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April’s Task: Tidy Up the Home Office

If you’ve made progress clearing paper piles in March, then cleaning up your home office is a great next step, because it’s not just the papers in the office that are out of control—the supplies and the equipment are, too! Removing the paper from the desktop and other surfaces uncovers what’s buried beneath. Now it’s time to deal with the rest of the office.

Here’s a strategy for putting your office area in order.

  1. Collect the materials you’ll need to get started: a few sorting boxes, plus a trash can—and a recycling bin if you want. Mark the sorting boxes as follows: Relocate, Trash, File, Office Supplies & Equipment.
  2. Sort everything in the room into one of those bins. Clear off the desk, the floor, clear out the bookcases and any chairs. You want to uncover every surface and empty every cabinet or shelf in the office.
    1. Relocate—This is where you put things that ended up in the office but are not really office items, like dishes, newspapers, or things from the bathroom. When sorting is done, carry these things out of the office to the appropriate room.
    2. Trash—This box is for the obvious things. When sorting is done, it goes out to the trash!
    3. File—Use this box for all the paper you need to keep. Hopefully, you’ve already filed everything from the previous project, but you may find some hidden items as you go through the office. If you do, file them away in your newly organized files.
    4. Office Supplies & Equipment—For your stapler, ruler, Post-Its, and paper clips. Don’t keep multiples! The goal is to pare down the supplies to a usable amount and stop trying to make space for supplies you’ll never use up. Plenty of teachers in the world need supplies, so donate them instead!
  3. Home office
    The home office: productive workspace or no man’s land?
  4. Move the furniture around now. Once you’ve cleared off the surfaces, you can rearrange the furniture again so it’s more functional. Things were probably slowly added to the room over time, and the arrangement maybe be a hodge-podge. Now’s the time to work out the room layout that best supports your work:
    1. The phone should be within reach when you sit at the desk.
    2. Make sure you can reach your active files from the chair as well. That means using one or two desk file drawers. Other files can be behind you or to the side in a filing cabinet or armoire.
    3. Reference materials can be in bookcases across the room.
    4. Excess office supplies can be in a closet or armoire, in bins on bookcases, or in cabinets.
  5. Re-dress the desk with only the things that you use almost every day. The rest can go in drawers or on shelves, etc.
    1. Only a few supplies need to be on the desktop. The rest can be in the desk drawers or in bins on shelves or cabinets. Use this guide—do you need it every day? If yes, better put it on top. If it’s not used every day, then put it away.
    2. Same rule with equipment—plug in the electric pencil sharpener, adding machine, and CD player somewhere away from the desk. For as little as they get used, they don’t need a space on the desk, and that gets some of the cords out from under your feet.
    3. Feel free to put out some décor items, but don’t crowd the desktop with them. You need that space to work, and a clear space is the answer. Place decorations on other surfaces within sight instead of on the desk.

These are the program notes from the March 25, 2010, meeting of the Houston Clutter Coaching Meetup Group. The group is free and open to the public. Visit the meetup group page for information about upcoming meetings.

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