For many, spring brings a desire to clean house.
Ok, forget “desire” – think necessity…
Typically the first quarter of each year requires a certain culling and sorting just to get ready for tax deadline on April 15. So how can you keep going with the purging (and purging and purging…) and organizing?
Start by reading this week’s newsletter by guest author 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, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients, including lots of “creative entrepreneurs.” That’s code for people who hang onto papers and “important stuff.”
One of the greatest bits of advice I’ve heard in the last couple of years is to recognize my process for organizing offices and write it down. I’ve been organizing for 14 years but only recently realized that I do indeed follow the same set of steps for each job. They don’t always go in this exact order, but each step is crucial for lasting results. New clients always tell me that they just don’t know where to begin. Luckily, step one is an easy part that doesn’t involve touching a single piece of paper.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Label new categories.
There’s magic in deciding on the perfect 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 is a folder called “Statements” with 3 accounts and 10 years inside. Too specific is a folder called “Meeting notes from May 3, 2009.”
5. Find permanent homes for categories (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. If you don’t start now, a year from now you will have wished you had started a year ago!