New Year’s Resolution – 2013: Organize to Save Time

When I teach work/life balance, I teach about organization. Why? Because being organized increases productivity, decreases stress, and can even save you money, since you don’t have to repurchase things you can’t find. WebMD has several articles on how to cut clutter in their health and balance section! (Just search for “clutter.”)

My resolution this year is to reorganize my office. I’ve done the bulk of the de-cluttering; now I get to spend the rest of the year making sure my office stays this way. Here are the steps I took to remove the clutter and put the important items and files where I can find them.

Create files instead of piles.

I admit that I am a person who creates piles. And, if you ask me for something, I can go to the correct pile and pull the item out rather quickly. However, that isn’t the best use of brain power. Instead, I’ve purchased a small filing cabinet (or I could use a set of nice-looking baskets or boxes [I have a black leather box I really like]) that is now next to my desk with labeled folders for the things I use the most.

Here is how I created my set of folders:

  1. Picked up a pile
  2. Discarded the things in the pile that I no longer need
  3. Sorted the remaining items and put them in new piles by topic (or project, or client, etc.)
  4. Made a folder for each of the new, smaller piles
  5. Filed the folders in the cabinet/basket/box

Donate what you don’t need.

This is a difficult thing to do for many people. I don’t like to repurchase things, so if I can imagine I might need something in the next year (or five), my initial reaction is to keep the item. However, that doesn’t help me un-clutter! Here is a list of questions I ask when I have an item I might be able to get rid of:

  • Do I NEED this?
  • Will I use this in the next year?
  • Have I used it in the last year?
  • Can it be easily replaced if I need it someday?

If I can answer “no” to the first three questions, it might be time donate the item. By the way, I’m not a perfect organizer, so I do have one box in my garage right now of items that had an “I don’t know” answer for at least one of the questions. If I don’t need anything in the box in the next 3 months, I will donate the box (without opening it to see what I might have forgotten was in there) to charity. I’ve even set up a reminder on my calendar for April 1 to do this so I don’t forget and just keep the clutter indefinitely.

Find a place for every item.

This is an interesting exercise. If an item is important enough to keep, it should be important enough to have a place where it goes. There were a few items I couldn’t find a place for during my office reorganization. When I realized I couldn’t find a place, I had to add another question to my “do I need it” list. My new question was, “Is it important enough to have a dedicated spot in my office?” If the answer was “no” I actually got rid of the item!

When I’m looking for a place for items, I’ve found that drawer dividers and even some storage bins help.  While I have read that storage bins can be detrimental to the goal of de-cluttering, there are some things I can’t get rid of because I know I WILL use them. Repurchasing an item I use a few times a year isn’t practical, so it has to go into the closet between uses. For these cases, I have a bin labeled for that item.

Create digital copies of receipts and important documents.

The IRS now accepts digital copies of most things (check IRS.gov for information on what is acceptable), so I’ve started making copies of information I would need for tax purposes. I’ve found a scanner that really works well. NeatDesk is a desktop scanner plus digital filing system that can help this process along, or you can get an app that uses the built-in camera on your smartphone or tablet to speed up scanning (and some of the apps are even free).

Start organizing today.

If you don’t have time to organize everything in a day, start out with the area that causes you the most problems. I started by donating items I no longer needed, creating files, and finding a place for everything. After that, I started creating digital copies of the receipts and documents from 2012.  Scanning and organizing the electronic copies of receipts and other business documents from clear back in 2004 will be a process which will make my new year’s resolution a true resolution. Feel free to ask me in August how I’m doing with the digital archiving.

Desiree Pinder
Artisan E-Learning

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