Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Desk Organization

I know it's not January first, the time when most people think of organizing their homes, but I always get this urge twice a year, not once. January and June/July. I think it's because school is out and all that has accumulated over the course of the year makes me to want to purge and rearrange, try new organization tricks, and get everything tidy again for fall. Thus the reason for some many organization posts. So I appreciate your patience as I repost an old piece I wrote. I really need this particular article for myself!!

I must admit that I have been an organizing fanatic since I was about 8. Before that it really didn't enter my mind, but about third grade, our family moved to a new town and a new home. I still remember walking into that empty room, staring at the open closet and green shag carpet while thinking to myself "Self, I think I would like to keep this room neat". 

It sounds silly, but it's true. My friends use to tease me that I filed my clothes in my drawers. Nothing was ever under my bed, there was no junk drawer, and my closet was always tidy. However, in high school I practically lived in my car and the back seat was the most logical place for all my school books, drill team uniform, favorite 8 tracks and cassettes (yes, I'm a bit old), and anything else that I needed on a daily basis. It was a mess!

Now that I am a mom, I like my canned goods all lined up with the labels facing the front. Drawers are neatly organized, and the linen closet usually is stacked nicely (still no junk drawer). But, true to nature, the place I work the most is almost always a mess! My desk.

A rare moment when my desk is actually clean!

My friends can attest, that they have come in to see piles of paper work and receipts sitting in a stack. Books that I am reading or researching are scattered or in piles while photos are all over the place. And since there are children around, a toy or two can be found in this mess as well.

It isn't that I don't know how to organize it. But rather that I don't take the time to get it done. When I sit down for a minute to get it straightened up, I can find 10 things I need to do immediately (sometimes things that had due dates three days prior!). More often than not, I get some idea in my head and start researching that for half an hour. Then before I realize it, my time is up and I have none left to organize. 

This past week, it reached critical mass. Well, perhaps reached critical mass. I couldn't stand it any more! Something had to be done. The purging began.

As I pulled out stuff from drawers and under my desk (I have deep shelves that are built in for storing things underneath and to the side), I couldn't believe the amount of paraphernalia that was in my desk area! And so little of it was stuff that I really need and use at my desk.  All that got moved out. I was ruthless!

If you've read my previous post Need More Space In Your Home then you know that you will need to purge some stuff as well.  Most people have odd note pads and tons of used or worn out pens and pencils. Ditch them and don't look back! Get rid of those stray screws you never found out what they belonged to or take them to the tool box, purge the odds and ends in your drawers, and trash the worn out and unused. 

Pictures are nice, but I didn't have room for them on top of the desk area, so they went to another location. My scanner that I use to scan old photos was taking up the entire left side of the desk top, but all my photos are upstairs, so I moved the scanner to the upstairs computer. And a stack of things that needed to be returned to friends went to the car to deliver them to their rightful owners. And this was just some of it! I only left the things that I really use on a daily basis while working at my desk. 

So Rule #1 in desk organization: If you don't use it, loose it!

Next there were some items that I use in my desk area, but not as often as others. For example, I keep a copy of my favorite catalogs for referencing items and such. These were taking up valuable space in my filing drawers. And like most of us, I really need more filing space! So the magazines got moved to another home in my desk area that was a bit further away, but with proper organizing items (stand up magazine files), these would be just as easy or even easier to access!

I needed more space in my drawers and yet, I kept my pens and pencils in there. A pretty vase on top of my desk was a better use of space and actually would make it more productive for me. No more digging for a writing instrument. And I am always needing a notepad to take a memo or phone message, but these were almost behind my chair in a drawer that caused me to reach back and move over. I moved these front and center. There were several other items that were in the wrong location and thus helped me to come up with the next tip.

Rule #2 is now: Keep the most used items close at hand and easy to access!

I always have items that I am currently working on and I do not want to file them in the drawers every day for a week as I reference them. I need them out where I can grab them quickly and put them back just as fast. It's usually for a project that I am working on and after a week or so, they'll be done. To fight this is futile and would make my work unproductive. It wouldn't make sense to try to retrain myself when it is so engrained. So I needed to come up with a way to keep the papers looking neat and not all over my desk. I have purchased a stand up file holder and some lovely looking file folders to keep on top of my desk. Each will be label with something like "Invitations/Thanks You Notes to Write", "Receipts to File", "House Projects in Process", "Bills To Pay" and such. 

Each of us works differently, so our desks will need to look different. Therefore, 

Rule #3: Make the desk work for you and your style of work.

My desk had become a collection of "cute" little what-nots. Photos, silk plants, candle holders I rarely used, on and on... I was getting frustrated because I didn't have enough space to actually work. I had to make room for what the desk was intended to be used for.

Rule #4: Keep the desk top as clear as possible for plenty of work space.

Every organizer will tell you that you need to keep paperwork from piling up. File regularly and it won't be a daunting task. This also makes sense for anything else out on your desk at the end of each day.  Books, pens, glasses or coffee cups. toys, etc. Imagine waking up each morning to a beautiful organized and clean desk! I'll talk more about purging paperwork later, but until then...

Rule #5: Before bed each night, make it pretty again!

Oh, how I wish there was a desk fairy that would clean our desks for us each night! Until then, we must plan 5-10 minutes into the evening routine to quickly tidy the area so that it is a welcoming space the next day. Honestly, this is where I struggle the most, so I really need to start making this a daily habit! Then it wouldn't get so out of hand.

Off to tackle my desk mess!


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