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Organize Your Desk in 12 Simple Steps

When was the last time you saw your desk? If it has been awhile, today is the perfect day to find it under those towering, paper mountains.

Set aside time

Schedule at least 4 hours for the first half of this mission. When the day arrives, dress in sweatpants and a T–shirt – you know, ultra–comfortable. Play your favorite music in the background and take a deep breath.

Clear off your desk

Take every last thing off your desk, and out of your desk. Place it in a big pile on the floor.

Scrub and polish

Scrub your desk with disinfectant and then furniture cleaner until it looks shiny and new.

Trash it

Get a large trash bag, have a seat on your floor and begin dumping. Over 80% of the papers on your desk can probably be trashed. This includes your planner from 1975, the 20,000 business cards you come across, and the brochures from that seminar that took place over 5 years ago. The only items you should keep are your active projects, papers to be referenced in the future, and anything you must keep for legal purposes.

Grab another trash bag

It's probably time to grab another large garbage bag – maybe two or three more, but keep dumping.

Old newspapers, magazines and catalogs

Next, begin tossing old newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. Most are probably outdated by now, but even if they aren't, they will be over the next day or two. Again, if you see one or two that you desperately want to keep, that's fine. Just don't keep forty–two!

TOSS! TOSS! TOSS!

Now you're down to those final items that are not paper, old calendars, business cards, newspapers, magazines, or catalogs. This includes that old, grimy coffee cup, random office supplies, pocket change, and some widgets that you can't even identify. Three words: TOSS! TOSS! TOSS!

Take a break

Time for lunch. Go out and get something to eat. Go for a walk. Time for lunch. Go out and get something to eat. Go for a walk. Escape your desk for at least an hour. You deserve it! While you're out, purchase the following:

  • A fresh pad of paper
  • A pen/pencil caddy
  • A vertical file holder – unless you have a drawer that fits hanging file folders
  • Fresh manila files and labels
  • A holder for your computer disks and CD–roms if you don't already have one

Time to reorganize

When you return, it's time to reorganize the stuff you're keeping. Hopefully, it's just a very small pile. Most of the things from your desk should probably be in the trashcan. Categorize and organize your everyday files into your new folders. Label each clearly. Place these folders in your brand new vertical file sorter. Those papers that are not your everyday papers should go into your filing cabinet.

Where to put things

Place your telephone back on your desk, along with your computer if you have one. Your new, fresh pad of paper should be placed near the telephone. Set up your new pen/pencil caddy and place some supplies inside — throw out those pencils that have shrunken to miniscule bits and those pens that don't write. If you have room for some office supplies in your desk, designate one of the drawers and place them inside. If not, supplies should be placed in a supplies cabinet. Your planner — this year's only — can now be placed on your desk.

What not to put on your desk

Ok, we're in the finishing stretch! Anything else you've come across that you haven't tossed, but I haven't mentioned above, should probably not be stored on or in your desk. Computer manuals belong on a shelf in your office, not your desk. Set up your computer disks and CD–roms in the new holder you just bought. Place them next to your computer. Photographs? Put them in frames and hang them on your wall. Random widgets? You don't need them. Throw them out.

Promise yourself

Congratulations! You must feel great. In the future, schedule at least 15 minutes at the end of each day clearing off your desk. Don't leave your office unless you've done so.

Make a solemn vow. Promise yourself never to let your desk disappear again. Good work!

Author information: Maria Gracia is the author of Finally Organized, Finally Free. For more information about organizing your office, home, or life, go to Gracia's Web site, Get Organized Now.


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