(guest post)

In 2010, I made a transition to Dallas, Texas. I needed a source of income so I applied for a position as a sales representative for an office supplies distributor. One week later, I received a call to come in for an interview and I was hired on the spot.
The office was small and I didn’t realize how cluttered it was until I actually sat down at my “new” desk. Even though this was a small, privately owned company, they had several clients. Well, within an hour of being there — I was ready to pull my hair out. Clients were calling and I had the worst time trying to find their files so I could get myself up to date with everything. I would have to say that at least 7 out of the 20 files I needed that day, were actually where they were supposed to be.
After a month of working in complete disarray and not being able to concentrate, I finally told the manager/owner that I thought business would be more productive if the employees acknowledged a filing system and would organize their work area. He wasn’t very perceptive at first but I offered to come in and organize everything myself, for FREE. Once I mentioned that I would do it on my own time, he was obliged.
I spent the next two weekends coming in at 7 AM and leaving at 7 PM. Not only did I organize every last file but I decided to give the office a deep cleansing that last weekend of freedom sacrifice. I dusted, scrubbed, wiped windows and walls…it was spotless! I was sore but I took one last look before I left that Sunday night and said to myself, “Now, this is somewhere I can actually work and can make progress!”
Monday came and the owner was ecstatic about how clean the office was and how quickly he could access client files. He also made it mandatory that the other employees keep their work area clean at all times. It was funny to see how OCD-ish he really was. Even the smallest piece paper out of place would make him freak out.
After a year of staying organized and keeping the office clutter free, sales were up 53%. The day I resigned, the manager told me how grateful he was and never realized how much the clutter was effecting his business. To this day, he continues to keep the employees and himself organized. His business has grown and he expanded to 2 other states. Do I take credit? Maybe just a little.

What Causes Clutter?
There are a number of things that can be causing clutter in your home or office. Here are a few sources of the “clutter problem”:
Compulsive shopping. People often buy things they won’t ever use and don’t need. These items will keep piling up and eventually will take over.
Emotional Avoidance. Don’t be afraid to let go of some of the “memories”. If holding onto the past means more stress and less productivity, then it’s not worth it.
Lack of Time. This is one of the biggest excuses for clutter. All it takes is at least 15-20 minutes a day to straighten up to prevent hours of cleaning and organizing.
Laziness. “I just don’t feel like doing anything right now.” This should never be a part of an entrepreneur’s attitude. There is no success in being lazy.
Clutter is sneaky. You can clear the clutter but keeping it away can often be an issue. If you do not make it a daily habit to tidy things up, clutter will creep back without you realizing it.

How Can I Clear the Clutter and Keep it Away?
1. Limit your spending habits and only buy what you REALLY need.
2. Once you a finished using an item such as a book, laptop, file, et cetera, put it back as you found it.
3. Let go of unnecessary items that are just taking up space.
4. Designate a specific place for everything. (Implement using file cabinets, shelves, bins, racks…you get the idea!)
5. Recycle what you can.
6. Shred papers that are no longer needed.
8. Donate your unwanted items.
9. Clutter isn’t just physical. This can include your email, files and photos online. For your email, you can filter out messages and do regular sweeps. Online documents and photos should be neatly organized into their own categories so they’re easy to find.
10. If none of these options work for you, consider seeking help from a life coach or professional organizer.

Tools to Keep You Organized
There are several programs, apps, and items that can be put to use to keep you organized.
Dropbox. It’s free and a great way to store files online. You can also share files through Dropbox. (http://www.dropbox.com)

Evernote. This is a great productivity tool where you can make note of pretty much anything. Evernote can also be used to implement the strategy of going paperless because it’s also great as a potential OCR program. Easy to thoughts and ideas, recording meetings or interviews, creating lists and so much more. This is also FREE. (http://www.evernote.com)

LastPass. Everyone knows it isn’t safe to use the same password or to use common words but why would it be any safer to write them down? It’s not! This stores all of your passwords/logins in one “vault”. (http://www.lastpass.com)

Hootsuite. Yes, it’s a time management tool for social media but it can be used to keep your social media organized. Instead of searching network to network for your analytics for the day, it’s all in one place for easier viewing. It’s free but for a better experience, it is advised to upgrade to a paid subscription. (http://www.hootsuite.com)

Moleskine Evernote Business Notebook with Smart Stickers. No, it’s not free (retail price: $32.95) but this is a pretty awesome innovation and it comes with a 3 month subscription to Evernote Premium. The unique page layout allows the Evernote page camera to save handwritten content for private or public use. No more handwritten notes to rummage through! (http://www.moleskine.com)

If decided not to go paperless in your office, consider finding a filing system that works best for you. There are several DIY organizational tools that can be found on Pinterest. Clear the clutter, keep it away, and see how much more work you can get done at a higher efficiency.

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