Habits and rituals provide a certain sense of comfort. But they also create clutter.
Just as in our personal lives, we tend to follow routines each day. Professionals fall into similar patterns of behaviour. Our company recently moved into a new office, which presented a terrific opportunity to change those patterns. First of all, we have no closet...seriously.
According to one survey, 46 per cent of employees have trouble figuring out what to throw away. That used to be me. I was never a full-on office hoarder, but I do confess to having several packages of gel pens and spiral notebooks on reserve.
As a result of our move, we are now compelled to operate with just the necessities. We work in an office, but we live in the cloud. I don't think we have more than three pieces of paper in our space, and everyone on the team can access the same documents using Basecamp and Google Drive (which even speak to each other, which is totally cool).
We don't have office phones either. We have a cloud-based phone system that simply disperses calls to the correct person.
At first, working as minimalists was a bit weird. All we seemed to need was our laptops, mobile devices, and (ceramic) coffee cups. Someone tried to hand me a paper catalog the other day and I simply said "No thank you. We don't do paper anymore." When the cleaning people come around to empty the garbage, I notice that on some days the contents may be just one lonely post-it note.
A messy desk may be a sign of creative genius, according to this blog. Certainly, random objects can inspire, but can a pile of doughnut crumbs and a memo from 2009 REALLY give rise to the next useful app or disease cure? I think not.
Operating without lots of "stuff" is quite liberating, but it takes work and commitment. A move to a smaller space forced us to learn new habits. However, if you're not going anywhere, here are some simple ways to "de-clutter" your work space and your work life
- Schedule an hour each day to learn a new cloud-based app or organizing system
- Buy yourself some cool bins and space-saving office accessories. This Pinterest board is packed with ideas.
- Make the clean-up fun. If you work with other people, turn your massive clean-up effort into a group activity.
- Donate things you don't need to a school or other charity. The joy of giving supplies, computers, and other things away to those in need will relieve some of the stress of parting with your stuff.
- If you're trashing computer equipment, make sure you're first wiping it clean of personal information and that it's being disposed of in an environmentally safe way.
If you're really stalled and have no idea what to throw away and what to keep, consider engaging a professional organizer. The good ones are professionally trained to help you break bad habits and do some serious soul-searching about what's really essential in your work life.
I think back to my early corporate days when I was surrounded by bookshelves, file cabinets, scotch tape, staples, pencil cups, paper clips, a Rolodex and numerous other essentials.
Now it's just us, our devices, and the cloud. Just think of all the time we're saving not filing, faxing, copying, hole-punching, and passing paper around; not to mention of all the creative ideas that can now fit in that empty space!
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Start in one area (room, desk, shelf or drawer), in the part of the house you use the most, such as the living room or kitchen. Give yourself a set amount of time, be it one hour or 5 minutes. You may be surprised at how much you accomplish!
Wait on purchasing storage containers until after you've decluttered. You may not need as much storage space once you've sorted through everything, or you may find a different solution might work better for you. You can minimize frustration and get better results if you figure out what you will actually need to store first. "Containerizing" is the last step not the first. Plus, you'll save money.
Take the time to sort through everything. Put items into categories: keep, donate, sell or toss/recycle. Whether you're sorting paper/stationary, books, toys, or clothing, group like items together (party toothpicks & napkins) to make it easier to access them in the future. Involve your kids & partner if you have them. Put on happy music, start a race to collect recycling, make it fun!
Schedule a time to drop off donations & get them out of your space; take recycling to the curb or depot; take garbage bags to the bins! You've decided to let these things go one way or another, follow through & enjoy the extra space!
Declutter before it comes into your home! Even if it's free or a really great price, if it will just end up clutter, don't bring it home.
Follow Nancy A. Shenker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theonswitch