Reader Anonymous submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’ve started to notice how disorganized my office is … not my personal office, but the office as a whole.
- Office supplies are disorganized, so no one knows where to find anything, which leads to ordering more of things we usually already have.
- Our shared computer folders are a mess — everyone has their own systems which makes it hard to find anything unless you ask someone for it.
- No one has cleared out the paper files for years. When people leave a position, their paper files (which the new person probably doesn’t need or has their own system) get shoved onto a shelf somewhere and pretty much never looked at again, but no one will get rid of them!
I’d like to find a way to help with these problems, but I’m struggling with it because it’s not really my job and I don’t want to step on any toes or take on additional work just because I’m the only one who brings it up.
Any suggestions? I’ve heard about some companies doing a 2x a year “office clean-up” day — I don’t know if my office will go for it, but I’m interested in hearing if others have experience with this method.
Thanks in advance for your help!
Anonymous, I think you could have entered your name as “Everyone,” seeing as most of the working world is in the same position you are. Companies waste so much money being disorganized in the exact ways you have mentioned. They’re doling out unnecessary dollars for wasted productivity, duplicate supply ordering, increased network storage, and offsite archival paper file storage. A little organizing and uncluttering could save companies thousands, but often these activities are seen as wasted time.
The first thing I suggest doing is documenting on a sheet of paper some of the troubled areas in your division or department. Don’t add commentary to the listed items, simply write notes like, “No inventory system on the office supply closet. Janet has two drawers of files she hasn’t opened in two years.” Then, track down your favorite human resources staff member and see if you can take him or her out for coffee or lunch.
During this casual meeting, talk about some of your concerns. Put greater emphasis on the positive benefits that result from a more organized workplace. Don’t complain or blame or bring up office politics — just focus on why you think uncluttering and organizing could save your company money and improve worker productivity. If all goes well, the issue will be pushed up the chain of command and eventually your HR department might make a twice-a-year organizing day a reality for the entire company. Every time I’ve worked with a company for such a project, I’m always contacted and contracted through the HR department, so my assumption is that this is how it would be handled at your company. If your organization is structured differently, go through whatever department is most likely to be responsible for planning such an event.
A few, rare and wonderful companies have regular organizing days. They’ll hire one or more professional organizers to come in and give a pep talk at the beginning of the day and then be on site to assist workers as tough questions arise. Some of these companies have organizing weeks if it’s the first time they’ve gone through the process. And, these uncluttering days usually help to build employee morale because everyone is working together to improve their place of employment. Happier, more organized, and more productive employees — I’m surprised all companies aren’t already doing it.
Regarding your specific examples, your office could save money by installing a more formalized inventory system for office supplies. Also, check out our tips for organizing a shared drive and the comments to the post for ideas on how to tame the data on your office network. Finally, before clearing out paper files (and there are lots of tips for how to do this in a corporate environment in Unclutter Your Life in One Week), talk with a lawyer. You might not be able to get rid of all of these documents based on whatever it is your company does.
Thank you, Anonymous, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Good luck!
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