Thursday, February 07, 2013

Project Clean Office

I've made huge progress with my office organizing project. Most of the ideas in the book I mentioned weren't exactly rocket science, and I'm sure I've heard some of them before (I think I've seen the author on Oprah), but sometimes it takes reading something at just the right time when you're ready to hear it.

So far, the top of my desk is clear, as is the area under/around/behind the desk. I think my next step will be to get out the tape measure and the graph paper and reconfigure my office. When I made this room my office more than ten years ago, I just put the furniture where it seemed to fit, then put the stuff in the shelves, etc. I've realized that this layout is very inefficient. I have to get up and go around the desk to get to the color printer. The bookshelves behind my desk are full of novels that I have no need to refer to while I'm working. Mailing and printing supplies are scattered in a couple of different locations. One file cabinet is difficult to get things in and out of because there's a bookcase too close to it, and the other is on the other side of my desk, where I don't even use it, which means the one close to my desk is overstuffed. So I need to think my way through some new layout possibilities.

The big lightbulb moment for me was realizing that decluttering and organizing are two different things. Decluttering may be part of organizing, but if you don't organize when you declutter, you'll only have clutter build up all over again. That's what happened last year when I had made some progress with decluttering, but all I was doing was going through a space and throwing out what I no longer needed, then putting the remaining stuff right back. That meant I still didn't have a proper home that made sense for everything. To stay decluttered, you have to figure out a logical home for everything so that it's easy to put things away.

One thing that's helping with this process is the idea of sorting before coming up with a system. Before, I'd create a system, then get paralyzed when I came across something that didn't fit, and I'd just cram it somewhere, and then I'd never find it again. This way, sticking Post-its on file folders as temporary labels means I can create a system that fits the stuff I have. It also helps that I don't have to purge as I sort. If it's obvious to get rid of something at this stage, I can, but if there's any doubt, I can sort it and then put more thought into it when it's time to put it away.

The other huge revelation for me is that the advice to only handle any item or piece of paper one time is not set in stone. I think that's been my biggest problem over time. It may work for some people and some things, but if you're a perfectionist or someone who likes to mull over things before acting, it will just paralyze you. If you can't deal with it perfectly the first time you touch a piece of paper, you'll put off that first time, and then you'll end up with a pile of stuff to deal with in that vague time in the future when you're up to dealing with it, and then that becomes overwhelming. But it's okay to look at something and then put it aside to deal with later, as long as you have a system in place so you won't lose it and so you'll deal with it in time.

The one downside of this project is that it's stirred up an epic cloud of dust, which isn't helping my allergies. I may need to get a mask. But once I get things really cleared out, a good vacuuming will probably help matters, and it should be easier to keep things clean. Now to measure my space and the furniture and play with arrangements. I'm ridiculously excited about this. I'd eventually like to really redecorate my office, but that will have to wait until I have the money for new flooring, new paint (and the ceiling height means professionals to do the painting) and new furniture.

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