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!



4 thoughts on “The Office (without Ricky Gervais)

    • Fantastic Jeanie! You’ll be pleased to know mine is still tidy & it’s made such a difference to the way I work at my desk and am keen to get into my office to do my tasks. And the garage is progressing well too – still lots to do though.

  1. Wow, all three desks look amazing! I keep most of my papers digitised, which helps with clutter, but makes it even easier to forget about the things shoved in drawers. My next project is overhauling my filing system (and getting rid of remaining papers that can be scanned) and your lovely desks have inspired me to get it done asap!

    Also, thank you for the recommendation of The Clutter Cure! Have you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I saw in another post that you read The Artist’s Way so we may have similar tastes. I loved this one and it changed the way I look at everything around me, whether that be “things” or how I choose to spend my time and energy.

    • Hi Eva. Thanks for visiting my blog. Yes I have just read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying – has some great ideas but also has that amazing Japanese minimalism coming through which is possibly going a bit far for me! However I have also read Paper Flow and From Stuffed to Sorted – both by MaryAnne Bennie (Australian). Paper Flow is an amazing system of how paper comes in, goes through, and goes out of our homes/offices. I am at present implementing this – relevant to digital “paper flow” as well. You set up the same system for dealing with your digital “in-tray”, as with your physical “in-tray”. It’s an amazing system. The combination of these 4 books mentioned above is wonderful and has given me a lot to think about. Regarding office systems – tidying is one thing – having a system that helps you to keep it tidy, and cuts down the time spent looking for papers etc, gives you freedom to pursue other more interesting and relaxing activities – and spend quality time with family and friends.
      See the link below for MaryAnne Bennie’s books if you are interested.

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