Clutter at work and at home


While working as a quality inspector for Mid-American Cleaning Contractors, I make my way through a wide swath of workspaces, both workers’ cubicles and perimeter offices. While some workspaces are uncomplicated, with only the bare necessities needed for a worker to earn his or her paycheck, there are other workspaces that are anything but uncomplicated.

In those spaces, I’ll often see, among other personal effects, multiple photos, Bobbleheads and miniature figurines, model cars and other small toys. I’ll also often see lots of sports memorabilia, including golf clubs, baseball bats and even football helmets on shelving.

Now, from a housekeeping standpoint, I always cringe a bit when I see horizontal surfaces cluttered with such items, since it makes dusting far more time consuming in addition to increasing the chances that, say, a Hummel or two may get knocked off a shelf.

As for my own laborious efforts through the years, I’ve had desks and surrounding workspaces in several jobs with, of course, the most prominent being my classrooms in three different high schools. While I enjoyed my time immensely both at Perry and Allen East, the classroom where I spent the longest amount of time was Room 16 in the original St. Marys Memorial High School, which was “my office” for the last 27 years of my teaching times.

As far as personal effects in any of my workspaces over the years, I’ve pretty much passed on bringing anything to those spaces that reminded me of home. Now, there was one exception, and that was indeed in that Memorial classroom in a building that, sadly, after its demolition in 2010, no longer blocks the view of Baughman Stadium from West South Street.

As scores of my former students can attest, Room 16 was definitely a work environment, a place where much effort was expected and much was expended, with few exceptions, by pretty much everyone that arrived each day. The room certainly often had the look of clutter, given the yet-to-be-disseminated Xeroxed lessons that were cross-stacked on the room’s perimeter. However, it was work-related clutter, not the kind in the workspaces I often see while working these days.

The one exception I made regarding personal effects in my work world dates back to the early 1980s, during my halcyon days of young fatherhood. On my bulletin board in the front right corner of the room by the storage closet that, typical of a building that opened in 1923, required a skeleton key to access, I regularly stapled a few of my little girlies’ best coloring efforts. Shannon and Katie often on Sundays would color, bringing their best work to me and saying, “Daddy, these are for your classroom!”

Now, how could any father refuse that? So, their efforts were placed in my work bag and then stapled to that bulletin board each Monday morning. And, on days when the world didn’t seem to be spinning my way and I was either frustrated with myself for not being as effective an educator as I so very much wanted to be or I wasn’t particularly pleased with the current performance of my troops, I would look at those colorings to remind myself that, no matter how I thought things were going, I’d indeed persevere and bring home that bacon to the ones I promised to support.

Other than those bulletin-board times from so very long ago, I’ve never really been an at-work knickknack guy. I think it’s always been important for me to make sure there was a clean line of demarcation between work and home.

Please don’t think that means I’m a minimalist at home and, somehow, am anti-knickknack. Trust me. If you’d see my domicile, especially the man cave down the steps where games are watched and a few long necks are put to good use and saw the amount of sports-related photos and other items that festoon the room, you’d know that surely isn’t the case.

It’s just that I’ve always wanted to keep my work and leisure spaces, in a figuratively tonsorial sense, much like a mullet. The business in the front has always been my work, and that party going on in the back has always the place where, so many have said, where our hearts are.

I suppose I never wanted to confuse the two worlds in which I lived.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at

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