Wage War on Your Cluttered Office (Part 1 of 2)

Ugh. I can’t find anything in here!

Oh no, where’s that file on ________?

There’s no place for me to put the new printer.

I’m in a rush. Let me look for the folder later.

Folders here, folders there, stacked up on the desk, credenza and the floor as well. Piles of paperwork perched on pretty much every surface, knickknacks scattered here and there, endless post-it notes stuck to the walls, computer monitor and pretty much anywhere else on which they can stick.

Get the picture? Sure, you do.

Your cluttered office is a situation out of control and bound to cause lost time, increased stress (well, how would you feel if you couldn’t lay your hands on that important file), and perhaps even resulting in lost clients.

Not good? I agree and I apologize for the militaristic analogy, but it is time to wage war on the clutter that is encroaching on your office.

This is also a BIG topic. Since I have lots of tips to share, I’ve divided up the information into two separate posts. For this first one, read below about specific steps you can take to reclaim the space in your cluttered office NOW.

6 Steps to Organize Your Cluttered Office

1. Pick a start date. The first order of business is to identify a day or time when you are going to be able to start work on this issue. It’s impossible to have the mental bandwidth to work on your de-cluttering project if you are in the middle of a big deadline or are over your head with projects that must be executed.

Sure, your workload is probably adding to the clutter, but cut yourself a break. You can’t attend to this if you have clients waiting for their materials. But, make no mistake about it, you have to do it sometime and so the very best thing to do is to schedule a date for the cleanup. Be sure that you don’t come up with any excuses for not getting it done. It’s perfectly okay to clear the clutter in stages, but you must do enough to feel that you have made some progress.

2. Get the right supplies. Make certain that you have the right supplies to aid in the project. A small wastepaper basket that you have by your desk is not going to cut it. Bring in some large garbage bags and small cartons and label each one:

  • Shredding
  • Recycling
  • Trash
  • To do

3. Be ready mentally. Get yourself mentally set for the task at hand. You have to be prepared to throw out those things that you no longer need and aren’t useful for your business. Knickknacks and photos are fine, but we have all gone into offices that bear a strong resemblance to ye ole curio shoppe or a portrait gallery. It’s certainly fine to have a few treasured items around the office, but too many, well, is just too many.

4. Ask questions as you sort. As you go through your work papers and files, ask yourself these important questions:

  • When was the last time I looked at or used this item?
  • Is it easy for me to get a duplicate (should I ever need it)?
  • Is this information readily available on the Internet?

5. Clear your space. As you complete each round of decluttering, remove all that is being discarded. Then continue to sort the to do pile.

  • File the information that must be kept
  • Add tasks to your to-do list
  • Schedule time immediately for tasks that are high priorities

6. Create a system. Create an organizing system for managing those papers that will be kept.  It should be customized for your personality, work situation, and personal preferences. There isn’t a one size fits all solution … don’t be afraid to be creative!

Remember, this is Part One. I hope that I have given you enough ammunition to get started and make some headway in your office. In Part Two, I’ll be sharing some additional steps you can take that will make your office space truly clutter-free, and give you back the time that you’ve had to spend searching for missing files and paperwork.

Stay tuned!

Stephanie is a professional organizer in works with business owners to streamline operations, improve time management, and to design a functional home office.

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