woman filing paper in accordion folder
Decluttered workspace

Organizational systems are customized structures or set ups with clear boundaries that enable you to maintain organization with relative ease. Organizational systems enhance productivity, efficiency and time management. Organizational systems are intended to result in satisfaction both personally and professionally.

In a post by Toria Sheffield entitled, Organizational Systems That Will Change Your Life Sheffield highlights various organizational systems necessary to help you organize and maintain everything from papers to jewelry.

As a veteran Personal Professional Organizer I profess that what is truly life changing is two-fold:

1. A commitment and regular practice of decluttering, purging and deleting.

2. Creating “Optimal Habits” for highly desired outcomes.

Decluttering, purging, deleting

This is the absolute mandatory first step in organizing. This bears repeating:

Office and library
Decluttering, purging, and deleting
Decluttering, purging and deleting is the absolute mandatory first step in organizing.

This step applies to everything in physical, digital and mental spaces. What is on your list?

  • Paperwork, documents
  • Emails, your desktop
  • Clothing, shoes, accessories
  • Books, magazines
  • Photographs
  • Sentimental items, collectibles, memorabilia

Decluttering your space requires assessing what is in the space and why you may need to keep it (or not). Let’s take a paper filing cabinet, for instance. Before you consider how the contents are organized and labeled look at every single folder, one at a time, and what it contains. The broad question is, do you need it? If you answer no, recycle or shred the contents.

If the answer is yes, decide if you need it for ACTION or REFERENCE. Action means that you need it in order to do something such as follow up, use it for training, or further research in a relatively short period of time.

If you need the file for reference in the longer term (this does not mean something that you will read when you have time). This may include important documents for legal or financial purposes that do not require immediate action.

The commitment to decluttering, purging and deleting is to schedule doing this (literally put it into your planner for specific days and times) on a regular basis. This may mean daily or weekly for opening mail – physical and email. Weekly or monthly for reading materials such as flyers, articles, magazines. You get the idea!

Set a timer for no less than 15 minutes and no more than 1 hour. Make the task manageable. This is key to preventing mental and physical overwhelm. Using your file cabinet as an example again, Don’t spend hours trying to conquer every drawer. Instead, estimate how long you think it will take to go through 1 drawer. If the timer is set for an hour and you are only half way through that is very useful information. Next time you can reasonably estimate that you will declutter half of a drawer in an hour.

Mindful note: There is no judgment or self criticism in this process.  You are making these decisions in the present and not criticizing yourself for why you kept something in the past.

Organizational systems | Optimal Habits

Once you decide what you are keeping (your inventory) we can begin to think about a system that will enable you to establish your Optimal Habits:

  • Know where every item belongs.
  • Follow through and file it immediately.
  • Know where to access it easily when needed.
  • Remember when it is okay to purge it.

Get started on your own and find inspired ideas on my blog. If you want more information about my professional productivity and organizing services, I am here for you!