I’m a packrat.Packrat at work

There. I said it. And it’s true. I hang onto things way too long. Sometimes it’s due to sentimental value (Baby’s first stuffed animal! Photos! Letters from loved ones!), but other times it’s just that I’m busy. I file and forget. I don’t even see the mess after a while.

The last time I blogged about decluttering my home office was in 2010, and it’s possible nothing serious has been done since then. Due to getting our ancient carpeting replaced this month, however, I was forced to remove everything from the floor of every room upstairs, including my office.

Oh, boy. Our house looked like an episode of Hoarders, with boxes and stacks of stuff all over the basement and on the main floor. On the plus side, I easily hit 10,000 steps going from the second floor to the basement.

Now I’m trying to do the right thing – get rid of stuff rather than just put it back. So you can imagine it’s a slow process, when I’m busy with client work and can only do it on weekends or evenings.

Here’s what going through the mess is teaching me to do differently this year in my office:

Paper is the worst and I keep too much of it. Give me credit, though, I have at least stopped printing out notes and keeping them. During this purge, I got rid of backup notes for projects long finished, dormant client files, backup documents from early tax files and more. I filled three green bins, twice. I also filled three bags with shredded bank statements, bills and other stuff I don’t want exposed.

To do:

  • Try “new in, old out.” When I file a new piece of paper (bank statement, for instance), take the oldest one out. Shred or recycle it immediately.
  • Stop stapling paper I’m temporarily keeping so it’s easier to shred as I go.
  • At tax time, move that year’s financial file from the active area on my desk to a cabinet. At the same time, move the oldest file in the cabinet to the storage archive box. Go through that file and remove/recycle/shred.
  • Go through my dormant/past client files and remove/recycle/shred.

Those same cards I nicely organized in my desk drawer last time? Scarcely looked at them again.

To do:

  • When I meet people and get their business cards, look them up on LinkedIn and connect.
  • Recycle the business cards.

I’m still guilty of having too many pens, paper clips and general stuff, but I am at least putting like with like.

To do:

  • Try the same method of “new in, old out.”
  • Be more diligent about throwing away or donating excess items.

It’s a work in progress. Maybe I’ll be done by the time I retire.

Do you have any secrets for staying on top of clutter? Let me hear ’em. Please!