, but I’m thinking it’s time to take those down and replace them with cover flats.

    And there’s the piano, which will always be in this space because we have nowhere else to put it.

    • Cassondra says:

      Nancy, you know, I don’t even think I realized you had a piano!

      Do you play?

      I love your superhero collection. It’s so you.

      • Thanks! I love my superheroes, too.

        I used to play, though not with particular proficiency. I haven’t tried in a while because the smooth surface came off of one key, and every time I touch it, it throws me off. We need to get it fixed, which might be only a matter of some glue, except the part that came off vanished.

        The dh plays by ear.

  • catslady says:

    I am a total pack rat and I no longer apologize for it lol. Once in a great while I appease my husband and clean some of the top of my desk but in a matter of days it’s right back how it was. The only thing that really disappears are papers of all kinds from notes to articles, etc. but many times I just move them somewhere else. Sometimes I try to go through them and can throw out some of them but never all lol

    • Cassondra says:

      catslady, I am a hoarder of articles and information. That was okay for me until I started working from home and had to be able to actually access what I have. I also realized that ALMOST everything I had, I could find online. Not all–and I try to keep what’s obscure or that I think I won’t remember to look for if there’s not paper in front of me, but for the most part, now, if I can get rid of it, I do. I’m considering one of those desktop scanners to decrease the paperwork even more.

  • Dear Lord, Cassondra, have you been peeking into my house?

    I have been digging out of my office this week. Right now I have mound of paperwork on the dining room table that needs to be sorted or purged or “dealt with”. (Tax season is upon me.)

    I have about 20 delivery boxes that have to be torn down and a ton of shredding to do. Then I get to vacuum and try to organize the scrapbooking/craft/giftwrap corner. (Christmas has a way of invading my personal space!)

    The reason is, when I get deep into a book, most everything else goes out the window. Well, except for cooking dinner, cleaning the bathroom and showering. (Thank goodness!)

    On the hutch part of my desk I have things I love. This very cute little black handbag with the Ohio State University Block O in red. It’s a gift from a reader friend, Billie Jo Case. Sweetest gift ever!! And it connects me with my home every time I see it.

    There’s the gold etched flower vases that once belonged to my aunt and uncle. When he died the items passed to my parents and about a year before my Daddy died, he gifted them to me.

    There’s an angel carving with the angel holding a baby. It reminds me of 2 things. That there are angels among us and my past as an L&D nurse.

    On my book shelf is the DARA Robin Teer award. It’s a curved acrylic plaque that has a black center and the DARA (Dallas Area Romance Authors) symbol. It’s given for service and volunteering to the chapter and only given out once a year. I was honored to be even thought of, let alone awarded it. It stays where I can see it.

    And of course, there are now framed pictures of the grandkids scattered throughout the space. What kind of grandma would I be, if there weren’t?…Which reminds me, I need a frame for the twins’ Christmas picture!

    • Cassondra says:

      Suz, what a fun assortment to have! I love the DARA award–and you deserve to have that. You give give give, even when you’re cutting back on giving. Even I know that about you. :0)

      And yes, grandkid photos. Ours are of granddogs and grandcats, friends and family–no human children–but they’re fun to frame just the same. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of wall space. I’m running out!

  • flchen1 says:

    How lovely, Cassondra! I love hearing about such meaningful items you keep around you! I’m a confessed packrat, but if I were to weed down to what I would really keep, it’d likely end up being photos of family and friends, and signed books 🙂

    • Cassondra says:

      Ah, the signed books. I have to tell you, as a writer, the knowledge that readers like you exist on the planet, who love signed books and consider them valued possessions–you have no idea how much that means to us. It keeps us writing!

      Thank you.

  • Tawny Weber says:

    LOLOL You do know that I only take pictures of my desk when it’s clean, right? At the moment, I have a notebook, stack of file folders and post it notes on the left, and a notebook, two phones, random pieces of paper and my iPad on the right. Daisy Mae is out playing with her big dogs 🙂

    What a wonderful look at your treasures, Cassondra. I love that sugar bowl and the story of the rock is so touching.

    I’m big on cleaning out, and we do a major purge and donate a couple times a year. But there are things on my desk that have been here forever and will always stay.

    The fairy Barbie on her stand, pointing at my monitor in place of an actual Muse. A variety of crystals for focus, inspiration and clarity. A Harry Potter wand given to me by my old editor for magic on the pages and a funky pottery bowl my youngest daughter made me, filled with thumb drives and recharging cords.

    • Cassondra says:

      OMGOSH, I LOVE the faerie Barbie as muse!

      I also love the cool pottery bowl for the thumb drives (mine are shoved into an old makeup case–ugh) and especially the Harry Potter wand. “For Magic on the Page.” That’s perfect!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey Evil Twin! I love your blog for today! And I love that the Coffee sign made you laugh. Grins.

    I’m with you on envying Bandita Tawny’s uber organization. I’m a pile-and-bulldoze kind of organizer. I can find stuff. No one else could do so, I’m sure. Ha!

    I have so many treasures that keep me company. The dogs at my feet – none of mine are desk-sized either! – a note of reply from a famous author in return for a fan letter I wrote; a porcelein Dalmatian, and a picture of my mom in her wedding dress. :> The rest is subject to change without notice.

    Lots of signage, as you can well imagine. One of my favorites being “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.” Grins. Appeals to my dark sense of humor.

    • Tawny Weber says:

      LOL I love bulldozing! My husband won’t let me in the garage because he’s afraid I’d start organizing… he figures that all that junk he’s kept for 30 years would end up organized out of the house 😀

      Aww, I love that dragon saying, too. I have one that says ‘Don’t Piss Off the Fairies’ in the living room. I started making my own subway art (signs) because all those great sayings don’t do much good on post it notes

    • Cassondra says:

      Jeanne, I love the “dragons” saying.

      I want a sign like that at some point. Right now I have nowhere to hang it. But I have the warning sign from Nancy that says, “Here be Dragons” It’s on a shelf in my bedroom. *grin*