Establish A System – A Minimalist Office

Last week we discussed the challenges we face by having a cluttered office, and how to remove the distractions and clutter. Today we’ll talk about how to prevent this from happening again and putting a system in place in order to keep your office efficient and easier to work with.

Establish a system:

I’m a big fan of organization (as you may have guessed from my training as a professional organizer). And for areas such as this, a well organized space can be a blessing. You don’t need to be a neat freak or OCD to have an organization system put into place.

  1. Start with the basics. What are the most common and often used items in your office? Pens, notebooks, stapler, tape, etc. In other words, your supplies. Group like items together, and remove the excess. Also, how many pens do you realistically need or use regularly? Try to limit yourself on how many you keep, or display, and remove the rest. You can designate a drawer for supplies but do not go over that unless absolutely needed. Consider donating your excess supplies to a local school, teacher, etc.
  2. Put a file organization system into place. Keep two bins available at all times: Keep and Toss. Files that hit the Keep bin should be scanned at the close of every business day and then added to the Toss pile or sorted into a file cabinet if needed. Files that hit the Toss pile should be tossed at the close of every business day. It may take some time getting into the habit of scanning or tossing at the close of every business day, but by doing so you’re actually saving time in the long run. Think about it: How many times have you shuffled through papers or files that should  have been tossed in order to find the ONE file you really needed? Businesses lose hundreds of dollars a WEEK from losing a file or being unable to easily access their information.
  3. Don’t overload your computer. With all this scanning of files, it’s easy to overload your computer (just like you may have done with your filing cabinet). Make sure you back up all your files and try to keep your desktop and storage to a minimum. There are many virtual storage systems or websites that use “the cloud” to store your information safely. You can store a backup of your files on these websites or on external hard drives to help keep your computer running efficiently.
  4. Organize your files. Whether physical or virtual, your files should be easily accessible. Put a file system in place that is easy for you to navigate. The system I use is Project > Subproject > Files. For example, using Simple and Eco (our online simple living shop). My main folder (the Project) is labeled Simple and Eco. Inside Simple and Eco I have my Subprojects, such as Receipts. Then within Receipts I have my files organized by the most recent receipt on top. This system may not work for you, so it’s important to find one that fits your businesses or work needs. Another example is color coding your folders or alphabetizing based on titles.
  5. One in-one out rule. This should apply to your office as well. If you bring something new in (furniture, books, supplies, etc), take one out. This will reduce duplicates in the future and help to keep the space clutter free.
  6. Last but equally important, straighten up every day. At the end of each day, as we mentioned earlier with our “Keep” and “Toss” system, straighten up your workspace before you leave for the day. Coming into your office first thing in the morning to a cluttered and disorganized space is not very inspiring and could be setting you off on the wrong foot before the day has even begun.

Keep in mind it takes 2 weeks to make an action a habit, so don’t give up if it takes some time putting your new system in place!

– Aly

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