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:
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.