Cut The Clutter

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If you are like a lot of professionals, you may have a stack of paper here or a reading pile there. Does it seem like the paper multiplies overnight? Don't worry. You can declutter your office by working with your personal habits.

Julie Morgenstern, a professional organizer, suggests combining business goals with your personal comfort in mind and offers these tips:

1. File It In File 13. Hit the ground running by giving your area a “once over.” Throw everything away that you possibly can. Ask questions like, What is this? Why do I need it? She says an efficient filing system is not about “throwing things away,” it's about knowing the purpose of every piece of paper.

2. File it. As you sort through your papers, you'll probably find that you are putting them into subpiles by category. Julie suggests that you limit yourself to four categories and create folders for each. When you label files, be sure to use names that make sense to you.

3. Go On A Mission. After you've cleared the visible clutter, head for file drawers, go to boxes of files, and combine these papers into the files you have already set up (or throw them away).

4. Take Baby Steps. How long did it take for your office to arrive at its current condition? Don't try to unclutter your space overnight. Make a goal of 3 or 6 files to clear each day. Leave the files for the next day on your desk and do them first thing the next morning.

5. Stay Focused. Be married to your goal to less clutter. Consider the 80/20 rule: We only use about 20% of our paper; the other 80% we believe we may need “someday.” Most often, someday never comes.

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