20 Feb Mercedes Masters Her Desktop Clutter!
I would only name my daughter after someone wonderful, and that someone wonderful is my friend Mercedes, a person I am honored to have within my small circle of closest lifelong friends. She generously offered up her incredible wit and creativity to do a guest post for me. Enjoy!
After reading one of Rose’s recent pro-minimalist posts, I arrived at my lawyering job one day to find my desk looking like this:
For those of you who don’t associate regularly with lawyers (and why not? We’re so cuddly!), this post will be quite educational. Lawyer Fact No. 1 – Lawyers love paper. Ever hear the phrase “Get it in writing?” Of course you have, and a lawyer invented that. We love to have everything documented in emails, letters, memos, exhibits, etc., and then make many, many copies of said documents. It is my scientifically unsupported belief that lawyers are responsible for about 95% of the nation’s paper consumption.
But I digress. My point is that I spend much of my day sifting through reams of paper. Generally, I like to keep things out on my desk so I remember to work on them and I stay current with everything. However, the nasty side effect of this was that I had a cramped, cluttered workspace that stressed me out the minute I walked into my office. I decided there had to be a better way.
My first step was to immediately gather up all the papers that belonged to a particular client, pack it into their respective files, and store it on my bookshelf. While that helped, it still left me with a mess of random papers that didn’t have a home – articles I had printed out, inter-office memos, and other random scribblings. Where could I put them?
Enter an idea I learned from one of Rose’s posts – could you go in a cupboard? I don’t have cupboards in my office, but I DO have desk drawers. That is, very full desk drawers currently brimming with stuff. For example:
Lawyer Fact No. 2 – Lawyers eat at their desks. A lot. And they need lots of caffeine (hence the four boxes of tea.) However, was this really the best use of my desk space? Probably not. I then proceeded to go through every single one of the 10 drawers of my desk and credenza, culling out the items I didn’t need. I’ll spare you the details, but the items I removed included, but were not limited to: 1) a spool of ribbon; 2) a Starbuck’s cup sleeve from Inauguration Day 2009; 3) approximately 113 paycheck stubs; 4) an empty Clinique concealer; and 5) a box of Fiber One bars that expired in March 2010. All of these were items that I probably contemplated getting rid of at least once, but then second-guessed myself – “What if I have to wrap a gift for someone? I might need that ribbon! What if I get audited by the IRS? I might need those pay stubs?! What if I have to work late one night and there’s no food? I might need expired fiber bars!” (Gross.) However, instead of dreaming up doomsday scenarios, I simply asked each item – is it reasonable and foreseeable that I will need you? (Lawyer Fact No. 3 – Lawyers love using qualifying words.) If not, I chucked it. I also pared down my office supplies – yes, I need staples in my desk, but did I need 3 boxes? Probably not. These went back to our office supply closet.
As a result of my de-cluttering, I could now move some of my food items to other drawers.
This left me with a nice empty drawer, perfect for – hanging files! I finally had space to organize all those random papers on my desk, which I did.
I also moved some of my less-often used office supplies, like my scotch tape and hole-punchers, to drawers.
Finally, a nice clean desk!
And, most importantly, I also devised an alternative way to ensure that I didn’t forget anything – a mini-dry erase board that sits on my desk.
I picked it up at Office Max for less than $5. Now, instead of having piles of messy papers everywhere, I can just take a quick peek at my dry erase board and see what needs to be done. I’m happy to say that I am much more productive (and happier) with my new and improved work space! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go keep track of my billable hours.