The Dreaded Office Project
A guest post by Andréia
My home office is also my working office as I work from home. But I don’t work for a company, I work independently and my clients come to my office to talk and to hire me. Some time back I began to notice my office was always a mess, I started to find it necessary to begin my client sessions with an apology saying: “Sorry about the mess, I am doing a cleanup…” But that was a lie! I was not doing a cleanup I was trying desperately to keep my office under control.
I felt bad that my clients’ first impression was not of me or my words, or how well I could or would do the job, but of my disgusting messy office. This is not a good way to present myself or my business and things had to change. Then, in October 2010 I decided I have had it with this place. The desk, which is very long (about 2 meters = 6.5 feet) and wide (about 1 meter = 3.2 feet) was FULLY PACKED WITH STUFF!
I had piles of paper, folders piled high, hanging files, lose papers, stationary, magazines, you name it. Most of it it belonged in the office, some of it needed filing some of it needed to be placed somewhere orderly to be dealt with, none of it should be lying disorganised all over my desk. Well, it was a whole lot worse than the before pictures I have included here show, believe me.
So when I started to declutter the office my first thoughts were: It is hopeless! I will ever keep it clean, it will just get messy all over again…But I had to give it a try. So I got all my dead files from their hiding place and put them on the desk. I would scan it all. I had more than 6.000 (yes, you read right it is SIX THOUSAND) individual papers to deal with. The first folder I scanned I kept its contents in the desk until I had a backup copy and a CD copy and I kept at it. By the end of my first 700MB disc I started throwing paper away. Oh, what a liberation! All those papers that had been occupying folders and space in my house were gone.That first good feeling pushed me forward, but as my scanner is not exactly state of the art, the work was long and tedious. It would take me five to six hours every day to scan 100, 200 pages of archives. Then I had to transfer it to the proper folder in the computer, name it, and finally back it up in a CD.
Every night I sat in my computer and kept at it. My work was getting behind because I could not concentrate in doing anything with all that mess I had to sort out. By January my progress had slowed considerably because my computer was overloaded, had a tilt and had to be fixed. I couldn’t work and couldn’t declutter. I spent a few days in full stop. Then, by the end of January I finished with all the old files. But I still had the new clients, files and things to file away properly. I had a hectic couple of weeks in the beginning of February, and by middle February I was sick. So nothing got done for a whole of three weeks or more.
Then March arrived and I was determined to finish the cleaning of the office but was tired and unmotivated. So I took on some other projects around the house, and kept stalling finishing cleaning my desk. Finally, after reading Colleen’s post on April 14, as you can check out for yourself here, I asked for help. Colleen put the fear of her Jedi powers into me and I gave myself a deadline. I would post the before and after pictures to her the following Friday. On April 21, just before Easter I finished cleaning my office. The desk was cleared out and everything had a proper place.
The yellow box on the desk is now an inbox, where I keep stuff that has to be sorted out during the week. This system has been working for an entire month, as I continue to work, paper has come in and it has not been thrown on the desk without a proper place. I have not misplaced a single sheet of paper. They are all in their designated files, and when I have to work or find something, I take the file out do what I have to do and put it back again in its proper place. As a paper comes in I place it in the inbox, and at any given ten minutes I organize, put away and do whatever has to be done with that paper, and clear the inbox.
I am very proud to say I have been using my office normally, I have been working, and the office is pristine clean as it was the day I took the after pictures. A clean surface has inspired me to keep my deadlines under very strict care, and they have been accomplished more easily, as I know exactly where everything is. I can find any file in two minutes, give or take 30 seconds. I can find stationary, office supplies just opening a little box or a drawer that is in order. My staplers, which were always under something before and never in sight, are now, neatly beside my box of supplies. To keep control of stray paper I verify if I need to keep the original or just a digital copy will do. Originals have to be stored in specific folders (usually the one I have opened for that client), until I give them back to the clients. Copies are scanned and the paper shredded and recycled on a regular basis. So, there is no danger of being swallowed by paper again. It feels good to come into this office, I feel at peace working in it and I am sure the image I portray to my clients is a far more professional one.
Well done Andréia, what a huge improvement.