Get Organised!

Have you lost your “to-do” list among the piles of paper on your desk? Do you spend more time looking for items than you do completing tasks? If so, it’s time to get organised! If an afternoon of sensible sorting doesn’t sound attractive, gather some helpers, follow Elle Wyatt’s steps and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Armed with measurements and a clear list of what you need, you can now enjoy the pleasure of completing your space with storage solutions that fit your personality.

Studies have shown that 80 per cent of the paper we hold onto is never referenced again. That’s a lot of paper! Whether it’s your work office or your home office, the predicament of how to manage the paper loads, along with everything else that comes across your desk, can be a challenge.

For some people, being organised comes naturally. For others, there are a number of reasons why they hold onto things including depression, denial, a cluttered upbringing, frugality and grieving. Ultimately, clutter is postponed decisions. If you’re drowning in a pile of paperwork, or your work space and surrounding office is a mess, then the following steps will guide you out of a stressful environment, and into a well organised place of peace! There’s no time like the present, and the present is all we have!

Step 1. Dedicate time and gather supplies

Depending on the size of your office or the current condition of your unorganised space, you will need to set aside blocks of hours to achieve a final result. For a small office of two or three desks with two or three people, it’s recommended you set aside a full day’s worth or organising, followed by two follow-up sessions of two hours each. Be sure to have garbage bags, sticky notes for labelling, markers, manilla folders, cardboard magazine holders and empty boxes ready for the following categories: recycling, shredding, and items that don’t belong in that room.

Step 2. Establish an organising area
It’s important to clear a space which will be used as an area to sort through items. Clear off a desk, a corner of the room or even the hallway!

Step 3. Paper you should throw immediately

  • Junk mail and advertising material – if you’ve not read it already, you’ll never read it!
  • Old envelopes from mail you’ve opened.
  • Inserts from magazines and mail.
  • Catalogues and brochures that you’ve not looked at in the last week – if you have to keep it, file it.
  • Receipts for non-tax-deductable items.
  • Newspapers and magazines you don’t intend to read.
  • Old travel itineraries and seminar/conference notes you’ve never read.
  • Invitations for past events or events you will never attend.
  • Printed e-mails that you’ve already read and do not intend to file.
  • Old photos and old greeting/thank you cards.
  • Cheque books and deposit books that are more than five years old.
  • Magazine and newspaper clippings that you’ve not looked at for over a year.
  • Credit card statements that are more than a year old and hold no tax information.
  • Expired insurance policies or warranties
  • Files that are no longer in use or are tattered, ripped and unusable.
  • Unsuccessful tenancy applications.
  • Tenant/landlord items that have not been retrieved from your office.
  • Old fax sheets.

Step 4. Sort, purge and group like items
Throw any paper in Step 3 into a garbage bag, shredder or recycling bin.

If there is more than one of you, allocate one area for each person and use your organising area (Step 2), to start sorting. Using the cardboard magazine holders start sorting your paper by filing them into their individual categories. For example, magazine holder 1 can be labelled with a sticky note as “bank related”. File all bank statements, deposit books, cheque books etc into this holder. Continue to label and file other loose paper into categories. Some examples can be tenant information, landlord information, bills to be paid, receipts, personal tax etc. If your office is your personal business, continue with categories like electricity, accounts payable, memberships, quotes, marketing, advertising etc. For any confidential documents, shred straight away, or pile to shred later. Gather books, stationery, CDs and other odd items into piles. DO NOT leave the room to place items into different rooms, put all those items in a box and distribute later – you’ll only waste time and lose focus.

Step 5. Examine your office
Once you’ve finished Step 4, you can now step back and examine your office space. You may wish to make a few changes to the furniture layout or shelving heights. Establish a place for excess stationery, books, CDs and other items that you use less often. Keep in mind items you use often and place them in close proximity to your work space.

Use the manilla folders to start files from the sorted categories in the magazine holders. This also gives you the opportunity to further cull or to organise your categories further, like into date or alphabetic order. For example, when placing bank related information into the file, sort statements into financial years for ease at tax time. Place your manilla files into filing cabinets clearly marked by category with a plastic tab. Take measurements in your space as you may need to purchase new furniture, storage solutions or containers.

Step 6. Shop and install products
For some people, this is the best part of organising and a reward for all your hard work. You may well discover your new space requires boxes and baskets, stationery holders, cord bundlers, plastic storage bins, filing cabinets and more. Armed with measurements and a clear list of what you need, you can now enjoy the pleasure of completing your space with storage solutions that fit your personality.

Step 7. Left overs
Ensure all your piles have been filed or stored in their new homes. Shred confidential paper, remove the garbage bags and take the items in the box marked “other rooms” to their rightful places.

Step 8. Maintenance and tips
Usually the most difficult step in the process is maintaining your new office space. Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Magazine holders – can now be used to hold user manuals, folders, printer paper, templates, forms and stationery. Turning the holder around showing the back will ensure a very clean look.
  2. Receipts – keep a plastic envelope or wallet folder close by your desk to store any tax related or big ticket item receipts. This way, tax time is a breeze!
  3. Mail and trays – open every single envelope that arrives on your desk. Have two trays, one marked “Action & Bills to Pay” and the other “To be Filed”. That way, once you’ve opened your mail if there is a bill to pay or a letter to action, it can be sorted quickly. Don’t allow your “To be Filed” tray to get too big, diarise to clear this at least once a fortnight – and do it first thing in the morning.
  4. Bills – ensure once you’ve paid your personal bills that they are then filed. Make sure everyone in your office is aware of your new filing and tray system.
  5. Desk – to keep a paper-free and clutter-free desk, use file racks and magazine holders to keep paperwork vertical and off the desk. Keep your stationery in your top drawer and avoid sticky notes and scrap paper to surround your computer screen.

One thing to consider… it is better to finish something that is not quite perfect, than to never begin in the first place. Studies have shown that if a goal is written down, there is an 80 per cent possibility that it’ll be reached. Set yourself a goal, break down the organising into stages or areas, and then just do it! Even if you complete one small area, say the top drawer of your desk, you’ll feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. Don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed any longer. Set a goal, small at first, or throw yourself in the deep end and reorganise your whole office! If all else fails, outsource your home or office organising and hire a Professional Organiser to come in and give you the boost and kick-start you need.

Elle Whyatt is a Personal Concierge & Lifestyle Manager. Her business “Running In Heels” helps people with their work/life balance by running their errands, organising their social lives, managing their households and generally being a personal assistant for their personal life. She enjoys professionally organising client’s homes and offices. She also trains real estate PAs on a consultancy basis.

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