My new book, From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, is coming out just in time for Christmas giving — to yourself and others. One helpful feature of the book is the inclusion of clutter clearing plans for each area of your home. Below is an excerpt of a clutter clearing plan from the Home Office chapter. It will give you a taste of the book, help you to push past any overwhelm, and start clearing out your home office. The ideas included in this plan are transferrable to any office setting.
Home Office Clutter Clearing Plan
Clutter in a home office is equivalent to blockages in the circuitry of your brain. Blockages in the brain can be lethal. They can also cause a state of unease that results in stress, anxiety and fear, and impairs productivity. When your home office is clear of clutter you can access the information you need for personal business and personal interests within seconds. Once you have ready access to that information, your life can roll along without incident.
Clearing clutter from the home office can feel like you’ve gotten your brain back! Let me show you how.
- Take a photo of your home office before you begin work. As you look at it, take note of the “hot” spots, those areas of intense negative energy that make you want to run from the room. Resist the urge to run. Notice the negative thoughts that immediately pop up. Thoughts like, “What a mess! I don’t know where to start. This will take forever to do!” Notice those thoughts, but don’t allow them to shut down your brain. Just notice the challenge areas. Tell yourself that you can handle this challenge. It may take time, but you can do it, even if you have to do it in a number of short sessions or get some help to make it so.
- If paper has gone wild in the room, gather it up and put it in bags or boxes to deal with after you’ve finished organizing the rest of the room. As you gather up the papers, be sure to separate out supplies like envelopes, writing implements, sheet protectors and pads of paper. Put those aside in one area of the room. Also, be sure not to scoop up papers associated with current bills to be paid and current action items. Keep those two categories of paper separate from the rest of the paper. That way you can be sure to keep up with bills and other important actions that must be handled before the organizing is completed. The purpose of gathering up the paper is to quiet its annoying, distressing and distracting negative energy so you can think clearly as you make decisions about the rest of the contents of the room.
- If there are miscellaneous little items floating around the room, on the desk, filing cabinet, floor, etc., gather them all up and put them in a bag or basket. Like paper, the energy of those little things can be very distracting and probably needs silencing before moving forward. You can deal with those things at the end of the clutter clearing process, once everything bigger has been handled.
- Identify all the functions of the room. Home offices are often multi-purpose rooms, especially in small houses. It’s important to determine the various functions of the space before you begin clutter clearing, so you’ll know what belongs in the room and what needs to find a home elsewhere. Is it just a home office, a place to pay bills and store papers you might need to access someday? Does it house a home-based business as well as personal financial information? Is the room both home office and guest room? Does it also serve as the location of the gift-wrapping center for the home? Is it a craft room as well as a home office? So many possibilities! Know that the more functions housed in a room, the more challenging it will be to organize and keep organized.
- Remove everything from the space that does not fit its function. Place those items either just inside or just outside the door to be moved once you’ve worked long enough to have either a weary brain, or to have accumulated enough items to justify taking a break to distribute them to their new locations.
- Look at each piece of furniture and determine whether it serves at least one of the functions of the room. Remove any furniture that doesn’t serve one of the functions of the room. Home offices are complicated spaces that are a challenge to organize and keep organized. They ALWAYS have a lot going on in them. You cannot afford to have excess furniture holding precious energy that could be better used another better way in that room.
- Check each piece of furniture to make sure it works well and is in good condition. A good way to determine this is by noticing which furniture is being used and which is not. If something is not being used, why not? It’s common that filing cabinets and desks with broken drawers or drawers that don’t open and close easily will be avoided. Let go of furnishings that are not in good condition.
- Check the placement of the furniture. Is it comfortable? Is the desk situated so you will be in the power position, having a full view of the door and a solid wall behind you? Is it possible to work effectively and efficiently in the current arrangement? If not, rearrange the furniture put yourself in the power position when working at the desk. Make sure you can easily reach anything you will use on a regular basis, like computers, printers, other office equipment, filing cabinets, and supplies.
- When you are moving furniture around, be sure to clump supplies you encounter in one location for evaluation, organizing and containing later in the clutter clearing process.
- Evaluate computer equipment. Does it all work? If there are old computers, printers, modems and hard drives that are not being used, why not? Purge broken items that aren’t worth repairing, items you don’t know how to use and don’t care about figuring out how to use. The “someday” you think will come when you’ll be able to figure out everything is not likely to come. Get real about all the electronic equipment that you own. Make decisions about what will be kept and let go of the rest. This may require taking steps to remove data from hard drives. If you are not computer savvy, the fastest way to clear hard drives is to hire someone to help you do this. Also, much outdated electronic equipment is not worth selling. Live only with electronic equipment that is alive and used!
- Gather all books together and evaluate the energy of each one. Books to keep are those that you haven’t read but are still interested in reading, those that you have read and know you’ll re-read, those that you are highly likely to use for reference, and any book that has changed your life. Those are high energy books. Let go of the rest.
- If you have binders, evaluate each one to determine if it is worth keeping. Binders from workshops and conferences are seldom used after the event and can take up valuable “real estate” in a home office. If you don’t use a binder in the first month after a workshop or conference you are unlikely to ever use it. Let it go! Binders of old financial information can be archived in banker’s boxes in the attic, again freeing up precious space. If, like me, you’ve had good intentions of using binders, but really hate the hole punching process, consider getting rid of binders in favor of another way of storing papers.
- Sort supplies by category: writing implements, paper, filing supplies, index cards, sheet protectors, binders, blank CDs, jewel cases, organizing supplies, etc. As you sort, put aside for donation any supplies you no longer use, that are outdated, and that you find annoying or irritating to use. Once the supplies are sorted by type, look at the quantity of each item. If you have an excessive amount of any item, consider donating a portion of it to a local charity. After you’ve made those decisions, check to see if all the supplies you plan to keep will fit in the storage area you plan to use to house them. Make it your goal to have all your supplies comfortably live in the storage space available.
- Evaluate all software books and CDs (content, music, software, photos, etc.), purging any that are outdated or that you no longer use.
- Consider all the decorative items in the space. Do they still have positive energy? Do you love them or use them? If not, let them go. Or, if you have a decorative item that you still value, but you no longer want it in the home office, put it by the door to find a home for it in another part of the house.
- Check out any other items that don’t fit into the major categories I’ve discussed to identify those that you still love or use. Move those that aren’t loved or used to the door with other items to be donated.
- Once the entire space has been evaluated and unused and unloved items purged, turn your attention toward the paper that you scooped up early in the clutter clearing process. You are likely to find that paper is easier to handle now that you’ve cleared the rest of the room.
- DO NOT start making decisions about single pieces of paper, unless that’s all you have to deal with. If you start there, you will quit! Handling big chunks of paper first will allow you to see visible progress quickly. That is essential in order for you to stay motivated and keep going.
- Start by pulling big chunks of paper from your paper piles first, like magazines, catalogs, newsletters, and stapled chunks of paper. Making decisions big chunks allows you to see visual progress for your efforts more quickly than starting with single sheets of paper. Visual progress is imperative to keep you motivated to continue working on paper.
- Work your way from big chunks to single sheets, and then to small pieces of paper.
- Keep only those papers you are highly likely to reference at some later date. Remember, 80 to 90% of paper that is filed never gets touched again.
- Be very selective about papers you keep. If you keep them, they become work, because you’ll need to figure out how to store them so you can easily access them.
Keep in mind that the energy in your home office will be much improved once you have cleared it of clutter. You will then need to organize your paper and set up a filing system, if you don’t already have one.
After all that hard work you can turn your attention to other fun activities, like decorating the space and enhancing it with lovely art and images that bring you joy, create feelings of empowerment, and motivate you to take action.
Now that you’ve read through the steps, it’s time to apply your knowledge. Are you ready to love your home office?