How often are you looking for your cell phone while you're holding your cell phone? It might just be me. But I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only entrepreneur who's creative in both my work and and in "organizing" my office. It's a mile-high pile and I've got no idea what's in it. Every day I work through my mother's mantra -- "how on Earth do you live in that mess?" -- and shuffle papers, but I can't seem to get it together. What's a sorting-challenged entrepreneur to do?
Ask the experts. I queried several of Chicago's best organizing experts about what we should do to organize office clutter. My top two faves? Sarah Nelson of Less Is More Professional Organizing Services and Pooja Gugnani of Organizing With You, Inc. They're both entrepreneurs, mothers, and organizing junkies, to boot. Here are their top tips for organizing your work space:
1. Take control of surfaces first. Sort through all your papers and put them into three piles: "take action," "quick reference," and "file away." Invest in a functional filing cabinet, a three-tiered desk tray and a shredder. Visit IRS.gov to determine which papers you need to keep, then shred the ones you don't.
2. Think vertically. If your home office is small, use wall files ($30) for papers that you need handy so they're off the floor and other surfaces. If you have children, make sure to add their height plus the height of your chairs so that they can't knock the whole thing down in one fell swoop.
3. The desk is not the only place to store supplies and paper. IKEA sells a fantastic Helmer drawer unit that fits under a desk and easily stores all matter of supplies, paper, and small items ($40). This one's best to keep secret from both pets and children for obvious reasons.
4. Place a recycle bin close to your mailbox, tossing out any unwanted mail before it can even enter your home office area. This suggestion brought on a big palm-smack-to-forehead for all the years that I never did this.
5. Keep only office items in your home-office area. Your office is not the place to store winter clothes, extra towels, or other personal items. These will just serve as distractions and clutter. And if, like me, you're busy trying to prove to professional organizers that if you just folded the clothes and towels, it would look so much better -- stop it.
6. At the end of the day, take five minutes to plan tasks for the next day. Write them into your calendar. Knowing every task that has to happen tomorrow is a great motivation to stay organized. (Hiring a professional organizer is even better motivation.)
Clearly, these suggestions could get any messy office in order. After all the tips were said and done, one question remained: How on Earth do these parent entrepreneur experts find the time to keep their lives in such order every day? I've yet to find out, but I'm just grateful that they didn't ask me how on Earth I live in that mess.
Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, traveling to small towns, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.