Using the Zone Plan – Home Office

It’s a new year! Time to get organized! I love for my home to be organized and clean. It would be lovely to wave a magic wand and on Jan. 1 my home would be perfectly organized to start the new year. However, that isn’t going to happen and I refuse to knock myself out to even try and attempt it. What I do instead is make a plan for the year using my zone plan. I divide my home into 10 zones and then tackle one zone every month – giving myself July and December off.

January is my office zone.

By the end of the year, my office tends to feel crowded. Files are busting at the seams. New organizational books clog my bookcase. Project bins are overflowing.

Now is the logical time to organize and clear out the files, drawers, bookshelves, and project bins to allow for breathing space and new growth. I will take the entire month to work on the office zone. I divide my office up into four parts and tackle one area a week. My desk and file cabinet are the most time consuming, so I usually do this the first week when I feel highly motivated and usually have less client hands on time scheduled.

Some papers are moved to archival storage, some are tossed or shredded, and some are set aside for tax preparation. The remainder of the papers returns to their files. I also go through my desk drawers and toss supplies that no longer serve me. My bookcase and credenza will follow in the next week. Anything that I don’t use on a regular basis will either be tossed or moved off site. I have one shelf in the laundry room that holds some binders and crates. I count this shelf as office and will work on it next. My office also has a meeting room area and that will be my last section.

As I work through these areas I hold to my vision of how I want this zone to look and feel. I want my office to be attractive and welcoming both to me and to those who visit. I have recently bought a new vibrant piece of art that reinforces my vision for this area.

By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished, “Good enough” and move on to the next zone. The office is now ready for just regular maintenance until the next year. I always celebrate by buying fresh flowers for my desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Tax folder

This month the working zone is the office. Now is the time you clear out and update all of your files in this area. One of the files you should have is a tax file folder. I suggest that it is a bright color or at least a different color than your other folders. I also like this folder to be either the first or last folder in the drawer. All through the year as anything comes into your office that relates to your taxes you just drop it into this folder. If you have a business and keep up with receipts for your business, you might want an envelope for each month to hold the receipts. Other items you might drop in the folder are your monthly mortgage statements (if you get a cumulative one at the end of the year then you can let the others go), Ad Valorem tax receipt, monthly statements for brokerage accounts, bank statements, HUD settlement statement if purchasing or selling a house, receipts for home purchases that may qualify for energy credits or any major home improvement, college tuition and child care receipts, receipts for charitable contributions, and your end of year-last paycheck stub. About now all of your tax statements are arriving so drop them in too.
When it is time to do your taxes or gather the material for your accountant, you pull out your folder and look over last years tax form to see if you have everything. If you start this folder now (and mine already has items in it for 2010 taxes), life will be much simpler next tax season.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Office zone

January is the perfect month to organize your office zone. I organize my office every January. By the time a year has passed, it really needs a new look and feel. First I reflect on how I want my office to look and feel for the coming year. I also reflect on what worked last year and what isn’t working so well now in my space.
Personally, I want an uncluttered yet warm look. I want to see things that remind me of my yearly goals. I want to feel on top of my business and life when I am working in my office. I want my current work to be at my fingertips. I want clear open spaces and uncluttered, uncrowded files.
How am I going to make this happen? This month has 5 weekends. The first weekend I cleared away my Christmas decorations so now I have 4 left. My office has 4 walls. Each weekend I will divide my office into a wall section and analyze and attack that section. This first week I will tackle the wall that has my desk. I will clear everything off and out of my desk and give it a good cleaning. Then I will decide what goes back into the desk and what gets purged. My files will get cleaned out. Many items will be archived elsewhere and therefore my file drawers will have room again for new material. I will celebrate by putting fresh flowers on my desk and next week I will tackle another wall zone. By the end of the month, my office zone will be fresh and ready for the new year.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Procrastination = Clutter

Procrastination is one of the biggest causes to desktop clutter.
1) Starting a project and procrastinating the clean up is a big one. You get out all your materials to pay your bills. You pay the bills, but then you walk away leaving out the calculator, the bill inserts, the receipts, the ledger…
You work on a project for work or a volunteer project. You run out of time for the day. You walk off and leave the project spread out on your desk.
You go to a networking event and pick up a bunch of business cards. Instead of responding to the contacts and filing away the cards, you walk off and leave them on your desk.
You bring in your mail. You “cherry pick” a couple of items to look at and leave the stack of bills on your desk.
2) You put off making decisions is another. Papers come across your desk and you don’t take the time to make up your mind what to do with them- toss? file? respond? – so you lay them on the desk “just for now.”
You shop for extra office supplies but you don’t make the decision where to put them so you drop them on your desk “just for now.”

Taking the time it takes now to clear up each project so that you are ready to begin a new one and taking the time now to decide how to respond to incoming papers and where to put purchases will save you a lot of time later as you search for items or get distracted in your desk work because of all that clutter.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Toxic Inbox

One of the sessions I attended at the NAPO conference was on “Detox Your Inbox”. I know I have a real problem with my inbox. I found that I was one of those people who use the inbox as a “to do” list. I realized that letting my inbox get in this shape is as bad as letting mail stack up on my table. For some reason I am very good about taking care of my mail each day- but my inbox! – not so much. Just imagine 495 pieces of mail on my table. I learned that my email usually falls into different areas like projects, appointments, contact information, communication, tasks, and archives. Just as I have my clients use action files for their mail I need to set up folders for my email. Just as my clients can be overwhelmed by their backlog of paperwork- I am overwhelmed by my backlog on my computer. So- what to do? I have asked for help from a Professional Organizer. Laura Ray (lauraray@bellsouth.net– 404-630-7212) is scheduled to come work with me. I know I will be able to maintain it once she helps me set it up. She will soothe my fears that I will not lose the information I need to keep. She will help me decide what I can let go. I will feel so much lighter after our session.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Money, Honey


As I have been working on my presentation on downsizing, I came across an interesting statistic. The average US household contains 52 unused or unnecessary items worth the average of $3,100. At first I though, naah.. But I started looking around and thinking about what was on upper shelves and in the attic. I thought of china I don’t use any more. I thought about many of the homes I have worked in and I think – yes, most homes I have been in have at least that much. I also think of the households (1 in 11) that rent a storage container just to hold stuff they don’t want to keep in the house. At $75 a month- that is $900 a year. And I know that when I go in to help with decluttering an office we often find uncashed checks, unused gift cards, and just plain old money that the client did not remember was there. So, clearing up your clutter and passing on unneeded items is a good way to save money, honey!

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Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Mission Accomplished

The off site office storage problem is now solved. It took two trips to the Container Store to get it right but now all of my tools, little used files, supplies, presentation materials, and NAPO in the Schools materials are neatly stored away. The first go round I had to stack things on top of my drill and knew that would eventually frustrate me so I made another trip back to the store and got another short shelf to go over the drill to hold the items that had been stacked. Now the black drill case will slip our easily and my tool kit, bits, and hardware are on the shelf below. The small hanging bar holds my flip charts. I love to just go into the room and look at it.

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Making Room for Growth

My goal by the end of January was to have my office reorganized for the coming year. As business grows and files increase, the office begins to feel crowded. I start to have more file boxes or portable files on the floor. My desk gets harder to keep clear. I have now purged my files. I have taken some and put in a plastic file box for archives. I have deleted or compressed some files. I have taken some items that I use rarely out of this office space. I have rearranged items on my bookcases to make a more current and open look. Some more art work was added.I enjoy coming into my office again. Now one of my goals for next month is to redo a closet in the guest room to become my “off site” storage for some of those items I have removed but still need. I will draw up a plan this weekend and run off to the Container Store while the sale on elfa shelving is still going on. I am now excited about the next step. I’ll keep you posted.

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home office organization

To keep my home organized, decluttered, and inventoried I divide my house up into zones and tackle a zone each month. January is home office month and at this very moment my office looks like a bomb exploded in it. I am tearing things up and moving things around. Because business is growing and because I continue to learn and bring in more idea files my office was busting at the seams. I am in the process of taking some less used material and some archival files and moving them to a closet in the spare bedroom. I plan (when that zone appears on my radar) to redo that closet with Elfa shelving that would be suitable (will buy the shelving soon though to get that 30% discount). My desk and file drawers are complete but the rest is still in flux. I hope to get another big chunk done this weekend. I am pretty excited about the expected results. I need the breathing room.

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