Thursday, July 25, 2013

You haven't seen my desk in a long time. Then again, neither have I.

Last week we had a rare treat at the office: declutter day! No kidding, we got to spend the day cleaning out the office. It sounds frivolous but it makes sense. I work in a big, big office and in all the years our office has been around, the department hasn't moved and the (extremely large) communal areas have never been cleaned out. It made sense that we all would work more efficiently with our personal workspaces cleaned as well.

What an awesome day! First off, we got to dress 'casually'. Dress shorts for me! I ditched the heels for flip-flops as we each cleaned our assigned areas of our department.

super excited to go into work for cleanup day!
I'd love to post pictures of the incredible job cleaning up we all did but I suppose I'll just have to settle for words. We brought in those gigantic industrial laundry baskets on wheels and we filled three of them with old books and papers to recycle, binders, old computer equipment, obsolete electronics, and just junk that was getting in our way. Some of this stuff had been around since before I was born!

We were assigned a partner to work with and it was fascinating to see how we categorized things differently. This made me realize that labels are super important for keeping our cleaned up spaces looking neat until the next cleanout, undoubtedly another 30 years from now! So yay for label makers.

I got assigned the "party supplies" drawer. Not like we party much, as evidenced by the fact that my "causal" outfit still involved heels and came from Talbot's. But it was very satisfying to have all of our cups, napkins, and coffee and tea supplies in one place, next time we have to throw a retirement party.

Afterwards we were given some time to work on our own workspaces. I have an unconventional and untidy workspace.

I do regular decluttering and I'm not fond of paper, so fortunately there hasn't been that much to declutter. I'm lousy at putting things away though, as you can see from the pictures. I did manage to throw away about 1/3 of the paper in my cube! 

Yes, that's 1/3 of all of the paper in my cube. Ever since I started there I've had a goal of having a completely paperless office. While I haven't succeeded yet, reaching for that goal has helped me to keep the average amount of paper in my cube to a minimum. 

How do I avoid paper in my cube? 

1. I digitize what I can. I scan documents that I'll need to keep for a long time. I try not to print out much of anything but rather keep documents on my machine. I've never been someone who takes meeting notes, but I try to type up anything important afterwards (where the text can be searched on my computer, unlike paper!) or I put the text into our knowledge management system so others can benefit.  

2. I throw out papers before they make it to my cube. I'll get handouts in meetings...and you'll see me trash them on the way back to my cube, if I know I won't need them. Sometimes I'll copy a couple of the important lines into my laptop, or take a picture with my camera phone. Alternatively, I'll ask for electronic copies of the handouts. That way I still have the information but paper never finds its way to my workspace.

3. Whiteboards + cameraphone = easy notetaking. When I do group work with others I encourage us to use a whiteboard. It's easy to change what we write, and then when we're done we all snap photos with a phone and mail the photo around. That way we also all have the same information. No paper ever gets involved!

The other thing that I got rid of was something very difficult. My mother kept a rolodex growing up. Every phone number we needed for friends, restaurants, businesses, or anything else lived in that rolodex. I remember the thing was always so full of cards that the lid couldn't be closed. But it was something that very strongly reminded me of my mother. She gave me one in high school. I brought it with me to the office. You can see how much it got used.

I don't need a rolodex. I have a smartphone and a computer, and our office directory is online. I had tried to throw it out but couldn't because it reminded me of my mother.

It was only when I saw my coworkers throwing out all of the unused, office-supplied rolodexes from decades past did I realize that it was time for this thing to go. If everyone else felt that these were dinosaurs, then I didn't want to look like a dinosaur myself by keeping a rolodex. Score one for peer pressure, first time in my life. I put it in the pile of other ancient rolodexes to get trashed. Besides, my mother is not someone I'm viewing in a positive light now. Time to get rid of things that make me feel negative emotions.

We had a great day and everything is much neater at work. Wish we could do this more often, but if we did it right, and we're attentive, we won't need to.

Look for more on my workspace in a future post. No, I'm not kidding, I've already written and scheduled one of the next posts about my workarea!

Ever done a decluttering day at your office?


  1. I work from an office in my home and it could use a cleanout day again. I did one about two years ago and recycled an enormous stack of software manuals, old CDs and binders full of paper. I found a place to take in CDs and DVDs for recycling instead of throwing them out.

    1. we had loads of binders too. No one seems to take them for recycling here. Our company recycles CDs and DVDs, but our town doesn't. Kudos to you for going to the effort to find out where you can recycle your decluttered items. Unfortunately the landfill was the preference of my office.

  2. I just cleared up my computer/desk area at looks sooo much better!

    We've never had a co-ordinated declutter day at work, but I have clear out days of my own desk, and every so often the clutter annoys me and I attack the whole office! So satisfying. Would be much easier if everyone just binned stuff as they went along...or were better at being paperless!

    1. Go you! Sometimes people just need to see other people being neat...and unfortunately there are always the people who don't care. But at the very least, you get the enjoyment of decluttering out of it!

  3. A non-profit I used to work for had an area called the "bowling alley" filled with STUFF. I often spent many, many hours (of my own free will) trying to clean that thing out. I'm sure it felt so relieving to have a cleared off work space! I'm actually considering expanding my pro. organizing biz to include helping non-profits. The clearer/tidier a workspace, the more efficient and effective workers are (IMO).

    P.S. Love your style, lady! You look great :)

    1. Thank you!!

      Bowling alley? Interesting name. Throw a ball and knock the piles of stuff over? I suppose that would amuse the clutterbugs. But good for you doing it on your own and unpaid! Sounds like you found your passion in professional organizing. It seems like the perfect niche for you!


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