National Clean Off Your Desk Day

Photo by VirtualCourtney on

Every second Monday in January is "Clean Off Your Desk Day" and what a great way to start off the new year!  Here in Atlanta, we're buried under about five inches of snow today making this the perfect time for my local organizing clients to tackle their desks at homes.

Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Gather your supplies:  big trash bag or garbage can, a small box or container for the paper to be shredded, another box or laundry hamper for those items that need to be moved elsewhere in the house or office, hanging or manila file folders, depending on how you prefer to manage your files, and a label maker.
  • Start with a bird's eye view of your office and quickly grab anything that isn't supposed to live on your desk or in your office.  Put these items into a "MOVE" hamper/box.
  • Notice whether there are any other extraneous items on the top of your desk.  This includes framed photos, freebies from trade shows, excessive quantities of Post-It notes, etc.  These items need to be off your desk and placed elsewhere in your home or office.  The only thing on your desk top should be items and files that you use often.
  • If you don't have a supply drawer, create a makeshift one using a drawer organizer insert that sits on top of your desk.  Or you can use the upturned top of a decorative organizing box to house commonly used office supplies, which is what I do.  The supplies I use less often live in the bottom drawer of a rolling file holder that sits next to my desk under my printer shelf. 
  • Now combine all of your paper into one pile.
  • Start with the top piece of paper and work your way down.  For each piece of paper on your desk, decide whether to Keep, Shred, Throw Away, or Delegate.  If you are keeping it, add it either to your FILE pile if it's reference material or to your ACTION pile if there is an action that you need to follow up and do related to that piece of paper.  Remember to put paper that can be delegated into the DELEGATE pile with the person's name who you're delegating to on the top of the page or on a Post-It note.  If the paper is home-related, feel free to delegate it to appropriate family members.
  • After you get through your paper pile, if you have the energy and brainpower left to continue, file the paper in your FILE pile creating either manila or hanging files for your file cabinet or desktop holder.  If you don't have a file cabinet, a plastic file box with ridges for hanging files will suffice.   These are often on sale at your office supply store during tax season.
  • THEN, if your brain has not yet exploded, decide how you want to handle your ACTION pile.  Prioritize the action items by how critical they are and when their deadlines hit.  Many people find a tickler/reminder system such as the 43 Files system that David Allen writes about in "Getting Things Done" which is the one that I prefer.
  • Finally, deliver all of the items in your MOVE hamper to their appropriate rooms in the house or office.
If all of this is too much for you to take on in one day, go ahead and make this your "Clean Off Your Desk WEEK" and break it down into smaller steps.  Then enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a clean desk!