Someone asked me back in the fall what my favorite thing to organize was. I don’t know that I had ever actually considered that question before, at least not in such a direct way. When I started organizing, I figured I would stick with just offices, or perhaps also classrooms (since those areas are so familiar to me). I quickly learned that I was selling myself a bit short, as potential clients wanted help in all kinds of areas. I opened myself up to working most anywhere, including closets, garages, computers (even a whole session on email accounts), kitchens…you name it. All of those spots are rewarding, but when I stop to think about it, there are some areas that make me do a little dance in my head when people ask about them. Here are the three I will ALWAYS be thrilled to help you with:
1. Paperwork. I love digging through years of paperwork. It’s like an archeological expedition through a life in words, numbers, and letters. Perhaps it’s because I’m a read/write processor, or perhaps it’s because I’ve worked with so MUCH paper in legal offices, but I find it fascinating to see what people retain. The paperwork (especially if it has piled up for a long time) tells us a story and shows the arc of a period of time. Occasionally we find something amazing, like a love letter from a great-grandparent. Sometimes we find things that are helpful - like an uncashed check or a birth certificate. Sometimes we find incredible relief when we take a huge box (or five) of unwanted, unneeded documents to be shredded.
2. “Junk” drawers. I actually don’t call them junk drawers - I prefer Utility Drawers - but you know what I’m talking about. The space in a kitchen or laundry where everything gets dumped in a hurry. The space where when you stash some sort of freebie, or empty out loose change, or throw mints and packs of gum helter-skelter with batteries and bandaids. Sorting through all of that stuff is another source of fascination for me. I like learning the story behind how five samples of Chanel No. 5 ended up in the same place as the toaster warranty card. But mostly, I love seeing something go from chaotic to functional and fantastic.
3. Calendars/Planners. Paper or digital, pre-packaged or self-created, I'll never turn down helping someone organize their time and tasks. I love helping MYSELF organize time and tasks. In fact, I have to check myself sometimes to be sure I’m not letting my process get in the way of my product. (Like, “ooooh, maybe I’ll use an IFTTT recipe that pulls from my contacts and dumps them into Google calendar, and then I can sync the client to-do’s from Wunderlist….”). I confess I even miss the yearly ritual of picking out the perfect planner, but the demands of my life require a digital solution. When a client gives me a guilty look and pulls out a recently-procured paper agenda, I’m all in. I’m even okay with people keeping their old calendars (some folks treat them like diaries) as long as they are organized and accessible.
I find things to love about organizing all spaces, but the three above are clear standouts. Do you have a favorite spot to organize? Or maybe a least favorite spot? Tell me all about it.
This past Monday was National Clean Off Your Desk Day (always celebrated the second Monday in January). Whether you marked that holiday or not I hope many of you have spent some time cleaning and clearing since the New Year kicked off, maybe even using this post for a little inspiration. I wonder what you might have discovered about the piece of furniture that was under all of the paper clutter and extra sticky notes (“Oh, cool, I never realized it was artisanal gray-washed pine...”)? Take a closer look. Is it a functional but affordable piece from a discount store? Grandma's antique rolltop? A card table with hot glue gun burns?
I have clients who create all sorts of home office setups - some creative and ingenious, and many clearly afterthoughts. With as much care as we usually take to pick out a new car, a computer, or even a fabulous pair of shoes, why do we so quickly dismiss the piece of furniture where all of the business magic is supposed to happen? Lately I know many who have become enamored with the whole standing desk phenomenon, and there’s a great post from Review.com that outlines a LOT of important considerations for choosing a standing desk. Bookmark it and take a few minutes to read through, whether you’re thinking about a standing desk or not.
Yet you may still be thinking, “A desk is a desk is a desk, right?” Au contraire. Chosen carefully, a great desk can not only make the room look better, it can actually inspire you to stay more organized and productive. A desk that provides the correct spaces for your personal needs cuts down on all of those tiny little stresses that add up in a day. Things like “Where the hell are the stamps I just bought?”, and “Crap, coffee stains on the Jones agreement.” Whether you run a graphic design empire or manage the travel soccer team (or both), those little things build and keep your brain from focusing on what’s important. So to help you zero in on the right desk environment, I’ve created a list of questions to think through:
There are plenty more questions you can ask, but the point is to make this selection process a priority. Your desk is your mission control, command center, your bridge - so don't squander your opportunity.
And if you've already created an amazing desk space, please share with us in the comments.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, coach, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. Excited to be in the process of becoming a Certified Organizer Coach. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?