An office full of equipment and supplies would seem to be the natural order of things, but it's all too easy for a functional workspace to become a cluttered one as the junk piles up. Re-evaluate to free up space.
We've all been there. You clean up your office, put away your loose files, tidy up your desk and within a matter of days everything is a wreck again. A large part of this cycle is that we fail to evaluate the worth of items and purge them from our environment. It's counter-productive to simply put things back where they belong or into the drawer you found them in if you don't take a moment to ask yourself some simple questions about the objects you're shifting and sifting about. (This is the notion behind the SPACE method of tidying.)
If you're tired of feeling like your office is never really clean and things are just waiting to cascade back across your desk and clutter up your workspace, ask some of these questions the next time you tidy up:
- Does this item have a purpose? A three-hole punch obviously punches holes in paper, the important question is whether or not you actually need a big clunky device that punches holes in paper to get your work done.
- Is this item redundant? If it is redundant, is its function so critical that you must have a backup immediately on hand?
- Is it outdated? We know it's hard to get rid of equipment you paid good money for, but unless you've got a real good reason to do so there isn't any reason to keep old computer equipment around. We're talking to you Mr. CRT-Stuffed-Behind-His-Desk-In-Case-the-LCD-Dies.
- Are you keeping it, not because you currently need it, but because you might? In most cases the hassle of storing, cleaning and maintaining an item for extended periods of time has a greater expense than finding that item should actually end up needing it in the future.
If that list of questions seems too long, you can default directly to the advice I got from The How-To Geek while talking about this article, "It's probably best to assume all your stuff is crap and unless you're actually using it every day, to throw it away with confidence." This bit of advice helped him overcome his pack rat habits and led to a radically decluttered environment.
How might this approach look in a typical office? During my last major office cleaning session I used the questions above to guide my cleaning session instead of merely putting thing away. I found that I had an external DVD burner that was large, required external power, and wasn't as fast and effective as the one in my tower. At some point I'd upgraded the DVD drive in the tower but never bothered to look around remove the redundant and inefficient clutter from an earlier version of my office.
Another electronic artefact was a cheap inkjet printer that came with my last retail computer purchase — over five years ago. I'd used it perhaps two or three times, the quality was mediocre and anything of real value that I needed printed in colour I would take to a copy shop and print there. For five years I'd been dusting that stupid printer and in the process failing to use the space it took up in a more useful way.
A DVD-burner and a small printer seem like relatively insignificant things, but over the course of years as we bring new things into out offices and fail to re-evaluate the value of the things we have already taking up space we can quickly fall into the trap of having too much stuff, outdated stuff, useless stuff,and every other variation of clutter you can imagine.
You don't need to set aside a weekend to purge your office, although you can if you want. By simply keeping the above questions in mind whenever you're putting things away or bringing new things into your workspace, you'll begin the process of evaluating the value of things in your workspace and culling the things that are no longer important or useful.
Recently purged your office? Have a tip or trick for beating back the flow of stuff into your workspace? We want to hear from you in the comments.