Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Once a month I will bring you a case study to give you a peek into my world of organization. Names and identifying features have been changed to protect my client’s privacy.
Working from home is not easy. Yes, you can stay in your pajamas all day and make trips to the kitchen whenever you’d like but you also have to get your work done and maintain your sanity!
10 months ago, I worked with a client, Callie who was having trouble with disorganization in her home office. The result was that she wasn’t using her workspace because it made her feel anxious and stressed out and instead she was doing her work on the couch. Our goal was to create a blank canvas for her: a space that functioned as an office only and was home to systems of organization ideally suited to her and her needs. Recently she checked in with me to let me know how it worked, read on to find out what she said ☺.
What’s the issue? Having run her business out of her apartment for the last 15 years, Callie, a Manhattan-based videographer, had a large backlog of stuff to be dealt with; files (both digital and paper), video accessories and miscellaneous office bits and bobs. And while her apartment is a nice size, it’s never an easy task to create space for a home office in a one-bedroom apartment. Finally, clutter from the rest of the apartment had been steadily creeping into Callie’s space for years.
How did we start? The way we always do, with de-cluttering. As we went through the piles, Callie and I discussed what had worked for her over the years and what hadn’t. While she had a number of paper files, she let me know that a file drawer was not an option; for Callie and for many others, it’s out of sight, out of mind. A fix I offered was a desktop file box, which serves the same purpose as a file drawer but can be kept on a shelf or on top of a desk.
Clearing a space is a cathartic experience; we ended up pulling out an old computer and monitor that had been clogging up the desk area and putting it in an annoying location so that it would be taken care of. As a former IT specialist, Callie knew that she only needed a little push to take the information off of the computer and dispose of it afterwards. And in order to make sure it got done, we agreed upon the date she would do it by.
How do you figure out which system will work for you? When it comes to creating systems of organization, there’s a lot of trial and error involved. I read my client’s expressions and ask questions to figure out if I’m on the right track to finding a solution or if I’m way out in left field. Different people need different solutions. An important clue in solving the puzzle with Callie was finding out that she’s a very visual person; she wanted her important items to be visible but she also didn’t want them cluttering up her desk. That being said, there were also items she used rarely which could be put away but she didn’t want to forget where they were. The key to all of this was labeling. It might look silly but if it helps you then it’s worth it! This especially applies to items inside a cabinet. Items that you rarely use should be labeled particularly well because you will forget where they are.
What did we buy? Honestly, nothing. We used what she had and made it work. Our solution was to use a bookshelf next to Callie’s desk as a de facto desktop so that we could leave her actual desk completely clear. The items she reached for most often were placed on the most accessible shelf, while items that are rarely used were placed at the top or in drawers.
The biggest reason that Callie hadn’t been putting her stuff away was because there were no designated spots for anything. Using a desktop storage organizer we assigned a spot for all the little items Callie periodically needs when filming. And we labeled everything so that it is a) easy to find, and b) can be put back when she’s finished. We gave Callie and inbox and split it into 3 sections: 1) deal with it now, 2) deal with it soon, and 3) have on hand when needed.
It took us 6 hours to clear the clutter and rebuild her systems so that moving forward she could maintain things herself. Now for the moment of truth, 10 months later I received this text from Callie: You should see it, it’s still pretty much 100% organized. It gets out of hand once in a while but then everything has a spot so it’s easy to clean up. Success!
Perfection is not the goal; a workable system that has fail-safes built into it is what is going to be most helpful. Does Callie keep everything 100% organized every day? No. But she maintains her systems and when things get out of hand, she knows how to bring it back to organized.
Stay tuned for next month’s case study about a Brooklyn dad who wanted to use his garage as a gym, storage space and man cave all in one!
Try my tips and tricks above and let me know how it goes! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Instagram @toritheorganizer.