The Mantra To Make Clutter Disappear

by Jessica Chapman, owner Room to Breathe



Getting our offices organized is no small task. Sometimes, we go round and round, and it seems like we are always "cleaning up" or "getting organized" Never mind all of the money we spend on the stuff at the big office supply store. What can we do to really get organized so it stays that way? Here is the mantra you must know, and repeat, to get organized for the long haul: Make Time. Be Brutal. Get Help.

Make Time: We really do have to make time to be organized. Spending time setting up our systems or doing a little bit of organizational work is a valid business exercise that will pay many dividends. Executives and business owners waste a total of 6 weeks a year looking for that missing piece of paper. That breaks down to one hour each workday. So break up that "lost" hour into two 30-minute sections. After all, we can do anything for 30 minutes. Set 30 minutes aside for doing a little bit of organization a day, and 30 minutes writing down your list of "to-do's" for the next day.

Be Brutal: This is the tough part: we actually have to do the work. Physically step outside of the office and think about what is most frustrating, then write it down. Write down WHY it is frustrating. Pretend that the office belongs to someone else. How could those frustrations be alleviated? Be honest and brutal. Do you hate using binders because they are hard to get into, yet you keep all of the stuff you have in binders? Do you hate filing because the cabinet is so overstuffed you can't fit anything else in there? Do you need to get a bigger filing cabinet and/or purge what you've got? Remember those 30-minute chunks? Buy a kitchen timer, set it for 30 minutes and, as Nike says, "Just Do It." Don't forget to be brutal about purging too - that stack of magazines in the corner that hasn't been touched in 2 years may just need to be recycled!

Get Help: If you can't make the time or be brutal because you are in the middle of the swirl and can't see it anymore, then it's time to ask for help. Yes, there may be some initial embarrassment about the state of the office. Get over it. We need to ask ourselves, "How much do I want to improve?" Find someone to help look at the office with a fresh pair of eyes. Ask someone that is not emotionally connected to the space, or outcome of the conversation, that can be brutally honest and offer suggestions based on your needs, not what they like or what works for them. Professional Organizers are experienced at this and have seen it all. They are care about your long-term goals, what works for you, and are honest with you in a kind way. They will help you identity the gaps and give you a blue print of how to move forward. A Professional Organizer will even help you whip through the piles of papers and set up the system with you, so then all you have to do is maintain it.

Don't forget the mantra: Make Time, Be Brutal, Get Help. Once you've done that, you'll be and stay organized!

Jessica Chapman is the owner and principle organizer of Room to Breathe. She can be reached at (916) 444-ROOM or

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