Covid Clean-Up – Office Edition!

We look to be starting to see some light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel here in Australia, with a dramatic drop in cases which is amazing – largely due to the big “stay at home” compliance people have followed.

So given that we still won’t have any major social activities likely in the next few weeks, now is a great opportunity to get into a space at your place and give it a Covid Clean-up to get it organised and shipshape.

I’ll post a few of these over the next couple of weeks, but our first Clean-up area to tackle is organising your office area – this could be as small as a drawer that you keep personal receipts and bills, or an actual fully decked out office space for your business.

The Clean-up Plan

No matter how big or small your space, the basic steps that will get your office organised and tidy are as follows:

Make a mess to make progress

This might seem weird, but the best way to get your space functioning again is to pull out everything and get it sorted into loose categories.

I like to use empty storage tubs for this process – basically I start just sorting “like” things into the tubs. For example, stationery supplies, paperwork, books, miscellaneous, “things that shouldn’t live in the office”, and have a big tub or bin for rubbish, one for recycling, and one for sensitive documents that you no longer need that should be shredded before recycling.

Take your time (but set a time goal)

Just getting everything sorted into the categories can take some time, and it can be dull process if you have a whole room to get organised! So this is something that can need an hour or two one afternoon, or you might need to pitch at it for a couple of hours each day over a week.

Don’t put pressure on yourself that it has to be quick – but set yourself a realistic goal as to when you want this organising completed. Having the “end” goal helps to keep you on track and makes it less likely you’ll end up with a half done job that causes you unnecessary additional stress!

Also – putting on your favourite playlist, or listening to an audiobook while you do this helps to punch through the dull “sorting” phase!

Sub categorise and purge

Once you have your loose categories organised, it’s time to sit down and go critically through the categories and get them sorted into sub categories. Now some people will be sub-categorising as they go (especially if it’s a smaller area you need to work on) – but I’ll step it out here so you can get an idea of where to go with this.

For example, for the loose category of stationery, now is the time to organise into sub-categories. Pens / pencils / highlighters / textas / clips / notepads / postits / envelopes / printer inks / equipment such as scissors, rulers, staplers etc / USB drives etc etc. This is a great opportunity to check if these things are still serving a purpose or actually work. Appropriately dispose of anything that no longer works or serves its purpose (Yes, I’m giving you permission to ditch any floppy disks and mystery CDs – do you even still have a computer that runs them?!)

With your paperwork category – here is where you sub categorise into personal and business, then split it down into things that need actioning, and things that need filing.

On filing – ideally you should be looking to store documents electronically if you can. If the document isn’t a legally required one you could scan and store on your computer and backup to cloud storage (and possibly also a usb drive if you wish to be extra cautious!) Once you have the backed up electronic copies, the hard copy then then be shredded and recycled.

And while you are at it – it’s also a good idea to make some time to do an electronic copy of the important documents you need and then get them electronically stored safely as well (password protected is always a good idea!).

NOTE: Always double check what the current storage requirements for financial and legal documents are before you get rid of any hard copies – check with the ATO, your accountant or solicitor to make sure you are complying with the requirements.

This is also a good opportunity to see which organisations you deal with that you can transition to electronic invoices so you can stop the paper and save some trees, and possibly also save some money – many companies charge for paper invoices these days!

After you have sorted your paperwork into filing and recycling, and worked out which docs you no longer need to keep a hard copy of, now you can sort the remaining “need to keep” hard copies. I personally like to use assorted lever arch folders to store paper copies in – punch a hole, add it to the folder, label the folder spine and then store this in the cupboard. However anything can work in this – it can be as basic as putting like documents into labelled manilla folders, and a clip or elastic band to keep the folder secure, and then just pop them into a plastic storage container. Add a label on the outside of the container to indicate the contents and put it away somewhere. This is a very inexpensive way to do it especially if you rarely have to access these docs after you initially used them.

For the Miscellaneous and “things that shouldn’t live in the office” categories – these are the quickest categories to fix I find. For the miscellaneous items, in many cases you don’t actually need these so they can be donated, sold or sent to the recycling/garbage.

And for the “things that shouldn’t live in the office” – do a critical analysis on if you actually need the item. Can it be donated, sold or should it go in the recycling/garbage? Once you have purged, then it’s easy to do a whip around and put the remaining items back where they belong.

Give the space a clean!

Once you emptied out the space and completed your categorisation and purge, now is the time to get stuck in and give the space a thorough clean to make it all nice and shiny again!

Everything in its place.

This is the bit I like the best – putting all the items you have decided to keep back in place. Now you can go all out on buying fancy new storage containers to get your space looking extra gorgeous, but this absolutely isn’t necessary. As much as I love a good trip to a store for storage bits and bobs, I always first look to see what I already have around the home that could work.

For example, when you go to put your stationery items back in a drawer, look at dividing up the drawer into areas to store the like-items. Have a spot for pens, one for pencils, textas, scissors/stapler/staples etc.

To make the dividers, one no-cost option is to look what you may already have in your cardboard box recycling – cutting down clean cereal or other food boxes or using old shoe boxes costs nothing, and you can find that these fit things really well into your drawer space. Add extra bits of offcut cardboard to sub-divide if needed. You can also spruce them up with a bit of wrapping paper if you like. I have a number of spaces around the home where I have just used shoe boxes to create dividers in drawers, and it works a treat.

Otherwise, if you feel like a little splurge, then before you go crazy at the store buying items, make sure you measure the area you need to fit out first (and measure it twice!) then buy the appropriate sized containers. There is nothing worse then going to purchase items for storage (without measuring), falling in love with a particular item then realising once you get home it doesn’t fit! Do a bit of online research at the store you are looking not buy from and you’ll generally find that they have the item dimensions listed – this way you can have a plan of attack for containers that will actually fit in the space you are needing to organise.

There you go!  I would love to see any before & afters of the space you tackle. Flick them through to me on my email theorganiserandmore@gmail.com, or tag me on Instagram @theorganiserandmore – I would love to feature your organising on a future post!

ALSO – if you have a space that is proving tricky to organise, please drop me a line. I would love to have a chat to you about how I could help you get it functional. 

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