How many times have you walked into your home office only to cringe, turn around, and walk out? If you spend more time thinking up reasons to avoid your office than actually working in it, you may be suffering from ‘mess related stress.’
The fact is, clutter is more than a time and space waster; clutter causes stress. Let’s take a look at the typical home office hot-spots and learn a few tricks for clearing the clutter to create more calm.
Whether you have a huge antique roll top desk, a modern massive executive desk, or a tiny computer cart, your desk is going to be the repository for a lot of stuff.
Much like a closet, the bigger the desk, the bigger the mess. Purchasing a larger desk will not solve the clutter problem. However, organizing the space you have available on your desk will definitely help.
Start de-cluttering your desk by making a clean sweep of the top, cubbies, and drawers. All that should remain is the hardware, such as the computer, printer, etc. Once you can see your desk’s surfaces, the mess that should jump out at you first is the tangle of cords. Even though electrical and computer cords don’t exactly infringe on your workspace, the visual impact most certainly will stress your brain. Clear this mess by corralling those cords in simple cardboard or foam tubes and get them out of sight.
Now that you have a clear surface and neatly tucked away cords, set up a few containers for those items that you always need. You’ll probably want small bins or cups to hold pens, pencils, and notepads. However, your needs may include paper-clips, staplers, tape, rulers, and calculators. The idea is to only have on your desk what you need to work, and to have those items stored in handy containers.
You will want a nice big clear area on your desk to actually work on the project you have at the moment. Therefore, rather than pile your desk high with an entire week’s worth of work, choose another area close by to hold the papers, books, journals, or other bulky items you’ll need later.
That brings us to the most common home office clutter monster – papers. This includes projects, notes, mail, and all that paperwork we just can’t seem to get rid of. There are, however, ways to tame even this monster.
As mentioned, you want to remove the pile of papers from your immediate work area, most likely your desk. In order to have a good work space available on your desk, the paper has to go somewhere else. But, there’s more to de-cluttering than just moving papers around.
We all have paper to handle every day. We take notes, we get mail, we save receipts – the list is endless, just like the paper. If you tend to toss every piece of paper into the In-Box in your office, perhaps it’s time to stop treating all paperwork equally.
To set up a system for paperwork that doesn’t just become another pile, you will need to divide your office’s In-Box into categories. For example, set up three boxes and title them “Immediate,” “Tomorrow,” and “File.” Anything you have to handle before you move onto another task goes into the “Immediate” box. Something that is not as time-sensitive, but needs to be checked again tomorrow, obviously goes into the “Tomorrow” box, and things that don’t need any further consideration can simply go into the “File” box to be stored when you have time. Of course, you will really have a fourth box – the trash can – to complete your paperwork system.
If you use this method, remember to keep the papers moving daily, and clean out the filed papers on a routine basis, which brings us to the next area where clutter often reigns – the file.
Even the best file cabinet or closet fills up when left unattended. You may think “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to this clutter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Knowing you have mountains of clutter lurking behind closed doors is enough to cause ‘mess stress.’ You don’t have to see it every minute of every day to feel that stress gnawing at you.
Start clearing the stored stuff out of your files, shelves, and closets by first finding out what you actually need to keep. There are good lists available on many websites, including the IRS. Use these guidelines to begin purging documents that are no longer needed for tax or estate purposes.
Now you can begin digging into those items that are no longer relevant. You may find old manuals for equipment you don’t have, or receipts for items way past the point of return. Many of these items have simply been forgotten. You may even find boxes and packing materials for items you have no intention of ever shipping anywhere. It’s time to discard those “some day we may need these” items.
Discarding old paycheck stubs, receipts, and empty boxes is pretty painless. But, the next step can be a bit more difficult. This is the area you dread most – the emotional things.
These are the crafts you started, magazines you saved, and other items you kept because you loved something about them. Maybe it’s a book or magazine with decorating ideas or recipes you wanted to try. It may be a story you saved to read later. Perhaps there are pictures to be framed or cards to be stamped. The point is, there are projects lost in a pile and it’s a difficult thing to deal with.
The easiest method for clearing the stuff you are emotionally attached to is to get rid of the extras. For example, take pictures or scan those craft ideas and recipes and download them to files on your computer, then toss the magazines. Go through all your projects and purge items you no longer need or want. Any school or daycare would be happy to take your extra ribbon, fabric paint, glitter, card stock, stamps, and whatnot.
If after clearing out the extras you are still faced with piles of projects, consider making a small investment in some inexpensive shelving to neatly house your crafting projects. This simple storage solution can go a long way to de-cluttering, and de-stressing.
Now that you have your desk cleaned off, your paperwork moving smoothly from start to finish, your filed items purged, and your projects reduced and neatly arranged, it’s time to sit down and get some work done. What a relief to finally be rid of that creeping clutter. Enjoy your ‘mess-less stress-less’ home office!