Starting Fresh 9: Office Paper

Each blog post until the end of the year, I will focus on a particular area of clutter, to help guide you in removing unwanted things, activities, and people from your life. The goal is to start 2013 clutter free!

Today we're focusing on your papers in your home or work office. As I was saying in yesterday's post, papers have a way of collecting and stagnating a space. If we get overwhelmed by the papers in our office space, we lose our inspiration and productivity. Let's bring this space back to life!

Files. We tend to put paper into our files, but rarely take them out or toss them. Most of the papers are never looked at. Out of sight, out of mind. My experience from working with people on their files is that at least 60% of the papers get tossed in recycling. The way to dismantle the paper clutter is take out one file at a time, open it up, take out the first sheet and ask, "Do I still need this piece of paper or can I let it go?" If it's not a resource that you use, an important legal document, or receipts and papers for tax purposes, it doesn't have a home in your files. Also, if you empty out a file and realize you don't need it anymore, take it out of the file container, and either recycle it, or put it with office supplies for later use.

Piles. Sometimes papers end up in piles on the surface of the desk. We either took them out of a file and didn't put them back, or they never made it into a file. These piles are distracting and draining. When I went to art school, one of my professors said, "It's important to have a clear work surface so you give yourself space for the new ideas to come."

You may feel some inertia keeping you from clutter busting these stacks. Tell yourself that's a normal feeling caused by the presence of these paper hills. Then take a breath and tap into the "doing" part of yourself and begin. Pick a stack and go through one piece of paper at a time. You may notice that as you keep moving forward on to each next piece of paper that a momentum is kicking in to support you.

Boxes. You might have a box or boxes of papers. It can be overwhelming to open a box and see hundreds of papers. You might react by closing the box and hiding it in a closet. The problem is it's still there, having its negative effect on you.  

The way around this is by taking small servings. Open the box. Take out a doable handful of papers. Face away from the box and go through one paper at a time. Have a recycling and shredding bag by your side. Begin. Beginning helps clear the overwhelm. Asking "Do I actually need this paper of can it go?" makes your mind orderly again. When you're done with that stack, pick up another and continue.

Openness. You may find as you are clutter busting the papers that you get some new insights about your relationship with your workspace. As each unnecessary piece of paper goes, you get back a piece of your clarity. Be curious about what comes up for you.

Take your time. If you start to feel overwhelmed while clutter busting your papers, stop and take a break. There's no deadline when this has to be done. It's important to keep in touch with yourself during any of the clutter busting processes. Chances are the clutter got to be the way it is because we temporarily lost touch with the quieter part of ourselves. This is a way to learn to work while keeping in touch with your peace of mind.

Please write and tell me your experiences clearing paper clutter; it helps inspire people when you share.

If you have trouble and get stuck, feel free to call me at (310) 903-1041 to arrange a phone clutter busting session.

Also, if you find yourself benefiting from this Starting Fresh Clutter Busting Workshop and you want to show your appreciation, you can make a donation through the donation button on the upper right sidebar.