There are no organizing police, but you’d be surprised how many of my clients worry there might be. Perhaps you too feel you aren’t organized enough, that you’re not doing it right. Often, that’s because you grew up in a cluttered environment and so your reference point for what organized is, is skewed. You know you don’t want clutter over every surface, that doesn’t feel good. But you’re unsure how organized you need to be. When are you done? Should the towels be folded a certain way? Must everything be labeled and placed in the perfect containers in order to get the coveted label, organized?
It makes you susceptible to organizing porn – the highly curated images that run through your Instagram feed of spotless home offices tricked out with stylish accessories. In your home office, the pens are stuck in a spare mug and the word spotless does not apply. Clearly, you must be doing something wrong. You must not be organized enough.
Organizing Enough IRL
So, I’m working with a client and we’re organizing office supplies. We’re looking at the desk drawer and it’s stuffed full of paperclips and tape, push pins and address labels. The scissors might be in there somewhere but it’s hard to tell. We take everything out and do the decluttering thing. Do you love this, does it make you smile? Do you use this? Does this still work? You have four of these, which is your favorite?
Then it’s time to organize the drawer. Finally! This is it! The Organization part. It’s time to fill the complicated desk drawer dividers, which sometimes separate one desk drawer into 13 separate little sections. Clients are sometimes surprised when I take out the dividers and suggest we add them to the “donate” pile. Why am I removing these fabulous organizing tools? Look how pretty! All the little compartments.
Sure, we could spend 20 minutes finding a slot big enough to hold the stapler, putting the little paper clips in one spot and the big ones in another. Designating separate cubbies for different sized binder clips.
But Let’s Get Real
Are you going to go through that laborious sorting process every time you need a piece of tape or a pencil? Probably not. Most likely, you’re going to grab what you need and then shove it back in there when you tidy up.
So, let’s make sure you only have what you need in there. Yes, the address labels are cute, but either put them with the envelopes or better yet, toss them. You can write your return address on an envelope in half the time (conservatively) it takes to find a label.
Ditch the supplies you never use. The white-out tape that you’ve never quite mastered how to use. The pencil leads for the mechanical pencil you can’t find. The cute but odd-sized post-it notes that have seen way better days. Pens that don’t write or worse, that write erratically. The ones you have to scribble on a piece of paper to get going each time.
Organize The Keepers
Put back the things you use. Put them all in the drawer. Test it out: if you open the drawer, and reach for the scissors, are they easy to find? How about the glue sticks? Is your pen easy to grab? If you have to put things on top of each other, the drawer’s too small or you’re trying to put too much stuff in there. Can the pens go in a cup on top of the desk? Can you go through the contents a second time and see if anything you don’t use snuck in there?
The goal is to be organized enough. Which is to say, to arrange your things so you have easy access to the things you need, it’s easy to put things away and it won’t seduce you into trying to maintain a level of organization which no one outside of a magazine photo shoot can keep up with. Life’s too short to sort binder clips by size.
Organizing Isn’t Decorating
Your office is for creating, inspiring, working, thinking, reflecting and paying the bills. You’re organized when the space does all that for you. If you then want to spend time and energy and all sorts of money replicating the perfect color scheme and buying the pretty accessories, have at it. Just know that’s all surface and has nothing to do with how organized you are.