Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Counter Chronicles: May Edition

Last weekend, I finally tackled the section of office counter I'd been planning to get to all month - the long overdue project that began in April and continued into May. How did it go?

I ended up cleaning my desk.

This was in part related to the original task (papers from the counter ended up being moved to the desk) and in part another long overdue task for an "I need to see it" organizer.

Clutter is (sadly) a way of life for those of us who fear that out of sight often means out of mind. When previous experience has taught us that this maxim is indeed true, our tendency to leave things out (where we can see them) expands. Unfortunately, the available space does not.

Little by little, I've been learning how to organize things in a way that is visually accessible enough to allow me to replace piles with something less messy. Stacks have given way to open files bins for the projects I must access regularly because, as I tell people in my Organizing By STYLE classes and presentations, there is little difference between file cabinets and trash cans for the visual organizer. Though they obviously serve very different purposes, both of these containers are black holes for "I need to see it" organizers. So, I reserve the file drawers for things I don't need to access regularly and use the bins for active projects. They're easier to access when I need to pull files or add information to them, and because they are open, pulling one folder reminds me of other things I need to do as well.

Labeling and color coding help too, but I've yet to find enough different colors of file folders to truly color code my many projects. So, I make frequent use of my label maker to make sure I can easily see what each folder holds, and reserve my colored file folders to sort tasks by days of the week. The manila folder containing an article in progress, for example is clearly labeled and placed in the folder corresponding to the day I plan to work on it. I used to be satisfied to label my folders in block letters with a pencil (so I could reuse them) or Sharpie marker, but it's amazing what a difference printed labels make. The uniformity somehow makes it easier to find things - who'd've thought?

So, as I write this three days later, my desk is still clear, and the pile I shrank on the counter has not grown - both signs that the system I put in place is working. Time, however, is the true test, and I know from past experience that when a system is compatible with my personal style and preferences, it will continue to evolve, getting better and easier to use.

Maybe someday I'll even see the whole counter.

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