Creative Office Organizing

Sometimes when we’re organizing offices we need to be creative.  It may be because of a lack of space, needing the area for a multiple of purposes and activities, or simply because of the way our client’s function in the space.  For this particular project it was the latter.  Many of my clients are challenged with ADD and ADHD.   Although smart as a whip, our client is challenged with ADHD and therefore paperwork organization was difficult for him. Running a very successful business from home can have it’s drawbacks.  One of those drawbacks is that it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the paperwork that comes with the business. I can certainly attest to that in my own home office. Organization is really the key to maintaining any successful business.  Otherwise things gets lost through the cracks, including cheques!

I thoroughly enjoyed working hands on with this particular client.  He has an amazing sense of humour which can be very helpful for everyone when sorting through papers. Typically, when organizing business documents and paperwork we use file folders.  However, with this particular client, file folders was not a workable solution for him and his way of thinking and working in his space. At least not for his accounting paperwork.  He had already tried to organize with baskets and bins, however the system was not working because pieces were missing from the set up. Working with him we created a bin system of filing accounting papers as well as one special bin strictly to contain papers for filing when he just did not have the time to deal with it. This particular client was not fussy on fancy labelling or worried about aesthetics.  He simply needed a functional system for organizing his papers.  Here’s what we created and what now works efficiently for him:

System for organizing office papers

This may not be a workable solution for everyone but it proves that every client is different and we need to customize our solutions to fit our client’s needs, no matter how diverse. A simple and effective solution to organizing papers for easy filing. No fuss, no muss! What kind of filing system do you use?  I’d love to hear your creative ideas.


Organizing Legal Files

Interesting how a former career path comes into play in the field professional organizing. Prior to launching ClutterBGone I worked in the field of law for over 20 years. It was in that industry that I learned a great deal about time management, file management, the importance of detail and the ultimate management and organization of legal files in general.  I recently had a client contact me looking for assistance and ideas on file management.  Specifically, this gentleman wore many hats, one of which was that of a consumer advocate providing legal representation to clients. However, without a specific legal administration background he found himself inundated with legal paper, pleadings and stacks of files with little organization and the inability to put his hand on key documents when needed.  His office was in a state of disarray and he desperately needed help from an organizer with a legal background.  A general overview of the organization of legal files in general will be helpful to many.

When organizing legal files one of the most critical elements for organization is to create one file with numerous subfiles.  For litigation files, which is the type of law this client practiced, the files would generally be broken down as follows


Draft Documents

Pleadings (such as Statements of Claim, Defence, Reply, etc.)


Affidavit Materials & Evidence

Motions & Orders

Affidavit of Documents


Settlement Offers

Settlement Agreement

In many cases, pleadings and affidavit materials can be so thick, and files become so large that file boxes are used and clearly labelled with the client name and the contents of each box.  There may be an entire box or more of just case law!  And of course, each case must be itemized and filed for quick access and return in the proper place.  The same goes for affidavit evidence and materials.

The key with legal file organization, as with most organizing projects, is sorting, categorizing and clearly labelling all materials. I hope that in your personal lives you never have to organize a legal file (although many of my clients have family law files to sort through and organize).  But if you ever do, this general guideline should assist you in making sense of all that paper.  If you have any questions on how to organize other types of legal files, just let me know. I`m here to help.

10 More Items to Keep Indefinately

In my last blog post I talked about the top 10 paper items you should keep indefinitely.  Here is an additional 10 items that I recommend you keep for an indefinite period of time.

  1. Settlement agreements, claims and any litigation documents
  2. Tax assessment notices including those for property tax assessments
  3. Mortgage and lien documents for your home or rental properties
  4. Loan documents
  5. Marriage certificates and licenses
  6. Investment records showing beneficiaries
  7. Education records and transcripts
  8. Licenses
  9. Military records
  10. Medical records and updates

Remember that laws are constantly in a state of flux and circumstances can change.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when you are shredding documents. Therefore be sure to check with the appropriate legal or financial advisers before disposing of anything.

Top 10 Paper Items To Keep Indefinately

Whenever I’m working in offices, whether home or business, the question always arises as to what to keep and for how long. Most people know that for income tax audit purposes you need to keep your tax returns and related papers for seven years.  But what about some of those other papers?  Here’s my top 10 paper items to keep indefinitely.

  1. Birth certificates
  2. Deeds for burial lots
  3. Inventory of household goods, updated periodically
  4. Divorce agreements and Decrees
  5. Citizenship papers
  6. Adoption and custody records
  7. Wills and Powers of Attorney (ensure someone knows where these are)
  8. Death certificate
  9. Record of Employment
  10. Insurance records for claims and payments made

Items that you do want to keep indefinitely should be stored in a safe environment, such as a safety deposit box. Safety deposit box rentals are often difficult to get from financial institutions because of the sheer demand.  Something new is on the horizon for the storage of your valuables.  Essentially a very tiny condo (square inches instead of feet) and fairly expensive, very soon you will be able to purchase one of these units to call your own. Complete with security and even your very own parking space, these mini condo safety deposit units will be on the market to purchase soon. The first one I am aware of is currently being developed in Markham, Ontario.  I’m sure many more will be developed as the demand arises. Will you be one of the first to buy your very own safety deposit unit for your valuables?


Creating A Kitchen Office

Let me say this right off the top:  I don”t advocate having an office in your kitchen.   Keeping your papers out of the kitchen, just as you would the food out of your office space, will ultimately make your like simpler.  Paper really doesn’t belong in the kitchen because every time you cook you have to organize and clear away all that paper.  Many a client has had dirty dishes over top their paperwork and sometimes the paperwork even ends up in the kitchen trash resulting in bills not getting paid.  The kitchen tends to be the most heavily used room in your home but that also means it can be a clutter magnet. In a perfect world everyone would have a separate space within their home for their office and paperwork. However some families cannot accommodate that ideal so we need to work around that.  In this case we need to create a boundary within the kitchen itself, in which to contain the office and the paper.

You need to start by designating one spot in your kitchen for your office. Then schedule about 3 hours to tackle those kitchen papers.  Start by sorting and weeding out obsolete papers.  Reduce the number of cookbooks. Donate those you no longer need. The remaining paperwork can be sorted into separate piles:  bills to pay, financial papers, office supplies, people to contact, things to read, kids’s school related paper, artwork, etc.  The next step is to set up a contained space within the kitchen for your office related papers, and a separate contained space for the kid’s school related paperwork. Have a bin for each child.

Make sure you create boundaries within the kitchen large enough to accomodate everything you need to process the daily paperwork. This boundary could be a single shelf or cupboard within which you place bins to contain different categories of items. Or perhaps you create a desk suface that can flip up and away when not in use. It may also be a 2 or three shelf movable storage unit that can act as your office containment space or your kid’s paperwork space.   In some cases it may not be the most attractive space in your home. Do your best to make it aesthetically pleasing with nice wicker or rattan baskets, using wood rather than plastic.  At least you will have taken control, created boundaries for where things live and activities take place and have established a spot for day to day living that is useful and efficient. Make life simpler, not harder!

Organizing A Home Office

There are many people out there that work from or at home and have set up a home office for their needs.  However, sometimes the business of running your business gets out of control and you end up with paper clutter and debris everywhere.  A large number of people who contact me for organizing assistance have this very same issue. Especially when the business is growing very quickly, it’s difficult to keep up.  Here’s an example of one client whose business was growing so rapidly that his office ended up overtaking his billiards room!

Home Office & Billiards Room before organizing


After we were finished organizing and setting up efficient office systems in a designated office space we discovered a pool table underneath all that stuff which had not been seen or used in over 2 years!

Billiards Room after organizing

My client picked up his pool cue, set up the table, and played his first game of billiards on this table in 2 years. He was a happy man. Do any of you have paper or other clutter so overwhelming that you can’t utilize one of the rooms in your home for it’s intended purpose?


Knapsack & Bag Organizing

A question I’ve heard from client’s lately is how to get their handbag, satchel or knapsack organized.
The answer is to compartmentalize your stuff which not only helps you to find things easily without digging deep into your bag, but also makes it easier to change bags and move things from one to another. I recently attended the 2011 POC (Professional Organizers in Canada) Conference where I ran across an innovative organizing product called “GRID-IT!” by Cocoon Innovations. It’s an extremely versatile solution for organizing everything from digital devices, personal and household items. It consists of a woven, rubberized retention pad with endless ways to utilize it. Just place your items on the “GRID IT!pad” and drop the pad in your bag.
Grid It! organizer pad
Comes in tons of sizes and variations. Then you just pull out the pad when you need one of your items. Easy. Simple. Functional. I love it!

Organizing For A Conference

I’m at the POC (Professional Organizers in Canada) conference in downtown Toronto today and have to share this great tip from Laurene of Organize Me 101 for staying organized when at a conference. Firstly, gather all your conference materials in a small binder that has a plastic outer front and back insert cover that allows you to place paper inside the insert on the exterior of the binder. Then take your agenda for your conference and insert it on the exterior front binder cover so it’s easily visible and you don’t need to hunt around to find out where you’re going next. On the exterior back insert place a map of the hotel or conference centre so you’ll be able to find your way around to all the different rooms. What a great organizing idea for conference attendees! Thanks Laurene!

Continuing With The Ambitious Organizing, Decluttering & Staging project….

The next couple of days working at the site were strenuous, both physically and emotionally. We continued to remove items from the 1,000 square foot attic, uncovering some surprising, and not so surprising possessions. Tons of family historical memorabilia continued to be uncovered as well as a few small deceased furry creatures and plenty of their droppings. Not at all surprising of course, for this type of project. As the attic spaces began to reveal themselves, there appeared a light at the end of the tunnel. In the evening hours when our assistant labour came on board, we moved down to other areas of the home and began focusing on the office space. This one was another challenge due to the sheer volume of paper to be reviewed and processed. Here’s a photo of the office space we were working on.
Home Office Before Organizing
Office decluttering and editing is one of the most challenging as it can be very tedious for the client. Changing direction within the office, such that paperwork would be reviewed for a hour or so, and then I would redirect the client towards something a little more interesting, such as paper memorabilia and other historical items found in that space. A change of pace is critical to keep focus and the client on task. While my client focused on editing this particular space, I changed direction to ensure we were going to meet the time lines for the disposal truck, arriving within two days. The pressure was definitely on!