03/18/2014 12:17 EDT | Updated 05/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Declutter Your Business: Work in an Office, Live in the Cloud

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!


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