No matter where you’re working – in a home office, a small business space, or a corporate building, keeping your physical office space organized and free of clutter is crucial to boosting your productivity and lowering your stress. There is so much stuff that can pile up in our offices if we stop paying attention that it can seriously affect our space, time, and energy. In particular, there are five kinds of clutter that can build up in an office that can be easily let go to clear out your space and save you time and effort in the process.
1 – Stuff printed from online
If you’re in the habit of printing out emails, documents, articles, and other items that you can access online, you’re probably just making those uncontrolled paper piles grow. Unless you need it for legal or tax purposes in the immediate future, save it digitally. Set up some digital folders to keep what you want to keep – even emails can be turned into PDFs and saved that way, rather than taking up space on your server. Bookmark interesting articles or websites you return to again and again. Utilizing a good cloud storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive can keep everything you need off your hard disk as well, and can be automatically set up to grab and save anything you tell it to. Stop relying so much on your paper – the more printing you do, the more paper you will have to deal with, and the harder it becomes to find what you need when you need it (aside from the cost of all that paper and ink!)
2 – Outdated paper files
If you find that your filing cabinets are stuffed to the hilt, and current filing is sitting on top of the cabinet, in piles on your desk, or in stacks on the floor, it’s time to clean out and do a major file purge. Studies have shown that we only ever go back to retrieve about 20% of the paperwork we file. Does that mean you should get rid of 80% of your paper files? It’s something to seriously consider (and now I’m imagining many of you picking yourself up off the floor from a dead faint…) In any case, it does give you a good idea of what’s important and what’s not. When you’re tempted to save a piece of paper to be filed away in that overstuffed cabinet, ask yourself two questions:
– Can I access this again easily somewhere else (i.e. online?)
– What’s the worst thing that would happen if I threw it away?
Be realistic about whether that particular piece of paper will languish away in that 80% category, or if you will ever really need to dig it out again.
3 – Old cords & cables
Often when we pick up a new piece of digital equipment, the old equipment gets stuffed in a drawer or a closet, because we’re just not sure what to do with it. And the problem is magnified by all of the peripheral stuff that goes with it – all the cords, cables and other junk that create a tangled mess in a desk drawer. Take some time to sort through all the outdated, old stuff and let it go. If you can’t remember what the cord was for, it’s probably because you don’t own that equipment anymore and it’s time to get rid of it! Get some cord ties and labels and organize what you still use so that tangled mess transforms from a space-eating hassle to an organized, LABELED, drawer, bin, or basket.
4 – Excess, dried out, mangled office supplies
Wrinkled envelopes with dried-out edges, rusted paper clips, dried out pens, worn-out folders layered with multiple labels, scotch tape rolls that have congealed into a lump of unusable tape, old CD’s (who still uses CD’s?), faded paper, labels that have lost their stickiness and keep falling off your folders…Need I go on? If your desk is crammed full of outdated and unusable office supplies, this stuff is all getting in your way and taking up space and time when you need to find something that actually functions properly. Clean it out, recycle what you can, and throw the rest away. You’re not doing the planet any favors by allowing your desk to substitute for the local landfill. And if you have more supplies in and around your desk than you need on a regular basis – the “back-stock” that’s still usable, get it out of your desk and into a closet, or up on a higher shelf in a labeled bin so you can find it when you run out, but it’s not in your way every day.
5 – Digital apps you don’t use – or never used
It’s too easy to download apps on our phones and computers that we may use once or twice, or once upon a time and not since, or just never used at all. Open up some disk space, clear out some of that digital clutter and delete any app you haven’t used in the past six months. If you find you need it, you can always get it again, but in the meanwhile, the fewer you have to scroll through to get to what you want, the more time and hassle you will save yourself.
Set aside five small chunks of time over the course of a few weeks to tackle each one of the items above, and you’ll find it helps make and keep your office a better organized space. Keeping clutter of all kinds out of your work space makes your job easier because you can find what you want when you need it without wasting time, effort, and money pawing through the piles!