Last Thursday I was called in short notice to Radio Sheffield to discuss the phenomenon of KonMari as their resident decluttering expert. When I got the studio the editor and presenter had come up with the idea of me decluttering the newsroom on air. Now I never feel out of my depth or panicked when decluttering with clients mainly because I know my stuff and I love a challenge – but I’m not ashamed to say at this point I got nervous! You’d think I would be nervous because of South Yorkshire listening to me be an expert live on the radio, but no. I was actually nervous because my niche, where I feel most comfortable is helping individuals and families clear their clutter, or working with people that hoard in their homes. I am not a Professional Declutterer and Organiser that specialises in office spaces. APDO (www.apdo.co.uk) is an organisation of which I’m part of has an array of organisers, and we are all very different have different specialities. Some organisers deal with homes some specialise in working with hoarding disorder, some are experts at staging homes and interior design, and others exclusively deal with organising photographs. We are an eclectic bunch and I have to say very supportive too. We are more colleague than competition.
So with a gulp and with 5 minutes to spare before being let loose in the newsroom I asked for their advice on decluttering office spaces, thinking there would be some ‘aha’ moments and some gems I wouldn’t think of. The support came flooding in, and what struck me was that I actually knew it – I just had to deal with it like any other room in a home. I just had to pretend it was a home office I was dealing with rather than a huge BBC newsroom! To listen to me and Rony discuss decluttering (and hear me being accidentally attacked by Dan Green with a Deep Heat spray) click here I’m on about 08:55 onwards.
With that in mind I thought I’d give you some tips that would work in the office, but also would work in your home office too.
Items that you use most frequently should be most accessible. Aim to put things you don’t use very often on top shelves and items you use frequently easily to hand. If possible things that could ‘run out’ frequently should be able to be seen at glance so you can see when you’re running low. There’s nothing worse than wanting to print things off to find the paper that you need in the cupboard only has a few sheets left.
2) Put things away by ease
Wherever possible work on finding homes for items where it is easiest to put them away – not where it is easiest to get them. The reason for this is that you are motivated to get an item you will go wherever to get it. However once it’s been used you’re less motivated to put it away – so you need to make it easy to put away. Think about your home when you get letters. My recycle bin for junk mail is right by my front door. This way as soon as I receive it I can put it straight in the bin. Before it used to be in the kitchen which meant all my junk mail just became a big pile on the bottom step of my stairs by the door. Sometimes the junk mail would just come in with letters I did need to keep and they just became a massive ‘to do pile’ on my dining room table….which never actually did get done. When you’re working in an office with many people labelling things comes in very handy. You might know where things go – but not everyone does. Plus visually it’s easier to put things away when they have a clear defined space and labelling creates an obvious home for items. It also makes it easy to see what’s missing too!
3) Clear surfaces
The less clutter on surfaces the easier it will be to work. You will have more space to put the items you need in front of you for reference plus that all important bottle of water or coffee will be safer from accidental spills on a tidy desk than precariously balanced on a messy one! Never under estimate the impact a tidy desk can have on productivity either! According to a survey conducted by Brother it might increase your chance of a promotion too! See the shocking clutter statistics here. Having a tidy desk might also help you get on better with colleagues – no one wants to work next to a desk encroacher!
4) Containers items in drawers
There’s nothing worse than items rolling around in a drawer. Using dividers or small shallow boxes are great for creating separate spaces to keep items organised. It also means you’re less likely to accidentally create a ‘rammel’ or junk drawer as if there’s a defined space a new item cannot go in there so it means you will have a find a permanent home for it rather than throwing it in the drawer for the time being!
5) Keep like minded items together.
This might sound like an obvious one but it would seem it’s not that obvious given the home office spaces I’ve tidied. Keep reference items altogether, stationery all together etc. Look at stationery in particular. This is one category that seems to quite easily get out of control. Get all your pens together, which work? Which do you like using? Consider donating old pens, tippex etc to the Terracycle project (www.terracycle.co.uk)
6) Papers files upright
Try to put loose papers in a file – magazine files are great for loose papers, or lever arch for papers that need to be kept together. Wherever possible store items upright. This makes it easier to find what you need rather than hunting under random pieces of paper and disturbing piles. Once again labelling is really helpful – a visual guide removes split second decision making that adds up to brain power saved.
7) Ditch the in tray
In trays are the bane of my life. Whenever I have had one it has become nothing more than an overflowing bin of inactivity and given me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach just by looking at it. If you’ve ever done the exercise where you’ve put a mark on each piece of paper on your desk each time you’ve touched it (and found multiple pieces of paper have many marks on them) you may be interested in learning a new way to deal with papers. Try to action each item as soon as you get it. Either action now, or waiting on other information/action later. If action later file it away in the place it should go BUT diary the action in your calendar, diary or create a reminder. This way you don’t get caught out with deadlines and hunting a random scrap of paper with 2 minutes to go before an important meeting. You are also more likely to action things you would otherwise put off as you can’t keep reminding yourself that it needs actioning! You also find that papers in the bottom on the in tray that used to be binned when you went through them once every 6 months as the deadline has passed don’t occur anymore!
Wherever you get office equipment you usually end up with lots of wires.Sometimes they can be a trip hazard but most of the time they’re just an ugly sight and a confusing jumble.There’s nothing worse than having a loose connection and then wiggling lots of wires to try and figure out which one is which, and also which plug connects which piece of equipment (and there’s always someone impatient that turns off the wrong plug at just the wrong moment!).This is quickly solvable – and cheap too! You don’t need expensive specialist wire covers or tubing.Just use simple cable ties to tie them together at intervals. Make sure to leave a bit of wiggle room, plus it comes in handy if you need to cut them to replace one wire if you can get the scissors in!Use a sharpie marker to label plugs, and use cheap sticky labels stuck around the wire with little tags to write which wire they are so you can see at a glance which one is which.
So there you go, whether you work in an office, or have a home office it pays to declutter and organise. If you need any more helps or tips (including reducing paper) pop over to my website www.untangledbytingle.com and sign up to my newsletter and hop on over to my friendly Facebook group Untangled by Tingle.
Have a great day