Well, hooray!  It’s time to clean your office.  Yes!  Remember that zippy little Disney song, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go?”  Of course, you do.  You may also remember that those smiling dwarfs were not on their way to clean an out-of-control office.  They had a better place – a mine (possibly filled with danger, death, etc.).

It’s sad but true, but to some of us, the risk of dangerous work is more appealing than the task of tackling an out-of-control office.  The good news is that getting disorder under control is easier than you may think if you put forth a modicum of consistent effort.

By faithfully following a simple disaster recovery and maintenance schedule, you are bound to see improvement – even if you think you are a real lost cause.

Total Disaster Recovery

Schedule two hours to begin cleaning.  You will need the following supplies:

  • a large trash can
  • colored folders
  • pencil and marker
  • file box/drawer/or wire stacker
  • paper towels
  • Windex
  • three cardboard boxes

Determine which area you will attack first (drawers, desk surface, etc.) We recommend taking items off of your desk surface before getting into the drawers so that you have a sorting place.

  • Move the items on your desk into a cardboard box.
  • Next, empty your file drawer (most desks have one) into the other box.
  • Now you are ready to start sorting the two boxes into colored folders and refilling them into the recently emptied drawer. It may take you several tries to land upon the right filing system.  For instance, do you really need a separate file for each of the gift vendors you use, or could they all go in one folder?  Sometimes you can’t figure this out until you get fairly far along in the process.  To that end, consider labeling your files in pencil until you are sure you are satisfied with the assigned title.
  • Duplicate warning! Anything that you have stored electronically that does not need a readily available paper copy should not take up space in your file drawer.
  • Anything left over that you can’t figure out where to place should go in the third cardboard box. You will deal with it at the very end.

Move to the next drawer when you have completed the first two cardboard boxes.  Do not, we repeat, do not attempt to empty all of your drawers at once.  If you get sidetracked or interrupted, you will have a real mess on your hands.  Discouraged, you might even find yourself with a bunch of junky cardboard boxes and the empty drawers refilled with more “stuff.”

Unless you are on a mission, do not attempt to fix a total disaster in one day.  Schedule a few hours here and there over the course of a few weeks.  Remember, you still have your regular work to complete.

Windex any dirty surfaces.

Take home anything personal that does not fit into a small box.  It’s amazing how quickly you can “move in” to an office.

Daily Maintenance Tasks

  • Schedule time each day to organize.  (15 minutes is enough.)
  • Defragment your computer.
  • Organize any loose documents on your computer.  (You know, those items you put on the desktop or randomly in the “my documents” folder.)
  • Transfer all loose business cards, sticky notes, or other scribblings to a central location.
  • Throw out any mail (or other item) that is obviously junk (food wrappers included).

Weekly Maintenance Tasks

  • Make up for anything you skipped during the daily tasks.
  • Purge your bulletin board.
  • Water anything living, and throw out anything dead, unidentifiable, or past its season.
  • Clean your computer screen, keyboard, phone, and other surfaces.
  • Toss any unneeded magazines or newspapers.  If it’s a weekly and you have not read it, toss it.  Ditto with the daily stuff.
  • Backup your computer files.  Don’t skip it.  You could end up being really sorry.
  • Make a list of any office supplies you are running out of.  Wasting a half an hour looking for tape is really stupid.

Yearly Maintenance Tasks

  • Purge any old/unneeded files, paperwork, employee announcements, old shipping documents, etc.
  • Make a list of important dates to pay attention to the next year and get them into Outlook or on your paper calendar if you have not been doing so throughout the year.  There is no reason for you to miss an important client anniversary.
  • Make a list of any large purchases (shredder, new computer, etc.) you think you will need during the following year.  Not having these items may contribute to a backslide.

Surprise!  None of this is rocket science or something you haven’t heard before. 

Still sad that there’s no magic bullet?  Take heart, you are not alone.  For many people, staying organized is not fun, but the payoff is a lot better than the potential pain of clutter, chaos, and looking stupid.  Now, off to work you go: get cleaning!