This if the first of a three-part series on designing and organizing your home office.
Let’s talk about everyone’s worst nightmare – paper, paper, paper – where does it all come from and what to do with it? For most of the busy professionals I work with this is the most challenging part of keeping their home organized. Can you relate?
Piles of paper going up the stairs and down the stairs . . . information on vacation plans still piled high on the dining room table along with unopened mail, bills waiting to be paid . . . and then there are the magazines. Let me count the ways that I love my decorating magazines! How difficult it is when the pile gets so high that it starts to fall over and I have to purge.
Aaah yes, purge, that nasty word. Call it as you will – edit, cull, delete – it all means the same thing – before you can design and set up a functional home office, you’re best to get rid of all the excess.
Keep your long-term vision in mind as you slog through the piles of paper, the mounds of old discs and stacks of newsletters that you mean to read one day.
Where do I begin, you ask? Well, that depends, I answer. If you are looking for instant gratification to keep you motivated, the best place to begin is with the visible surfaces. If you are not as worried about keeping motivated, you may decide to start with your filing cabinet if it is stuffed to the brim and can’t possibly hold another piece of paper.
Take one box, file or pile at a time and start with each piece of paper or item and ask yourself the following questions:
- How old is this – is it recent enough to be useful?
- Does this require action?
- Can I really identify a specific use for it?
- Is it difficult to obtain this again if ‘someday I might need it’
- When was the last time I used this?
- Are there tax or legal reasons why I must keep this?
- If you still feel that knot in your stomach – ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that will happen if I toss this?
As you set aside your daily organizing time also be aware that you will need 10 or 15 minutes every day to deal with incoming. Follow a system by separating items into ‘Action’ or ‘File’ or send them straight to the file known as the recycling bin!
As you open mail, discard the envelope immediately and place the item either in an action folder or file away in your new filing system. Designate a place for unread magazines and newsletters such as an attractive basket or magazine box.
I wish you good luck and much purging and look forward to the next phase, which is designing and setting up your home office space.