Organize Your Office Zone

A new year is beginning. It feels like the right time to set up the home so that it is open to all the new offerings the year will bring.

The reality is that it would be overwhelming to tackle the whole house, so this January I will begin with my office. I have been using the Zone Plan for many years and by the end of this year I will have touched everything in my home. (http://timespaceorg.com/services/)

Over the past year, my files have gotten overfull, project bins need to be updated, new items have come into my office and now the office is feeling a bit crowded. Now is the time to follow the program and work my plan on the office.

1. What is bothering me in my office zone?

  • Loose paper that is not filed
  • Project bins that hold old projects and new projects lying around 
  • Files too full
  • Items lurking on my desk and in the back of my credenza all shouting “Do me!”
2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Look and feel inviting – a place that I enjoy
  • Empty spaces in files and on surfaces that allow for growth
  • Clean and uncluttered
  • Feel productive and energized by the space
3. What do I need to do to make this vison come true?
  • Clean out files
  • Shred and archive papers
  • Clear out desk drawers
  • Purge project bins and update them with current projects
  • Deep clean the room
4. Schedule time for each task.
  • Review calendar and see what times are available
  • Schedule reasonable times for each task
  • Write times to work on the calendar and honor that commitment
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 regular maintenance until next January. I always reward myself by buying a fresh flower for my desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Paper Management – Part 2: Filing

Try as hard as we can, we still have a lot of paper that comes into our homes. If we are not vigilant, it will stack up on our counters, tables, and desks. It will add clutter to our lives and it will be hard to locate that paper that is really important (I know my license renewal paperwork is in here somewhere).

Having a filing system that works for you is key to keeping those surfaces uncluttered.

Let’s start with setting up a desktop file or action file. This is where most of the current incoming paperwork will probably land. The concept is that each piece of paper requires an action even if that action is to throw it away. Your files will separate the papers by the action required. Likely file headings are “Pay”, ” Do”, “Contact”, “Pending”, “Read”, “File”. If you take all the paper that has come in this week, it should fit into one of the files. If you have something that does not fit there, ask yourself, “What action is necessary?” and make another file. The goal is to have no loose papers on any surfaces.

I usually have some projects that I am working on. These generate paper. I may have some research, a draft, or ideas for the projects. I use project bins for this type of paper. When I am working on the project, I pull out the papers and when my work time is up, I shove the papers back into the bin.

Then there are the other bits of paper we might keep that don’t fit into those categories. I have envelopes in my desk drawer for receipts that I need to keep. I have a plastic envelope in the kitchen for coupons I might use. I have files near my cookbooks for recipes. I have some files in my bookcase for special interests (exercise, landscaping, decorating).

I also have a file where I store all house related information, warranties and directions for household items.

Then we also have our permanent basic files where we keep our financial papers, insurance, vital records, medical records, tax papers and so forth. We also have files for archival papers such as past taxes, old property sales, bank records, military paperwork, or any paperwork that we rarely need but want to find if necessary. Archival files do not have to be handy so they can be stored in the top of a closet or in the attic.

The purpose of files is to keep paper from stacking up and to make paperwork easy to locate. The files should be easy to use and access or you will find yourself laying down that paper “just for now.”

Start with your most recent stacks of paper and see what action you need to take. Soon you will enjoy your open spaces on your surfaces that were once covered in paper.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Free Holiday Cards, Gift Wrap, Calendars and More!

This time of year junk mail really revs up. I really hate it  when charities I give to send me free holiday cards, gift wrap, and/or free calendars. All of these items either end up in my recycling bin or are given to an older friend who does enjoy them. I hate that the money I donate is being spent on sending me items that I do not want.

Unwanted catalogs, credit card offers, and donation requests swamp us at this time of year and if you are not vigilant they can really clutter up homes and offices. Yesterday alone 6 catalogs, 3 donations requests, and a set of free holiday cards came into my home. Some of the catalogs and donation requests came from groups that I have never used. Many companies send this mail because they have bought our information from a data broker.

More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are mailed to U.S. households each year, including 12 billion catalogs! That’s a lot of trees! Over 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce our junk mail and 44% of junk mail is thrown away unopened and only half that much junk mail (22%) is recycled.

So, what to do? I always recycle but that is not enough. There are several sites to help you stop your junk mail. Catalog Choice helps stop catalogs. You have to set up an account and it is easy to use but takes a bit of time to find your catalog in their long lists.

Another option is to call the number on the back of the catalog and ask them to remove you from the list. By law, they must honor this. It would not take too long if you did each one when it comes through.

Charites are more difficult. It helps to donate to charities with a demonstrated commitment to donor privacy. Find charities that make a promise not to share, sell, or trade your personal information. Also look for charities that are financially efficient. If you support a charity that sends out too many mailings, call that charity and tell them how often you want to be contacted. Audubon now only sends me a donation form annually. I have another charity that automatically gets a monthly payment.

It is a good idea to pick a few favorites and give more heavily to them and refuse the others. I love to support wildlife and nature organizations. Consequently, I give to way too many. Now is a good time to really study each of those groups and decide which one or two I want to support.

It can seem overwhelming but even if we just take action to eliminate some of them the world would be a better place.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing and Cleaning the Living Room for Spring

Spring is in the air! I love this time of year. In spring I want my home to feel fresh and sparkly. I want the sunlight to stream in. The living room is the first thing you see when you enter my home.  For that reason, I choose this area to organize in the month of March in my Zone Plan program.

The first step is to review your vision for the living room. I start my day here with coffee and the newspaper. Later in the day, my husband sits in his chair with coffee and the paper and maybe watches some news on TV. Together we often connect in this room to plan our day, the week, and the future. For entertainment we work on the daily jumble and crossword puzzle together. Sometimes we watch TV or a movie. We often eat our supper in the living room. We entertain family and friends here and welcome people from out front door. Therefore, I want this room to feel welcoming and nurturing. I want everyone who comes into this area to feel like they can exhale and enjoy their time here.

Papers, books, brochures, and magazines can accumulate as we relax and read/discuss the literature. It is a gathering place. To keep the area feeling uncluttered, I have a plan for that paper. Every morning before I sit down I make a sweep and put away any papers that we left out the night before. My rule for newspapers and magazines is when a new one comes in, the old one goes out. We get quite a few magazines so I have a basket to hold them. If there is an article that I want to read when the new magazine comes in, I’ll leave that magazine out on the coffee table and read it within the next few days. We also have a tray for a landing pad for that one book we might be reading there or any brochures we are studying.

Multimedia like DVDs and CDs are usually found in the living room. During this month I sort the entire collection. We cull out the ones we are ready to donate or pass on to a friend. I use a container system to manage our supply. We keep as many DVDs or CDs as will easily fit into our containers. If they don’t all fit in with some room to spare, then some must find new homes elsewhere.

While I am organizing this space I give it a good deep clean and change out accessories to match the season. Gone is the nut bowl and winter candle. In their place I have fresh spring flowers and a pastel candle.

When the zone is complete, I celebrate by having a nice glass of wine, a lit candle, and some down time with my hubby.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Lighten Up for Spring


Spring is around the corner! This is the time we want our home to feel fresh and ready to let the sun light shine in. The living room is usually the first thing you see when you walk into your home. That is why I chose the living room to organize and clean during the month of March in my Zone Plan program.

My first step in working with this zone is to review my vision for the living room. I like to start my day here with coffee and the newspaper. Later in the day, My husband sits in his chair with coffee and the paper and maybe watches the news on TV. Together we often connect in this room and plan our day, week, and the future. For entertainment we work on the daily jumble and crossword puzzle. On a more passive note, we often listen to music or perhaps watch a DVD or television. if we are having a light meal, we may eat here. We entertain family and guests in our living room and welcome people from our front door. I want to feel relaxed in this room and ready for guests at any time.

Papers, books, brochures, and magazines can accumulate here as we relax and read/discuss the literature. It is a central gathering place for family and friends. Look around your area. What has accumulated? Make a plan for that paper that is going to end up here. My rule for newspapers is when a new one comes in the old one leaves. Magazines have a basket to hold them – but again, every month a new one comes in so keep those magazines circulating. When a new one comes in, out with the old. If you have an article that you have not yet read but want to read, leave this one magazine out on the coffee table and read it in the next few days. Have a landing place for that one book you are now reading in the living room and a tray or landing pad for any brochures you are checking out. When finished with book or brochure, recycle or put them away.

Multimedia like DVDs and CDs are usually found in the living room. Take time to sort the entire collections. Cull out the ones you are ready to donate or pass along to a friend. I use the container system for our DVDs and CDs. I have allotted containers that fit into our entertainment center. We can keep as many as will easily fit into those containers. As I usually only do this task once a year, it is important to leave a little extra room for new ones coming in or make it a rule that when a new one does come in, an old one goes.

This month I change out accessories to match the season. Gone is the nut bowl, the poinsettia, and the winter candle. In their place I have fresh spring flowers and a pastel candle. I clean and polish as I declutter each area.

When the zone is complete, I celebrate by having a nice glass of wine, a lit candle, and some down time with my hubby.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Paper, Paper, Everywhere!

Paper, paper everywhere! Where does it all come from? How do we make it go away?

We all dream of having that clutter free office and clutter free desk. But somehow that dream often eludes us.

Where does this paper come from? As I look around my office, I see a presentation I am working on, some notes on a potential client, a client folder from a client I worked with today, an itinerary I printed on a trip I am taking this summer, a report from my Feng Shui consultant, information on an event I may want to see this weekend, and my calendar. I have just recently disposed of today’s mail. At other times I have had coupons from a store that sells office supplies, a receipt to enter into QuickBooks, a card to send to a client, a magazine, and menu ideas. Paper continually invades my space.

Fortunately, I do have a plan in place. I have action files and project bins nearby that will allow me to clear my desk before I leave it this evening. The presentation notes and the Feng Shui notes will go into project bins that are held in my cabinet. The itinerary for my trip will to into my pending folder. My notes on the potential client will go into my call folder. My today’s client folder will go into my desk drawer file of current clients. This evening I will discuss the event with my husband and we will decide if we are going to attend. If we decide to attend, the event will be noted on my calendar and then the information will go into my pending file. If we decide not to go, the information will go into the recycling bin. The calendar lives on my file cabinet next to my desk.

Those coupons I was talking about went into my purse. My receipts went into a labeled envelope after being recorded. The card was addressed and laid out on the landing pad to go out in the mail the next day. The magazine was dropped into the magazine holder in the living room. The menu ideas went into a folder in the kitchen.

Yeah! No visible papers in my office. The point of this is that, yes, paper continually comes into my office zone but I do have a plan. Daily maintenance is very important if I don’t want to feel overrun by paper. Clearing the paper and thinking you are done is foolish. That’s sort of like washing the dishes and thinking you are done with that task. It all needs to be done again the next day. But, it’s all in having a plan and a schedule.

For more information on handling paper, come to Diane Quintana and my presentation on From Paper Piles to Files on February 14 (9:30 am) at Finders Keepers (2753 East College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030).

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer