By Janet Attard

Do you feel like you're buried under a mound of paper by the end of the day? If so, join the crowd. According to the Smead Corporation, which manufactures filing systems and records management products , the average office in the US spits out more than 45 paper missives each day - adding up to a whopping 1300 sheets of paper each month. Where does it all go?

If you're eyeing your office with dismay, there's a good chance that where that paper is "going" now is on top of your desk. And maybe on top of your computer monitor. . . and. . . Oh no! The cat just jumped up on your filing cabinet and knocked over a pile of papers onto the floor.

What can you do to put an end to the clutter when paper seems to clone itself when you're not looking? Here are several suggestions:

1) Start with a plan

Sort through and categorize the papers on your desk. Consider which you'll need close at hand, which you need to save only for archival value and what you can read and toss. Give each of those categories of paper a "home." Make a list of your categories (so you remember whether proposal samples get filed under "samples" or under Proposals). Store that list on your computer - and resist the temptation to print it out!

2) Tackle the problem one stack at a time

Don't try to clean up the entire office in one day. The secret to getting your office organized and keeping it organized is to break the process down into steps and tackle one step at a time.

3) Start with the filling cabinet, not the desk.

The rationale for that is simple. If you don't have an orderly system for filing papers - and room in your filing cabinet to put those files - you'll never get your desk cleaned. Toss out old files and review your overall system. Set up your filing system so files you need regularly are near at hand. Consider color-coding to group similar files together and make them easily identifiable. Move files you don't need often to an out-of-the way location.

4) File regularly

Don't let things sit around for days. Get in the habit of putting papers away as soon as you are done with them. Use the last 15 minutes of your workday to tidy up your desk and get it ready for the following morning.

5) Purchase Space-Adding Products, If Necessary

There are a slew of space-adding products that can help you make more room in your office and help you get and stay organized. Among them attractive wooden desk accessories for storing everything from pens to cell phones and computer disks; rolling file holders that fit under your desk and multi-tiered in-baskets. And don't forget the best space-maker of all: the wastebasket. Keep that close at hand and use it frequently.


Janet Attard is the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets . For information contact Janet at [email protected], or visit the web site at www.businessknowhow.com


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