For many, spring brings a desire to literally and figuratively clean house. Some clients have recently talked about being “stuck” to deal with their more strategic issues because of clutter in their physical spaces. If this is the case, forget “desire” to clean house and think necessity.
Tfirst quarter of each year requires a certain culling and sorting to prepare for April’s tax deadline. How can you keep going with the purging and organizing? Most importantly, how can you implement systems that support you staying organized through the year?
For expert advice, I turn to my friend and colleague Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office.
Kacy loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper. She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional and beautiful office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients.
In Kacy’s own words:
New clients always tell me that they just don’t know where to begin. Here are the steps I follow for each job. The steps aren’t always in the same order, but each step is crucial for lasting results. Luckily, step one is an easy part that doesn’t involve touching a single piece of paper.
- Know your vision: Before working with clients I have them write down a list of 10 things they will do once their office is organized. Common answers I see are “Get a life,” “Delegate more,” and “Take a vacation.” Organizing is never just for the sake of having a clear desk. Until you know the real reason why order matters to you, it will always feel like hard work.
- Group like with like: There is a reason why this step comes before the big purge. Knowing that tossing is a challenge for many people, I like to start with what’s easy. Putting like with like should be as simple as it sounds. You can put writing tools together, bank statements together, or photos together. It doesn’t matter where you choose to start. The secret is that during this process, the junk starts to reveal itself without you even looking for it.
- Toss & recycle: For a motivated client, this is step one. For most though, steps one and two make this much easier. There is no way around it. Set a timer, grab a friend, make it a goal to fill X number of bags or clear X amount of space, reward yourself with chocolate. Do whatever it takes to make room for only the things that are beautiful or useful. And heaven forbid, never buy new containers before completing this step.
- Label new categories: There’s magic in deciding on a great label name. It doesn’t matter how long or silly it sounds, as long as you can remember what you called it. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else (unless others need to access your files.) Don’t be too vague or too specific. Too vague = a folder called “Statements” with 3 accounts and 10 years inside. Too specific = a folder called “Meeting notes from May 3, 2009.”
- Find permanent homes for categories – aka create systems. You can only do this once you know what you are keeping and how much space it requires. Let common sense be your guide. If you are only keeping something “just in case”, such as old records, it doesn’t need to take up valuable real estate under your desk.
There are no rules on how much time to spend on each step. Just focus on one at a time and allow yourself to take as much or as little time as you need. For some, this takes hours, for others, months. The sooner you start though, the sooner you finish, and the sooner you can reclaim some physical and emotional energy.
As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts.