Reader Lee submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I work at an agency that has about 20 staff. In early July we will be renovating our space and most staff will have to pack up their offices to prepare for the renovations …
Without coming across as militant, how can I help my co-workers through the uncluttering process? I’m forever pointing out that they hold onto things they no longer need. For example, many of the print resources they hold onto are available on-line.
We have the ability to scan and store documents.
We have a client database where some information can be stored.
We have a pretty good timeline for the packing-up process.
We are renting Frogboxes to pack things into.
Lee, I’m oddly giddy for you and this experience. It’s so rare for an organization to have an opportunity for everyone to unclutter on company time.
The first thing I would do is help your coworkers to learn how to scan documents. If you’re in human resources, you can send out an email inviting everyone to a training session in a conference room and offer snacks (people like snacks). If you’re not in human resources, I’d still hold an information training session for your team. Suggest your boss get everyone lunch and hold the informal training session while you all eat. Even if everyone says they know how to scan documents and file them on the network, simply suggest it’s a refresher course to help speed up the process as they tackle their paper piles before the move. A training session also indirectly lets your coworkers know that the expectation is that they will get rid of some of their paper before the move.
Next, I would set a schedule for everyone on your team (or at the agency, if you’re in HR) to tackle group projects together. If your team shares a group filing system, schedule a two-hour time block when everyone on the team will help to sort, purge, and/or pack these shared materials. By having these set group activities on the calendar, you will be able to train everyone on how to unclutter. As a result, these group experiences can then help to encourage individual behaviors when your coworkers are working on their personal spaces.
Also, I’d communicate that there are a limited number of Frogboxes (such a cool service, I would like to add) and that people will only be able to pack what can fit into the boxes. If you’re in HR, you will know exactly how many boxes each person will get for his office and you can share that exact number. If you’re not in HR, just stay vague and say things like, “since we’re limited in how many boxes we can have to store our personal office items, learning how to scan nonessential documents is valuable.” This isn’t a lie — there is a limit of how many boxes Frogboxes will be providing to your company — you just might be implying there won’t be any exceptions, which there probably will be.
Honestly, I doubt anyone will think you’re a militant since all you’ll be doing is encouraging others to unclutter. As long as you stay positive and offer to help other people, I think your efforts will be well received. Avoid walking around and patrolling your coworkers, as it’s ultimately up to them what they decide to keep and purge. Simply encourage and train and hope for the best.
Thank you, Lee, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Good luck with the office move and don’t forget to check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers.
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