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Feeling anxious and overwhelmed with the thought of going to work? Confronting stacks of papers that have taken over your desk and every stashable area in your office?

It is amazing to see how much paper is kept in our so called “paper less” society. Each one of us hangs on to information of some kind or another, just in case we might need it again. Valuable time is wasted in search of documents or papers that, “I just had a minute ago” and it disappeared into the stacks somewhere in the room. Clutter, does not only fill your desk but also your mind, as it worries about what has been done and what still needs attention and causes worry and distress, according to Katina Jones author of “The Everything Feng Shui Decluttering” book.

Getting your work area and paper files in order has an immediate pay back on your time and money. You and your business can move much faster when you stop wasting time looking for information. A little investment in time and a proper filing system will pay dividends over and over.

Information is readily available online these days and there is little value in keeping a paper copy that is not at your fingertips when you need or want it, but obviously there are those hard copies that need to be kept for tax purposes or vital personal documents like your will, Id. Documents, Passports etc, which should be kept in a “Life file”.

Causes of the Stack and Spread Syndrome:

  • Indecisiveness – Not knowing where to start, what to toss and what to keep or not having a functional system.
  • Time – not taking time to file papers as you might still want them readily accessible. I promise that information does not disappear when filed, it makes it much more accessible and easier to find, than amongst the stacks around the desk.
  • Delegation – not trusting anybody else with the action that needs to be taken.
  • Space – bad layout, not enough space or the desk is too far from the filing cabinet.

Take Action to create a functional work area:

Prioritise and make instant decisions. Decide on how you want it to look and why you need your work environment to be more peaceful. Tracey Foulkes of ”Get Organised” says, the papers that you surround yourself with should only be current anything else needs to be archived or thrown away.

  1. Sort through the visible clutter be ruthless, most of the papers that people keep are never looked at again.
  2. Decide what needs to be done with each paper. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Why is it here?
  • Do I need it?
  • Where should it go?
  • Is it taking up space where another action should happen?
  • Consider the function of each item and consider how often you use it to establish its “home”.


3.  Anything that is no longer relevant, outdated, messages, catalogues & articles that have not been read.

 An organised filing system is a must for an effective work environment:

4.   Assign a homedecide on a filing system that will work for you

  • Arch lever files with dividers
  • Simple hanging files / suspend a file
  • Top retrieval system

5.  Group like papers into categories tailored to you – use manila folders and post-it notes to temporarily label files

6.  Label files – Move paper into labelled categories to the filing system.

7. Place in drawers / shelves

8. Group different categories in a drawer, shelf or allocate one category per drawer or shelf.

Stay in control of all papers that enter your office.

Deal with papers daily. Keep your desk clean. Edit files as you work on them taking out anything that is no longer needed or wanted. Open your mail over the recycle bin. Toss envelopes, action the contents.

  • Junk mail, Newspapers, Travel Information, Old grocery receipts, Expired warranties & service contracts, Solicitations, Recipes you have never tried – recycle
  • Greeting cards – keep for a week, cut off message, pass to hospice or old age homes that recycle them for resale.
  •  Magazines, recycle or when the new issue comes in, cut out inspirational articles file them in special folders
  • Letters from school and invites, act on them immediately. Keep them on the family information centre until due date.
  • Receipts for clothing, until refund date expires.
  • ATM slips shred after reconciling with  bank statement
  • Business cards, file according to the services offered or recycle cards of contacts you will never use.

Papers that need action:

Keep them in a temporary folder, e.g. a Buddy system or open trays. Most organisers use the following system:

  • To do: appointments, calls, etc.  Here a monthly tickler system can be considered.
  • To pay: set time aside to make payment at a certain time of the day or month. Then file the papers.
  • To read: recycle if it was not actioned within a month
  • Referral: delegate tasks to another person


  • Organise your desk keeping the supplies close at hand that you use often.
  • Staple proof of payment to invoices
  • Set aside the last half hour of the day for filing.
  • Clear your desk at the end of a working day. An organised desk creates a professional image, showing that you have things under control.
  • Get some fresh flowers or a pot plant for your office to lighten up your day.

Start each day with a clean desk. You will feel invigorated and be more productive.

Good luck and do let me know how you get on. I’m always pleased to hear your stories and any tips for decluttering or storage that are working for you.

Heidi Meyer

Professional organiser

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