Day of Meeting: January 11, 2010

Topic: Lively Q&A on tips for office organization, from file management to feng shui.

Rebecca Ross is a former architect whose business, The Composed Domain, teaches clients about organizing skills, clutter clearing, and energetic clearing. Her website, blog, classes, and specials are at www.composedomain.com and www.blog.composedomain.com.

Diane Easley (diane@dianeeasley.com, www.facebook.com/HomeGoddess, twitter@homegoddess) is a successful real estate agent and feng shui consultant who addressed the importance of creating spaces that nurture, increase your energy, and support an abundant business.

Rebecca’s Talk

Rebecca was an architect for 20 years before setting up her organization and consulting business in 2000. She talked about the importance of focusing when getting organized: where do you put paperwork and what is your relationship with your environment? The first important task is to overcome being overwhelmed with boxes and paper and things and on being too particular. Sometimes it’s better to handle one small area of your desk or room before tackling overstuffed closets or garages.

Rebecca spoke about the four steps of organizing:

  • Sort: Sort through your paperwork, organizing it in categories that make sense to you. For example, consider how you would organize a file cabinet and then organize paperwork in those categories.
  • Purge: Get rid of everything you can.
  • Contain: Put what you are keeping in clearly marked files or cabinets, some system that makes sense to you.
  • Maintain: Keep up with your system. For example, as mail comes in, immediately sort through it, recycle what you can, and keep only what you need.

To avoid being overwhelmed, Rebecca suggested you define your scope of work for an organizing task. What is it you want/need to do and how much time do you have to do it in? Then sort everything. Be clear about sorting by category, so that you have known quantities of certain things and can see where they are going.

She particularly emphasized filing according to how you think, so that you stay organized (and can find things later). The only way to function with a lot of paper is to organize it in a way that makes sense to you, which will keep you from worrying about it.

She also emphasized that you should have one place, a folder or container, that holds all the paper that requires action, from responding to notes to paying bills or keeping appointments. Setting a time every week to go through that place and update your records (business calendar or expenses folder) will help keep you organized. She suggested the backbone of a filing system should include files on income coming in, money going to investments, money going out for bills, past taxes, and current taxes.

Diane’s Talk

Diane discussed feng shui and keeping organized. A real estate agent for 18 years, she has also been practicing feng shui for 12 years, since she had a feng shui consultation that created a huge change in her life.

She suggested starting to organize by settling on one thing in your office that particularly bugs you and then saying what it is and letting it go. This is claiming and clearing your space to use it to best advantage. Then fix that thing, whether it’s organizing a Rolodex file or cleaning an overflowing basket.

Diane said: “When you go home, your home should rise up to meet you, it should be a space that energetically grows as big as it needs to to work for you.” To put this in practice she suggested that meeting attendees (and those reading these notes) take time in the next three days to go and work on just one thing, anything that bugs you, whether it’s cleaning out a junk drawer or getting rid of clothes that don’t fit. That is, focus on one thing that no longer serves you and move it out.

For home specifics she suggested bringing the mail in and immediately dividing it by categories: recycling, bills, magazines, etc., and keeping that system going. For rooms, she suggested focusing on the main purpose of that room and keeping everything else secondary. For example, she suggested no TVs, no exercise equipment, and no office equipment/materials in the bedroom.

A question was raised on shared spaces, and the suggestion was to partition off areas in the room if that was necessary (a screen around a desk).

Other specific suggestions from both speakers included:

  • For people with home offices: when you go to work, go to work dressed and ready, so you can get right down to business.
  • The “sacredness of paper”: understand the relationship between you and paper, which will help you categorize paperwork and file it so you can quickly access it.
  • Clear out paperwork to find what matters and needs to be kept, then tease out the categories (perhaps no more than 12 categories) that it fits into. This is how to create a filing system.
  • Get out everything that doesn’t belong there.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed (get coffee instead).
  • Take an hour before you start your work day to sort and organize.

Seattleites interested in shredding large quantities of material should check out datasite: 9401 Aurora Ave N, 206­529­1234. They shred daily at night. (Their Bellevue office is at 12000 NE 8th St.; 425­455­ 1198.) They shred weekly. They are recommended by large commercial shredders for small business and personal use. Minimum charge is $30 for a yard­-waste size bin, which can hold approximately ten 13­-gallon bags of material to shred.

Both women are available for individual consultations. Please consult their websites for more information.

Meeting organizer, facilitator, and notetaker: Robyn M. Fritz

Location: Hugo House