If you find yourself spending more then 30 seconds to locate an important document (or even something as simple as a pen) in your office, it may be time to clean. When you get the itch to organize, don’t do it alone — include everyone in the office.
Tell employees that this Friday is not a business-as-usual day, rather it’s a day to tidy up. Invite everyone to come to the office an hour later than usual, to wear old clothes and to bring along their favorite cleaning supplies.
Follow these steps for a successful clean-up.
Step #1 — Arm yourself with supplies. Before you begin to clear out your office, go shopping for office supplies that you will need to aid your reorganization. Ask around the office to make sure everyone has what he or she needs to get organized. Be sure to purchase hanging and file folders, new pens, pads, self-stick notes, cleaning solutions and lots of garbage bags.
Step #2 — Get mentally prepared. Cleaning out your office includes throwing stuff away. Prepare yourself to part with some very old files and papers.
Step #3 — Take your time. To give your office a thorough cleaning, spend the whole day throwing out, wiping down and re-organizing. If you can’t devote at least five hours to tidying your work space, save the task for later.
Step #4 — Empty it out. Take everything out of each drawer and each file cabinet, and off of each shelf. Wipe down all your drawers, cabinets and desk spaces with a rag, then focus on what you have removed. Go through the contents of each drawer and throw out what you don’t need or use.
Step #5 — Reorganize. Create a place for everything. Some people find it useful to dedicate each desk drawer to a specific function — e.g., a communication drawer to hold all writing utensils, paper, printer cartridges and pads.
Step #6 — Clean and organize often. Get into the habit of cleaning out and reorganizing the office on a regular basis. It will reduce the time spent reorganizing in the future, and it will help to make daily work life more efficient.
But as you clean and organize your office, you will be faced with the difficult task of deciding which papers are to stay and which are destined for the trash. There are six rules you and your employees can follow to aid in the process of deciding what to keep and what to toss.
Rule # 1 — Keep it if it’s current. Hold on to all papers that relate to current projects and clients, but file them away in sub-folders. Using sub-folders to organize miscellaneous papers is a good way of preventing non-critical materials from getting mixed up with essential documents.
Rule #2 — Review files regularly. Weed out files and papers you haven’t used in the past six months to a year. Only keep those documents that you are currently using or those that you have a good reason to save, and retire them to storage.
Rule #3 — Save master documents. If it would take a significant amount of time or money to recreate a document, then retire it to a storage box of master documents.
Rule #4 — Save all legal documents. Any contract, warranty, license or other legally binding document should be stored in a box dedicated to contracts and certificates.
Rule #5 — Store your tax records. Keep all copies of the company’s tax returns permanently. Records supporting your tax returns should be kept for six years after you have filed them. Records that relate to your taxes should be kept as long as they are legally significant. Seek advice from an accountant when deciding what to throw out and what to keep.
Rule # 6 — When in doubt, throw it out.
Perhaps the most important way to maintain order throughout your office is to encourage colleagues to spend a few minutes at the end of the day straightening up and throwing out. Not only will it reduce organizational efforts in the long run, it will also let your company start each day with a clean slate.