In May, we talked about outside clutter. Identifying that clutter usually isn't too difficult for people, especially once you learn to minimize your inside clutter. But where does all that stuff come from? Knowing your flow -- that is, understanding what stuff comes into your space and what stuff leaves -- is the next component of our Flexible Structure Method.™
To understand your flow you'll have to do some sleuthing around your house for a few days. As you walk into the door each day, what items are you adding to the house? This might be mail, bags of items from shopping and maybe something from your office. Some days you might walk in with an armload of items purchased from a department store or hardware store. What other items are your family members bringing in each day?
The next step will be to figure out what items are flowing out. Sure, you empty the trash can every two days and maybe toss recycling into a bin. But what about moving old shirts out after you go shopping for new ones? Are old toys leaving after your child's birthday each year? What about sports equipment no longer used? Understanding that items need to flow out of your space as they flow in is a crucial piece in organization. You can learn more about this by watching the video below.
Meanwhile, let's take a look at some organizing tips for your home office or workspace.
First, assess the space you have for dealing with the mail, bills, etc. If it is your office, it is set up for maximum effectiveness? Should the desk be against the other wall to prevent distractions? Or does it make it easier for you to reach supplies or the filing cabinet if you move it to the window? Many people have a cubby area in the kitchen or living room where they can set up the computer, a file cabinet and a chair, store writing utensils and stationary/stamps. This space might even be your dining room table. That's ok. In those cases you can be creative about where to store items. In the dining room example, rolling carts can be very useful.
Next, sort through your desk (or desk area). Those strangely shaped pens with lights or water inside that you NEVER use? Toss them. Check the other pens to make sure they all still write. Same with markers. If you have a strong preference for the click pens over the ones with caps, then it's ok to say, "I know I'll never use those horrible clicky pens." Donate them to someone who will. Organizing your space is about making it work for you and admitting certain things about yourself will make the process easier. What about the other items in the desk? Under what circumstances will you use that item? Purge what you can. Be sure items that have nothing to do with the home office are removed from the room or area, such as that pair of swim goggles.
Re-sort the remaining items. Which items do you need the most? Keep those close by. It's always helpful to have a pen and/or pencil nearby, so you might employ a cup of some sort on top of the desk. If you only need to replace printer paper once every two months, that extra ream can be put in the back of the desk cupboard or drawer.
Use tools such as open containers with dividers to help sort items such as paper clips, rubber bands and those other little office things. Add labels if you can to make sure others return items to the proper home.
Mail is a large part of stuff flow so make sure you have a place to process the mail. This may be in your office, but you might also prefer to keep a basket or tray near your door where you can dump mail each day before later sorting it. The point is to create ONE collection place and get into the habit of putting it there each day. Then you need to create a habit of sorting through it each day, week or month, depending on your bill paying schedule. This still applies if you pay bills online.
Filing systems, whether for your paper or electronic documents, are an organizing challenge all on their own. Make sure you have folders set up in your cabinet or computer with the documents you need to keep. At the very least, you'll need files for vital documents (Social Security Card, passport, immunization records, house deed, etc. - assuming you don't keep that in a locked box or safe deposit box) and a place to file tax return documentation. You can buy filing systems to guide you in this process (we like File Solutions) or call us to help you set up a system.