Doctor Curmudgeon has found the perfect way to file paperwork: simply set it on fire.


The fire is warm and lovely to look at…at least to me.

My door is closed to prevent the fumes from wafting out into the hall…at least…until the conflagration has ended.

Leaning back in my chair, I sigh with contentment

Two Weeks Earlier…..

I enter my office and stare forlornly at my desk

Piles of papers

Piles of paper sit at varying angles atop other piles of paper.

My computer monitor valiantly rises above it all…like a beacon in a turbulent storm.

My eyes search for a secure area to place my coffee mug

A revelation strikes me.  I realize I cannot go on in this way.


I confess.

I have a messy desk.

There are those who do not mind a messy desk.  They can work happily amidst the chaos.

I, however, hate it.

I do not know how to organize.

I have tried everything.

Baskets with names:

  •     NEXT WEEK

Red flags adorning urgent things:

Somehow, things just get dumped.

I know the theory of organization that says “handle each paper once.”

Doesn’t work for me

I put notes on my computer calendar for every Wednesday, reminding me to sort through the baskets once a week and shred the clutter:

Does not work.  I can get super busy on that day and ignore the baskets. And sometimes I forget to look at my calendar

A Basket on the Wall for urgent stuff:

The sheer weight of papers stuffed into it made it fall, scattering everything on the floor, leaving holes in the wall

One quiet afternoon, I decided to tackle only one pile, the smallest of course.  I found papers that were so old, I could  toss them, some dating from 2009.  That is one decent solution.  If you wait long enough, they no longer matter.  So, just letting the papers sit is a decision of sorts.

I need things right in front of me, or I don’t deal with them…ergo…the piles of crud on my desk.

If there is something urgent, and I  need to find immediately I have the ability to rescue it from the piles. My fingers have their own intelligence and usually go right to the specific item

So, why do I care, you ask? If I can get what I need, why care?

Because I CANNOT STAND THE MESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can walk around with a paper not knowing what to do with it.

This forced Doctor Curmudgeon to consult a friend who is an efficiency expert.

After listening to me wail, she had the perfect solution.

She said, “Burn the desktop.”

“Huh?” I gasped.

“Look, those are bills, insurance junk, notices of rules and regulations etc. If you burn them all, next month you’ll just get second requests…not so horrible.  Then you can start anew…only handling the few papers that come in that day.  If you can’t decide what to do with something, dump it on your office manager or husband.  That way, each day, you will have a clear desk.”

And so today, I sit back smiling at smoldering ashes and feeling good.

Doctor Curmudgeon® is a physician-satirist and often hides behind Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAFP, a writer/physician.  This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors – the virtual doctors’ lounge and the home of medical crowdsourcing.


Check Out:eisman book

Bitter Medicine: A Doctor’s Year in Viet Nam
by Eugene H. Eisman

These are true stories gleaned from the author’s experience as a physician in Vietnam. It is a mixture of humor and pathos.

Dr. Eugene H. Eisman, earned his MD at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He served two years in the army. Six months was served in Pleiku, and six months in Cam Rahn. He now lives in Miami Florida.