In my last post I talked about what financial information you should keep and for how long you should hold onto it. I also helped you set up an easy filing system in your cabinet. Now let us tackle the rest of your office. First, let’s get three large bins and label them Keep, Trash, and Maybe. We want to keep the Maybe bin pretty empty and reserve only for things we’re not sure if we can get rid of or not sure of where to keep it. We will organize that bin last. Also, if you work out of your home, you might want to create a fourth bin labeled, Not Office, for the things that really shouldn’t be in your office. We want to create this bin so that you aren’t constantly leaving your office during clean up to put these things away and take you away from the task at hand.
Sit at your desk and start going through the things that are within reaching distance. Whether it’s paperwork, folders, trash, or office supplies, start sorting. Try and not spend too much time on any one item – we want to quickly make the decision which bin it goes into, otherwise this project could take too long, overwhelm you more, and then possibly stop you from finishing. Work your way to the edges of your desk and then to any other open surfaces in your office. We want to get all the visual spaces cleaned off first so you can see the headway you are making and keep you going.
Once you get all the open surfaces cleaned off, make your way to the drawers at your desk. Clean out all those pens that don’t work anymore, candy that is a year old, marketing toys that take up space, or that random ketchup packet that looks 10 years old. DON’T try and organize each drawer right now, just continue with the bins. We will go back and organize each drawer when we are done sorting. If you have a drawer with files in it, quickly look at each file, decide whether or not to keep the file as a whole, and then go through the file itself. KEEP SORTING!!!! Make your way to your bookshelf if you have one. Books are always hard to get rid of so let’s just worry about any random papers or other items that have been stacked in this space. We don’t necessarily have to get rid of any books if you have the space, but we will go back and organize them.
First, let’s go ahead and tackle the trash bin since it is the easiest. Get it OUT OF THERE!!!!! WOW…doesn’t that feel good??!! Also, the bin for those of us that work from the house labeled Not Office, go ahead and put that outside your office but don’t start putting all of it away, just get it out of your office to clear up floor space. LOOKIE THERE….now you just have two bins to organize!
Second, let’s tackle the office supplies. Gather up all your pens, pencils, or any other writing utensil and put them all in one place. It can be a container in a drawer or a holder on your desk. I would also think about getting something that can hold pens and other supplies like paper clips, thumbtacks, staples, rubber bands, scissors, or any other loose supplies you have so that they
don’t end up in another mess. Containers that hold multiple things are usually better stored in a drawer. PLUS, we want to keep your desk space as open as we can! Also, keep essential items only on your desk. Think about what you use the most and keep it within reaching distance. Place all other office supplies in a drawer or on top of another work space. (This would be a good time to find a home for that random 3 hole punch, stamps and stamp pads, and maybe that hardly ever used pencil sharpener) Pictures are a great thing to have in your office if in moderation, and only in spaces that you don’t use for actual work – like the corners of your desk or on a bookshelf in front of rarely used books. Finish organizing your drawers that contain personal items or other non-work related items. Leave the filing drawers for the next step.
Third, and probably the most important – organizing the paperwork. Before we tackle that, let’s make some files to keep on your desk to help you stay organized. I’m not a big fan of bins simply because the papers at the bottom end up staying there forever and never get looked at again… well, at least until you muster up the energy to organize again!!! Let’s create files that are labeled To Do, File Me, Pending, and Incoming/Unopened. These files will help you stay more organized and keep piles from being created in your workspace. DON’T EVER let these desk files get too full, otherwise you will have to spend more time on each file than what is needed. Also, create files that you know will be used that can hang inside your drawer. For example, someone in sales will create a file(s) for marketing pieces, client(s), or industry related materials.
Ok now, off you go – Sort all that paperwork you kept!!!!!!!!