Many who know me might claim what follows is an example of “do as I say and not as I do.” More accurately, though, it’s do as I’m trying to do. I am not a neat freak. My work spaces, whether at the office or at home, tend to be a bit messy. I’m one of those “out of sight, out of mind” types, so I usually have folders, files, papers, magazines, and notebooks within easy reach.
I have some other bad habits. I’m a bit of a collector and like to surround myself with “cute, yet functional” desk accessories and personal items. And I tend to hold on to things, swearing someday I’ll need that piece of paper or marketing brochure.
Many of you are likely in the same boat. So I decided to get us some professional help. Regina Lark is a professional organizer and owner of Los Angeles-based A Clear Path, a business that helps people organize their homes, work, and lives.
Unlike me, some people who need help are in denial. If you suspect you might be one of those, ask yourself these questions, courtesy of Lark:
- Is your e-mail inbox loaded with unread or unfiled (in e-mail folders) messages?
- Do you often wish that someone, anyone, will show up to organize your files?
- Are you drowning in paper?
- Have you ever purchased office supplies because you cannot find what you’re looking for (even though you know you have them on hand)?
- Do people look at your desk and ask, “How can you find anything in that mess?”
- Do you often go to the office on a non-work day vowing “to get organized”?
- Are some of your employees emulating your messy desk?
I’m sure at least some of those rang true. Lark says many of us get stuck with clutter because we simply don’t know where to begin the cleanup process. Here are some tips from Lark about getting started:
1. Turn the task of de-cluttering and re-organizing into a work project and assign a deadline for completion.
2. If the whole office is a mess, set aside a half day or full day to clean up. Bring in lunch and extra cleaning supplies.
3. Ask for help. Are there a few employees who are organizing whizzes? Chances are they won’t have much to clean up in their own spaces, so ask them to pitch in and help those in need.
4. Before you actually start the process, check out the mess. When de-cluttering, create separate sorting piles for things:
- you use (your keep pile)
- you don’t really need or haven’t used in a while
- that can be donated (or sold on eBay or Craigslist)
- that can be recycled
- that should be trashed
5. Talk to your CPA or accountant about what files and records need to be retained and for how long. Shred what can be trashed. Label your boxes with “destroy on dates” so you’ll be able to stay on top of things.