I’ve been attempting to clean up my office since I moved into it. I had some luck a while ago, using emergent design techniques for cleaning up. But that wasn’t enough. I was ready for an office redesign. So that’s what I did this weekend.
Here is one before picture:
The rest of the office was just as bad.
And here is an after pictures of the same area. The bin is gone, as well as all the stuff in it.:
I don’t have everything cleaned up, but I’m very close. The rest I can do as I get the right storage containers. I recycled over 20 bags of paper. I only threw out about 4 bags of garbage.
I’ve never been clean office kind of person, but my mess was preventing me from getting the work done that I wanted to complete. It’s as if the mess in my environment was preventing me from thinking.
Here’s what I did:
- Get help. I asked Daughter #2 to help me with my file drawers and general cleaning up. I knew that having another person would help me stay on task. And it turned out that Daughter #2 had several ideas of how to organize things.
- Attack one area of the room at a time. I cleaned out spaces so I would have a place to put the papers I did want to keep. I first cleaned out a four-drawer file cabinet. I proceeded to the other two small file cabinets and realized I no longer needed them once I had cleaned them out. I proceeded to areas of the room, not attempting to deal with all the surface paper until I dealt with cleaning each area of the room. That allowed me to make room to put things away when I finally dealt with my desk.
- Organized my materials. I have materials for teaching my classes, materials for simulations, games and puzzles. I had tried to cram everything into one plastic bin, but the bin was too small. I now have several bins, one for each category. And, because I no longer needed the small file cabinets, I have easy access to each bin. I have not fully organized supplies, although I’ve made a good start.
- Once the rest of my office was organized, I could attack my desk. A couple of months ago, I removed all the paper on my desk into a plastic bin (that first picture), just so I would have a small writing area. I sorted the desk plus the bin into three piles: notebooks, paper, and pens/pencils. That allowed me to sort each pile separately.
The principles that served me well were: work with someone else, stage the work (divide and conquer), inch-pebbles, and appreciations. Working with someone else helped me see what to do, when to do it, and provide ideas when I was stuck. Cleaning my whole office was too intimidating. But cleaning a piece and calling it done was do-able (I’m not sure I would call this cleaning/implementing by feature–but it was close :-). Mark also came down every few hours to give me positive reinforcement, especially as I got closer to being done.
I don’t know how long I can keep my office clean, but I think I have a chance. I have two goals: keep my office clean enough that when I return from a trip, I can unpack my office stuff within an hour, and that small adjustments will be all I need until the next big redesign.