Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Best Clutter Avoidance Advice

I fancy myself a fledgling professional organizer...She Who Can Organize All. For years I've cleaned houses, organized chaos for friends, and enjoy the challenge of doing so. At risk of sounding boastful, I think I've got a pretty good talent for it. It's no small wonder I'm obsessed with Clean House on the Style Network, How Clean Is Your House on BBC America, and any other cleaning/organizing show that comes down the pike.

As I was sitting at my desk at work assembling all the paperwork I need for my quarterly accounting, I remembered the the best clutter avoidance advice I ever received! It was the phrase: TOUCH IT ONCE WHEREVER POSSIBLE. The mantra "handle it now" reverberates in my head whenever I pick up anything, be it a piece of paper, something I bring into the house, mail, whatever -because of that "touch it once" philosophy.
I'm not perfect, but I've nearly eliminated piles of papers and "things to be dealt with later" from my life. Here is the rundown taken from E-zine articles that embodies what I've incorporated into my daily life, both at home and at work.
The golden rule should always be TOUCH IT ONCE WHEREVER POSSIBLE.

Do not have piles of paper on your desk, in a filing tray or in a briefcase which you keep looking at and then deferring to another time. You can defer something once but then you must take action. But which action should you take?

The following 5-step formula is a very efficient way of handling paperwork.

Destroy -Delegate -Do -Defer - File

Each action should be considered in the descending order shown, i.e. destroy first, file last.

Destroy - this sounds a little harsh but it helps greatly in the decision-making process.

Delegate - does not require your personal attention and can be handled by another member of your team or a professional advisor (eg accountant).

Do - something that requires your personal attention. If it's quick or urgent do it now. Otherwise, defer it (see below).

Defer - a once only action. A firm date for action must be set if it is important to you or another party (probably the sender). Take action on the set date or Destroy it.

File - if it's important and you really must. If possible, get someone else to file it. When filing, consider whether to loose file it or accurately file it. By my definition, loose filing is where you place it at the front of the relevant file but not necessarily with every other associated piece of paperwork. This system saves time on filing only if you believe you are unlikely to want to retrieve it in the future. If you are fairly certain that you will need to retrieve it at some stage then it's more efficient to accurately file it with the associated papers.
Like Neicy Nash from Clean House would say, get to gettin' and start sortin'! :)

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