7 Steps to Organize Your Workspace

Ahh, that first sip of coffee. Priceless. Today, I'm offering you 7 steps to organize your workspace.

Yes, today I finally get my workspace organized. I'm excited. Boxes of books have been stacked in my office closet, tucked under my desk, and littered the floor since July.

Needless to say, I can't find anything or do anything. I spent the weekend clearing out those boxes.

Alas, I had to stack them in the guest room since the bookcases we ordered still have not arrived. I guess they're in a cargo container on some ship off the shore of California. I'm beginning to think I should have Darling Hubby start constructing some.

Conquer the Clutter

You know that funny sign you sometimes see on a messy desk? "A cluttered desk is a mark of genius."

Well, I think that's just an excuse to have a cluttered desk. I've never seen anyone who didn't work better when they knew where things were when they needed them.

Having an organized work space is actually good feng shui and good for your mental and emotional health.

There are a ton of books available to tell you how to de-clutter, find a place for everything, make new habits to keep the clutter at bay, and generally organize your house and your entire life.

Marie Kondo is known worldwide for her books on organization. My younger daughter took her book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up to heart.

She read the book when it first came out and spent about 6 months not just organizing, but minimizing her possessions.

Slowly, clutter has crept back in. Probably because her husband didn't read the book and follow its philosophy. *LOL*

Franky, what Kondo suggests is difficult for most people to do. The author is from the crowded island nation of Japan. Since I lived in Japan for many years, I personally know why minimalism is so important there.

My Suggestion

I'm not a minimalist. I just want a place for everything, and everything in its place so when I'm looking for a copy of the sales contract on our house, it doesn't take me hours of searching. (True story.) 

7 Steps to Organize Your Workspace

1. Clear a flat surface somewhere. I'm using my guest bed today. What flat surface you choose will be your staging area.

2. Get some file storage boxes and a black Sharpie marker. I like the fat kind of marker that makes a big black mark. Take the boxes and marker to the staging area. Set the boxes up in a row. (If you don't want to invest in file boxes, get some cardboard boxes that approximate the size of a file folder.)

* Also helpful are filing cabinets if you have space for them and can afford them. Amazon has a rolling file cabinet for $65.99 like the one at left that can be rolled into a closet.

* You can get a wire-metal rolling file for only $27.99, and I believe it comes with hanging folders. There are filing cabinets at many price points so you can probably find one that fits your budget. If you're in a tiny apartment, find one that looks like a piece of furniture and use it for an end table or nightstand.

3. Get some file folders. You'll place these in the file boxes and/or the file cabinet—whichever you decide to go with. Plain Manila file folders are $13.37 for 100. If you don't need that many, go in halves with a friend who wants to organize a work space.

* If you have hanging folders like with those that come with the wire-metal rolling file mentioned above, you don't need file folders too.

4. Categorize the file boxes. Use your marker to label a sheet of paper and clip the paper to a box. You may have different categories, but these are mine for the file boxes I've set up: Archive, Action Needed, Give To Someone, Miscellaneous, and Shred.

Archive box means I need to keep the papers, but don't need to access them on a regular basis. I'll be placing this box on a closet shelf.

Action Needed box goes to my desk where I will begin to take action on each item until all are completed. 

These are priority items like bills to pay, phone calls, or emails to make. I need to take action asap.

Give To Someone box contains things like a book I may have borrowed from a friend, a writing lesson I promised to send someone, a photo I wanted to give to someone, etc. I'll sort these into Manila envelopes, stack on my kitchen desk, and call the person to make arrangements to deliver it to them or for them to pick it up. If you don't have a kitchen desk, place it on an entry cabinet by the front door or your kitchen counter or table by the back door.

Miscellaneous box will have papers that are one-offs. They probably don't need a file folder of their own, but they're something I want to keep. I'll group them together as much as possible, i.e., a home improvement idea I tore from a magazine, an article about phthalates, an email with a funny joke I saved, a coupon that came in the mail, an announcement about our voting precinct, a letter with info I need, etc. 

I'll look at each paper and see if I can place it in a broad category, i.e. Health, Home, Family, Ideas. Or, I'll label a folder Miscellaneous, put a sticky note on each that shows why I saved it, and keep it in that folder.
Shred of course means, shred the papers or tear them to pieces before placing in recycle or trash. 

Shredders can be found in various price points such as this shredder from Amazon which costs $34.26. (Prime shipping for subscribers.)

I bought one very similar at Office Depot a few years ago, and it cost over a hundred dollars.

If you only occasionally need to shred something, you can get a pair of Shredder Scissors for less than $5.00.

5. Take a stack of whatever is covering your desk, floor, or chair to your staging area.

Go through the items, one by one. Place the paper in front of the appropriate box except for something to be shredded. Toss it into the shred box.

6. If you intend to place the items in file folders for storage in one of the file boxes or a file cabinet, immediately whip out a file folder, label it, and place the document in that folder.

For now, stack the folders and when you have a few, carry them to the file cabinet and place them, in alphabetical order, in the drawer.

(If you intend to use 1 or more of your sorting boxes when you've finished sorting everything, just stack the folders in alphabetical order in a  laundry basket or someplace to keep them all together until you've finished sorting everything. 

7. By the end of the day, you should have everything in an appropriate file folder and placed in a file cabinet. If you're using the sorting boxes instead of a file cabinet, use your black Sharpie marker to now label the boxes, using however many you need. 

You'll want to label 1 box Archive. Depending on how many file boxes you need, label them from A to whatever, for example, A - M and N - Z. If using boxes, ideally, store them side by side on a closet or book shelf.

Next, shred the contents of the Shred box. You're now finished. Smile and pat yourself on the back. You'll smile each time you enter your workspace rather than dread going into an area that looks as if a tornado swept through.

By the way, this process works for a home office, a crafting space, or a writing space.

Like the sign at right says, "A year from now you will wish you had started today." So don't wait, make a date to get your workspace organized today.

Takeaway Truth

When you complete these 7 steps, you should have everything organized and know exactly where everything important to you can be found. 

Enjoy working in your personal space!

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