A quick, easy decluttering of an office space does not make you organized, but it does set you up for successfully finishing the project at your own pace, while simultaneously allowing you to experience the freedom and focus that a clutter-free space can give you. You still have some sorting, purging, organizing, and filing ahead of you, but you can start enjoying your clear desktop and work space immediately.
1. Buy some new boxes. These are for sorting papers (and other stuff) into broad categories. I like the “Economy Storage Boxes” from Staples (pictured). The important thing is that they are a manageable size (not too heavy if loaded with papers or books); that they have lids; that they are uniform in size and appearance; and that they stack well. Get a pack of 10.
2. Label the boxes with a black Sharpie on large Super Sticky Post-its (so you can change the categories, if needed, as you sort, and use the boxes again later). Suggested Categories: PAPERS (nothing urgent, to sort and purge later), OFFICE SUPPLIES (including networking clutter), DECOR (including tchotchkes), PROJECT A, PROJECT B, TO FILE (you already know you need to file it, but you haven’t done so yet, and you may need to clear out your files first and/or create new folders), PUT AWAY (it belongs in another room…but don’t leave the room in the middle of an organizing session to put things away! Do it later). Other categories, although you could also use trash bags for some of them, could include: TRASH, DONATE, SHRED, RECYCLE, SELL.
3. Designate one of the boxes URGENT & IMPORTANT (or whatever words have similar significance to you). That’s where you put the bills that you find that need to be paid; your long-lost passport; and anything you will need soon, that has a due date, or that you don’t want buried in a stack of boxes.
4. Clear ALL surfaces, and put each item you find into the proper sorting box. Your desk. Your work table. The top of your file cabinet. Your window sill. The floor (extraneous little pieces of furniture are too big to put into boxes; but get them out of the room too). The walls (maybe not your clock and favorite piece of artwork, but definitely clear your bulletin board and little notes and reminders and start fresh). The space on the bookshelves on top of, and in front of, the books.
5. Stack the boxes in a corner or along a wall. (Leave the URGENT & IMPORTANT box on top for easy access.)
6. Start using your clutter-free desk and work surfaces! Since you have labeled all the boxes you will know which one to look in if you really need something while your organizing project is still in progress.
7. Schedule time for purging and/or finding new homes for the things in the boxes. Tackle one box per day, or per week (depending on your motivation, availability, energy, etc.). I’m not suggesting you delay on purpose, but the longer you take (as long as the boxes aren’t in the way and bugging you), the more likely it is that you will realize you don’t need the things in the boxes after all.
8. Be ruthless about what stays in your space and what goes. Your desktop is prime real estate, so keep out only what you use several times a day so you also have room to work. Find homes in drawers, or on shelves, for everything else that you regularly need. If you can’t get rid of it, but don’t use it often (such as excess office supplies, old client and tax files) consider storing them in a closet or out in the garage.
9. Call a friend, or a professional organizer, if you need help.
10. Enjoy your clutter-free space, peace of mind, and new-found productivity!
Do you think you can do this?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Copyright 2015 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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