The Office (without Ricky Gervais)

Several great things have happened in the last couple of months – two of which are noteworthy for the Declutter Diary section of my blog.

  • I read a really good book called “The Clutter Cure” by Judi Culbertson – excellent.  It has helped me to get rid of things I never thought I would have the courage to do – including around 100 books!!
  • I have started helping a friend to clear her office – which was in serious need of some TLC!  It’s still a work in progress but I will write about it on another occasion.  Helping someone else declutter has really inspired me to progress faster than expected on my own tasks, made me feel fantastic to be able to help my friend – and I know she felt wonderful, even after just 2 afternoon sessions!

So, in the middle of March I was inspired to make a start on my office.  Well, specifically my desks – yes I have two (but it’s not a collection!).  Let’s call them Blue desk and Roll-top!!  The photos below show the mess I had been working amongst – and around – for years.

Main desk - before

Blue desk – before

Infrequently used desk - before!

Seldom-used Roll-top desk – before!

In the past I’d “clean up” – tidy and dust, infrequently – but had never actually thought about HOW I use my desks.  I hear you saying “How did she ever work on those desks?”  Well, the answer was “With difficulty” or “Never” (respectively)!

Blue desk (actually my old kitchen table) was first – most important one, as I (try to) use it every day.  So I decided to clear EVERYTHING off it.  Wow, it was a surprisingly large area!  Cleaned it to within an inch of it’s life, banged in a few rivets that were popping out, and it looked like new.  Then I replaced ONLY WHAT I NEEDED.   In my case that is my computer screen, speakers, desk light, a small 5-drawer file (more about that later), pens and stapler etc – just the things I use every day.

Then over Easter (while No.1 Son was away) I tackled the big one – Roll-top!  Following the same rule, I took everything off, cleaned, and only returned what I needed.  I was amazed at the amount of C-R-A-P  found hidden away under piles of other things.  For years I had been using that desk (my first ever furniture purchase!) as a dumping ground – you know the scenario, people coming for dinner, empty the dining table,  put the piles on the desk, roll down the lid – easy!  I used to “tidy” it, but never PROPERLY.

Now I have two functioning desks that are effectively drawing me back to the office – every day.  Sometimes if I don’t need to, or don’t have time to work at my desk, I will just stroll by and take a look.  See below!!

Blue desk - after

Blue desk – after

What a difference!

What a difference!

I mentioned above the 5-drawer file I replaced on Blue desk.  Previously that was full of papers that became “lost” under all the other papers – no real order.  So I have now developed a good system, with room for tweeking, but working well so far.  I read a book last year called Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  While it tends to focus on the productivity of a “business office”, there are many valuable points that one can use for a home office set-up, and how to tackle everyday and longer-term jobs or projects.  Allen has used reasonably complex flow-charts and filing systems in his book, but there was one particular point that grabbed my attention – one that can be used in all facets of our lives – at home or work.  I call it the 2 minute-5 minute rule.

I applied this rule to all the other “stuff” I removed from both my desks – every item, every sheet of paper.  Each item was then categorised one of four ways:

  1. Obvious rubbish? – straight in the bin. (rubbish bin, recycling bin or shredder.)
  2. Would it take 2 minutes or less to deal with?  If the answer was “yes” I dealt with it immediately.  (eg. those little bits of paper with someone’s address or phone number on it – transfer it to where you hold all your contacts, bin the piece of paper.  Or an odd button – sew it back on the shirt or put in the button box.)
  3. Would it take 5 minutes or more to deal with?  If the answer is “yes” then file it (in the 5 minute drawer!) and allocate a time to deal with it. (eg. it may be a travel brochure you kept to remind you to book a flight – when the flight is booked bin the brochure.)
  4. Or is it a longer term project?  In which case you need to schedule a time in the future to start that project.  Meanwhile keep all related items in the same place – a file, storage container or a specially designated area of the garage. (eg. my photos need organising.  As I declutter my home I am discovering photos in many unrelated places, but am slowly gathering them together in one spot – it doesn’t matter at this stage, that they are in no particular order – putting them in order IS THE PROJECT.)

I can’t tell you what a delight it is to come into my office every day now.  I share my office (which is the 3rd bedroom of our house) with No.1 Son.  He keeps his desk SOOOO tidy he’s almost OCD about it!  (If I walk past and move a pen he’ll move it back again!  Get the picture?  Pity this habit doesn’t flow on to his bedroom, and his “dirty-laundry floor”, on which sits his usually empty “dirty-laundry basket”!)  He spends more time at his desk than I do during the week – he’s doing his final year of a Civil Engineering degree.  How many 21 year old university students do you know who have a desk that looks like this (below)?!  Today he has just tidied out his bookcase next to the desk and it now looks amazing – he is very proud of his efforts.  Maybe this will inspire him to treat his bedroom in a similar manner?

Looks like no-one's home!

Looks like no-one’s home!

So, in just a matter of a few weeks this has become a really lovely space – three neat, clean, tidy, very functional desks, and two people who really like working here.  I have to say that it was pretty easy to achieve this outcome – and the personal benefits far outweigh the effort required.

Looking forward to bringing you news and photos of my friend’s office in the near future.

Please leave comments below – how is your office looking?  Could it do with a spruce up? (and I don’t mean new paint or furniture – my clear-out didn’t cost me a cent, but to me it’s priceless).  If you need help please contact me and I’ll be right onto it!



I Love Decluttering!

Well you’re probably thinking I have left the country again – but NO!  I am still here – well and truly getting stuck into decluttering my home/life, as planned.  I’m absolutely LOVING IT!!  I still have a long way to go but I’m reaping the benefits already.

Have you made a start on your decluttering project yet?  If not, what is stopping you?  The two biggest “prohibitors” in our lives are time and money.  However the beauty of decluttering is that it can be done in small time blocks – with little or no financial outlay.  These points are outlined in my decluttering plan.

Here are the benefits I have noticed since committing to my plan.

  • Just starting has given me further motivation to do more, and I often spend more than my 20 minute time allocation
  • I come home from work eager to start on the next phase
  • I am now seeing spaces in my garage that I didn’t expect to see so soon
  • I love working in my “new” office and look forward to refining my filing system
  • I am learning to look at my possessions through a “different filter”
  • I feel “lighter”

I am sure that with good planning and some hard yakka you too can achieve similar outcomes in a short space of time.  I have been totally suprised at my progress, and how easily I have conquered the “letting go” inhibitor.  Just today I was emptying a box of clothes (my 20 minute allocation) and sorted them into “keep, give away & toss” piles.  I felt so good afterwards that I continued on to another cupboard, and now have a huge pile to give away, a larger pile of old clothes for my mechanic to use as oil rags, and the rubbish bin is full to the brim!

If you have made a start on your ‘clutterless’ journey I really want to hear about your progress and what benefits you have gained so far.  Please leave a comment below letting me know how your commitment to a clutter free life is coming along.  I’m keen to learn any tips you have as well – we can all learn from each others’ methods.

However, if the task seems just so daunting that you don’t know where to start then think about this.

What would your life look like without clutter?”

To deal with this question you can break it up into smaller parts….

  • What would your bathroom look like without all the excess makeup, nearly empty bottles of shampoo or moisturiser?
  • How would it feel to work at your desk with only the items you need to complete the task at hand?
  • What would your garden shed look like if you threw out all the broken pots, nearly empty bags of potting mix, and hundreds of seedling punnets you keep, just in case…..?

All you have to do is START – focus on one small area (how about your handbag – there MUST be something in there you can throw out?)  It’s really that easy!  Read my plan as mentioned above (click on the link) and just start.

I guarantee it will be liberating just to COMMIT to starting.

Time Out

Hi “strangers”!  I’m back with you again.  It’s been a “different” month since I last offered up my thoughts to you.  Apologies for going AWOL for so long.  No excuses, but I have been sorting out a few issues – with life in general.  Sometimes you just have to look after No.1 – do things for yourself, assess where you are at, where you are heading – or more importantly where you would like to head – and what you need to do to get there.

The last few weeks have certainly thrown a few things into the ring.  Lots of questions have been asked – not all have been answered, but some have.  I have cried (a lot), laughed, slept (a lot!) and found I am quite good at something I had never before contemplated.  But most of all I have given myself time – time to rest, to think, to explore new opportunities, to get back on track.  I feel much better – and more positive!

However you will be pleased to hear that during my time out I have maintained my commitment to my daily three pages – much cheaper and much better than any “therapist”.  And serious progress has been made with decluttering my home!  Oh yes, I am convinced that throwing things out has actually helped me become clearer about where I am heading.

I will add to the Declutter Diary in the next couple of days – I have LOTS to tell you!

Two great things have come out of the last few weeks.  The first is that I realise I now have the confidence to stand up for myself – not be pushed around, or allow myself to be someone that others think I should be.   Yes, other people’s opinions are important, but when it comes to others’ opinions of you – does it really matter?  I may come up with a good answer for that another day!

Secondly – and I shouldn’t be surprised about this – my 21 year old No.1 Son has been amazing.  He’s been my rock, my ally, chief adviser on negotiating, job applications and interview techniques, great crusader for positive outcomes in life – and he’s a mean cook too!  There have been many times over the last few months when he could have said “Enough”, but he’s been my punching bag (not physically!) and a very broad shoulder to cry on.  Where does a 21 year old gain such understanding and wisdom – and be willing to support unconditionally?  He’s the love of my life.

It’s great to be back amongst you and I am looking forward to writing more posts for you.  I’ve had some really lovely comments and encouragement from so many of you.  Thanks to you all.  xx