Reader Vera submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I have loads of extra office supplies; like file folders, hanging file folders, envelopes, index cards, note paper, binder clips, glue, pencils, etc. Can you give me suggestions about storing these items that won’t take a lot of space?
I adore office supplies, especially new office supplies. They are possibilities and new ideas. They’re physical representations of all the great things I can create with those folders and clips and pencils. And, like you, if I’m not careful, they can overtake my office and clutter up valuable workspace.
In the past, we’ve written about how to store large numbers of office supplies when in a corporate environment in our posts “Organizing an office supply closet” and “Organizing and operating a central supply room.” There may be a few tips in these larger scale posts that you can apply to your smaller workspace. So, I recommend starting there.
Once you’ve checked out those posts, try these additional methods for containing your personal office supplies:
- Know thy stuff and thy self. Assess the supplies you have and how you are using them, and if you are actually using them (I have a box of rubber bands in my desk, yet no idea when I last used a rubber band … 2008?). Sort the products into like piles (paper clips with paper clips, pencils with pencils). Identify how often you use the products and what circumstances are you in when you need more of that product. Also evaluate which products are your favorites and which ones you dislike.
- Be realistic. Is there any way you will use all of those supplies in your lifetime? Any product you’re never going to use can instantly be placed in a box to be donated to someone who can use the product. Then, ask yourself how much stuff you can realistically store? Do you have room to store enough supplies for the next six months? The next year or two or three? Most people in their homes only have enough space to store items they’re going to be able to use in the next one or two years. Additionally, products like glue, ink pens, and rubber bands won’t necessarily make it that long before drying out. Set a use-by date (mine is two years) and keep only those supplies that you’ll use by that date (and be sure the ones you keep are the ones you love). Again, all those supplies you won’t use can go into a donation box.
- Donate. All the supplies you won’t use up by the timeframe you chose can easily be donated to a school or non-profit organization. Obviously, call before you deliver the supplies to make sure the group wants them, but now is an especially good time to give these types of products to a school.
- Store. The supplies that you have chosen to keep can be kept in two types of storage areas: immediately accessible and long-term storage. Divide your items into these two categories. Things that should be put into the “immediately accessible” pile are those things that you access more than one time a day. These might be a few pens, sticky notes, and paper clips. The “long-term storage” pile is for all your other supplies that you access as you need them, probably a couple times a week or month.
- Organize. For your desk, I recommend getting a drawer organizer tray to help you keep those things you need daily in an orderly state. Measure your drawer (length, width, and depth) and then get a piece to fit the space. When putting items into the tray, keep like items together. If you don’t have a desk drawer, get an organizing caddy to keep those necessary supplies within arm’s reach on your desk top. For longer-term storage, you’ll want to contain your supplies in a way that gels with your design aesthetic. If the supplies will be stored in a closet or cupboard where they won’t be seen, you can aim for containers that are purely utilitarian. If the supplies will be stored on shelves where you can see them, you’ll likely want to aim for pretty or classy or industrial. Just be sure you like the containers you select because you’re more likely to repeatedly use something you love. Also, keep the items grouped (binder clips with binder clips) and label everything so you don’t have to open the container to know what resides inside it.
Thank you, Vera, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I hope I was able to be helpful to you today. And, be sure to check the comments for even more suggestions from our readership.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.