The concept of “spring cleaning” seems to validate the idea that we only have to clean and organize once a year. Not true! It needs to be a daily maintenance, according to organization expert Mary Carlomagno, author of Secrets of Simplicity.
I talked with Mary before getting started on my own office de-cluttering. She recommends making organization and de-cluttering a daily ritual like brushing your teeth and exercising. Think about how much time you waste looking for files or little post-its with contact information. Just a quick 10 minutes of prioritizing and purging in the morning and again at night will help you become clutter-free and organized, therefore being more efficient and having more free time to focus on the things you enjoy!
The one “must-have” item that Mary Carlomagno recommends is a filing cabinet. This is not negotiable. “It can be the kind you schlep around the house with a handle on it, or the 5 drawer metal eyesore that never moves from its spot in the office. Whatever kind works best for you, actively use the file cabinet.” She suggests we prioritize all documents on our desk into ABC categories.
A: Files that you need to refer to frequently or daily. Keep out and visible on your desk.
B: Files that you access only weekly. Keep near you, maybe in that file cabinet next to your desk or even on top of the desk.
C: Files that you don’t need to see any longer (just holding onto for tax purposes). Archive in the file cabinet or your computer.
After prioritizing, the key to organizing is keeping papers in their proper places and not commingling your kid’s school documents with your business papers and car insurance forms. Separate everything into categories.
I love what Mary says about organizing not being a “one size fits all” system. You have to personalize it in the way that works best for you. If you are a techy person, keep your important documents and lists and contacts on your computer. If you’re like me, go ahead and use the old fashioned Month-At-A-Glance calendar that I have on my desk where I can schedule, make lists, cross things off and keep contact information notes until I input them into my computer. Being consistent in utilizing your unique system is critical. If you like to write lists on paper, carry one notebook to use. You don’t want a gazillion post-it notes all over the place — it makes you feel as scattered as it looks! Know your personality and set up a system that you will actually follow and maintain daily, not seasonally, and definitely not just once a year at springtime.
The top 5 things (in addition to the filing cabinet!) that Mary Carlomagno recommends you have as you begin to de-clutter:
- Paper shredder
- Hard drive back-up
- Labeler for files
- Same color files
- “Project” folders to keep track of projects. They can replace an in-box; set them up chronologically.
Simply put, Mary says “Manage your stuff, don’t manage how you feel about it. No need to over analyze, just set up your system and maintain it daily.” The results will be worth the effort. Once it’s done in a big way, you really want to maintain it. It’s like losing weight, you see how good it feels and you want to keep that feeling!
Sandy Abrams is founder and CEO of Moisture Jamzz, Inc. Founded in 1993 around her signature moisturizing glove product, Moisture Jamzz has counted among its clients Bath & Body Works; the Estée Lauder Company (Origins and Aveda); H2O PLUS; Crabtree & Evelyn, and others. Today, it is still a privately held corporation that Sandy runs with her husband. Sandy’s new book Your Idea, Inc. is a step-by-step guidebook to help first time entrepreneurs follow in her footsteps.