Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Worry Wednesday - Home Office Horrors Part 1 - The Little Things

Clearing your clutter helps clear your mind. If your work and leisure spaces are cluttered, then you can't concentrate because you constantly worry about "when will I have time to clear this stuff up?" Keeping your work and relax spaces organized where you can find what you need easily will help reduce this stress

Mission Nine:
Office Supplies

This mission is designed for your home office, but the principles can be carried over to your work office.

Is your desk a pile of folders, un-read magazines (it shouldn't be if you completed Mission 6!), and junk mail? Do you have to search for a pen that works and do you pull out a wad of rubber bands when you need just one? How many coffee cups or Coke cans are there?

Take heart, I will not ask you to completely clear your desk. Some people work better "in stacks" and know where every paper they need can be found. Some people let their stacks get out of control before they know it and can't find anything! Either way, there are some common ground rules that will apply to most everyone.

Your Assignment: Below is a list of common items found in a home office. Complete each item before moving on to the next. TIP: You may want to set up a table in an a-joining area to help make room for the things you will work with here. You may also want to gather a few empty baskets (or shoe boxes) to temporarily help with the clutter-clearing.

Let's get started: If you completed Mission 5-7, then you can skip over the first three steps here, if not, then shame on you and read on.....

 - Books, magazines and catalogs - I know there are a few of you who have skipped to this assignment and did not complete Missions 5-7 - shame on you! What I need you to do now, for this assignment, is remove EVERY book, magazine and catalog off your desk and onto a working table. This includes software instructions, notebooks, reference guides - anything that is bound! You will sort through these later, but for now, remove them from this area completely.
 - CDs, DVDs, Software Disks, other multi-media - Again, if you did not do this in Missions 5-7 you need to remove EVERY type of Multi Media to your work table. Take the cases too. Don't organize them yet - we'll do that later.
 - Electronics, power cords, wires, earphones, etc - Your extra credit in Missions 5-7 was to do this, but if you didn't you should collect them now. Make two piles - one of things you use everyday such as your phone charger - the other of things like your old mouse, extra computer cords laying under your desk and the 15 extra ear buds that are tangled together in your top drawer. Put all these on the table.

MAIL - You probably have your own way of sorting your mail but here is a 'MUST" tip for your desk. Designate ONE place to put your mail and keep it all there. Whether you open it right away or not, put all mail together. Once it hits your desktop, it is more likely to get mixed in with other pages.
Un-filed Folders and Papers - Any file, folder or stack of papers on your desk can be gently straightened and set on the floor until you have time to organize them. That step is up to you - you know better than I where they need to go. Don't stress about that now - just move them out of the way or straighten them to make a clear work space for now.

Okay, what is left? A cup holder full of pens? A drawer full of paper clips and tape? Those coffee cups still there? Take a survey and clean up. Anything that belongs in another room other than your office space, put in a box or basket to return LATER. Remove any cups, plates, and other half eaten snacks (yes it is okay to finish up that Twinkie!). Throw out any trash that is in on your desk or around on the floor.

TIP: Start at the far left side of your work space and work clock-wise until you are done. DO NOT SKIP AROUND! This is the biggest mistake people make when clearing ANY space. Stay in one area until it is done. take each step as a single project, then begin again in your left hand corner until each step is complete. Don't try to do it all in one sweep.

GENERAL OFFICE SUPPLIES - In a shoe box, collect every single paper clip, rubber band, binder clip, staples, etc. In a second box collect every single pen, pencil, and marker. In a third, collect items such as the stapler, tape, scissors, and calculator. In a final box, put stray items such as photos and scraps of notes. Take the empty pen holders and organizational trays and wash them out. (Now would be a good time to note if you need new ones.)

TIP: Buying matching, FUNCTIONAL pen holders and supply trays will help you keep you desk looking nice and neat. Walmart and Staples offer inexpensive sets. Buy only what you need - not the entire set - especially if you have limited space. Buying holders that fit inside your desk drawers are even better - they hide your supplies and keep your desk clear of clutter.

Sort through the box of writing items first. PENS: You only need a dozen or so. Make sure the pens you keep WORK or even better, throw them ALL out and buy one dozen pens in the same brand. (Currently, pens cannot be recycled, visit for more info.) Either way, don't keep the extras in the bottom desk drawer. If you keep them, you will eventually start digging through them looking for one that might work - which is counter-productive! PENCILS: Keep half a dozen in easy reach. Extra pencils can be kept because they don't dry up but keep them together with a rubber band and in the bulk supply area. MARKERS: Pull two highlighters and two dry erase markers out . If you use more than one color, pull one of each color. Same with your makers. It is probably easier to buy a new set than figure out which ones work, but if you are game, test each one until you have a full set.

TIP: You may be tempted to pass your old markers onto you kids for crafts and that's great, but if they don't work then they will just make clutter in your child's space too and they may end up back on your desk. An easy solution is to make a game of it for your child. Give them the box and tell them every one that works, they get to keep. For every one they find that doesn't work, you will give them a prize such as a dime for each. Immediatley throw away the ones that don't work.

Put the one dozen pens, six pencils, highlighters, dry erase markers and color markers in your desk or in your cup holder. Whether you bought all new ones or kept old ones, once they run out of ink, IMMEDIATELY trash it. Don't put it back in the stack. The ink won't magically reappear and you WILL reach for the dried out one every time. When you get down to three pens, make a note to pick up a new box.
PAPER CLIPS, RUBBER BANDS AND THE LIKE: In your box of these supplies - use your kids again to sort them into piles. If you don't have children, then it's up to you! You can 1) donate the entire box or 2) Sit down and sort it all out. If you don't have a drawer tray, use small Tupperware containers to keep them separate. From now on, every paper clip and rubber band you use will immediately go into its space, not in a pile on your desk or cast off to the floor. Don't throw them away! Re-use them!

OTHER ITEMS: "NEWSFLASH" You only need ONE stapler, one tape dispenser, one calculator, one letter opener and ...well, you get the picture. If you have more than one of each, put it in the donate pile. Chose the one you like the best (be sure it works properly). Keep one box of staples in the drawer and one extra tape roll. It seems like such simple things to do but you'd be surprised to know how many people have 5 staplers on their desk!

BULK SUPPLIES: Designate one area for all extra supplies such as ink cartridges, boxes of fresh pens, and packs of printer paper. If you have multiple boxes of something, mark "LAST ONE" on one box so you know when you need to buy more. By designating one area instead of throwing them into your desk drawer, you will always know where to look when you need something and when to buy when your supplies are running low.

TIP: Staples has clearance sales after the kids go back to school that are great for stocking up - just don't buy 50 rolls of tape if you never use tape!

REASON THIS HELPS YOU WITH YOUR CLUTTER: By now, your desk, if not free of the un-ending paper trail, at least should be workable. By sorting all the little things that you need to work with, it makes working easier. No more frustration of grabbing three pens in a row that don't work. No more odd paper clips under your keyboard. No more rummaging through the bottom drawer looking to see if you have another box of staples. A little less stress - a little more time to work. We will tackle your office in more detail later but that's it for now - unless you still have all that stuff on your table! Go back to Mission 5-7 to work through these items. DO IT NOW - don't put it off - or you've just created a new place of clutter!

EXTRA GREEN CREDIT: Place a small shredder and two recycle boxes by your desk. Immediately shred your papers instead of collecting them for later. This reduces the piles (and chore) and the appearance of clutter. Place all magazines, catalogs, and newspapers in one of the recycle boxes. When it is full, sort and transfer the items to your regular home recycle center (if you don't have one, click here to an easy way to set one up.)

In the 2nd box, place all paper that you can re-use on the back. When you need scrap paper, need to print out something or your child needs coloring paper, pull from this box. It reduces your waste and your paper consumption.

Also, keep a shoe box (or basket) to place used ink cartridges, batteries and other recyclable items. I use the styro containers that fruits come in for these bins. This will make it easier to find them all later when it's time to go to the recycle center.

Next Wednesday - MISSION TEN: Plants - you know, those brown things in the corner.....

Wednesdays in the Simple Life Series are for YOUR CLUTTER (and yes, it multiplies in my home too). I will let you know what I am doing to make simple changes in my own home to clear out my clutter. I hope you follow along and try some of these steps yourself. Please let me know how you are coming along by leaving comments at the bottom of each post. Tell me what works, what doesn’t, if you are bored – whatever – we are learning and growing together.

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