Have You Done Your Spring Cleaning Yet?

Cleaning Your OfficeAh, Spring! Thoughts turn to pleasant weather, flowers blooming and the invariable task of spring cleaning. For most of the domestic goddess’s I know, this means dusting off, wiping down, and giving a fresh coat of paint to anything remotely connected to our lives. As a graphic designer, this regiment includes my office.

My office is where I live and breathe and it sometimes shows. Research material for the next article or project is either piled up in the basket or gets stuffed in a drawer with all the other papers I don’t have time to file correctly. Dog eared manila folders plastered with notes from projects I did six months ago adorn one corner of my work table while the dust bunnies under the desk have grown to the size of Godzilla.

On top of that, I can always feel assured of how loved I am by the number of cats I have nestled in my favorite sweater in the corner chair.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar?

I prepare for Spring Cleaning well in advance with the purchase of a few necessities. Here’s a partial list to help you get started:

  • Cardboard Storage Boxes.
  • Manila Folders
  • Labels
  • A Red Magic Marker for labeling.
  • Paper clips or Squeeze Clips.
  • Large Mailing Envelopes (for photos & clipart)
  • Blank CD’s with sleeves
  • Garbage Bags
  • How Long Does It Take?

    Depending on your amount of organizational skills will set the standard for how long your Spring Cleaning takes. I can usually take an afternoon to whip my office into shape. However, I helped a friend of mine clean his office and it took a week! We are both packrats and save every scrap of paper, the difference is mine can usually be found when I need it again. Your needs may fall somewhere in between.

    Break It Down Into Manageable Tasks

    Now that we have our supplies, I follow a pattern when I clean. I break it down into manageable tasks so it’s less overwhelming. I’ve listed them here for you:

    • Start in the corner nearest the door and work your way around the room in a clockwise movement.
    • Start by making stacks of each company or person you have done work for.
    • Separate photos and artwork into envelopes and identify with the company name, date and project.
    • Clear out magazines more than six months old. These can be recycled or taken to retirement homes for the elderly. Many hospitals will also accept donations if you mark out the name on the address label for their waiting rooms.
    • Separate and stack paper stock according to weight and color. If you have an inkjet printer as well as a laser printer, you will want to separate by paper by type as well.
    • Either put all the books back in the bookcase or buy a bookcase to eliminate stacking all over the office.
      Recycle old printer and toner cartridges at Staples or Office Depot. There are also many places like Cartridge World that will recycle them for you. If you use cartridge refills this is a free service from Cartridge World and you even get Free Shipping!
    • Recycle paper, old phone books and other items if possible.
    • Get everything out of the storage closet and sort or throw it away if it isn’t being used.
    • Once you have cleared out the clutter and identified the good stuff, it’s time to break it down and organize it so you can find it when you need it again. Don’t give out on me now! We’re almost done!
    • Take each company/person stack you created earlier and sort into individual projects. Some may only have one while others may have several items.
    • Create clearly tagged labels for each project. Remember to date it for reference later.
    • Create CD backups of the computer files in case of the OMG’s (or back-up on an external drive). Store these with the file for easy retrieval.
    • Each group of folders can now be filed in the storage boxes purchased earlier. My labeling goes by company then date then project. Everyone is different though. Find something you are comfortable with, but allows you to have the information at your fingertips at a moments notice.
    • Only keep out active files. File or box all the others and put it away in the nice clean storage closet.
    • Wipe off countertops, work areas, computer screens and anything else that has an inch of dust and grit on it. Sweep the floors and mop, because you know it will be the last time you see the floor ‘til next year.

    By making a point of organizing and eliminating the clutter we can save time and energy that could be best used somewhere else. You now know where everything is and where to find it. This exercise also serves to jog our memories. Clients you haven’t talked to in three or four months are prime targets for lost business. Can you afford to neglect even one? What if they are Spring Cleaning too?

    Lois Knight

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    About the author: Lois Knight has been a freelance writer and graphic designer for the last two years. She designs predominantly for small start up companies and non profits in need of design services that could not afford them otherwise. She has a background as an entrepreneur for over twenty years and has dedicated herself to educating people interested in graphics as a career. She also write on All Graphic Design.