Spotlight on… Steve’s Office

by Tina ~ January 10th, 2012.

Leaning Tower of FilesSteve is a single young professional with a demanding career. He contacted me because, in his own words: “I am not a total disaster. I have moments where I catch up, but then just fall apart and procrastinate.  I want to save money, be organized, and have peace of mind.” Steve lives in a one-bedroom, open, loft-style condo with a small corner area for his office. We started with his office as it was causing him the most anxiety.

Steve’s papers were in disarray, so the first thing we did was gather everything into file boxes. The easiest way to cut down an unruly pile of paper is to open up any unopened mail that you have. Discard the envelopes and any content you don’t need, and you’re left with a neat, flat stack of paper. Next, get rid of excess financial files. You only need to keep 7 years of financial records, so we dumped anything that was older than that. With these two simple steps, Steve’s paper volume was immediately reduced by 40%.

I always tell people that organizing your office is like playing cards: you pick up each piece of paper you come across, and “deal it out”. As you do this, categories emerge: taxes, banking, utility bills, manuals, resources, references, etc. I set these categories up for Steve in file drawers. He now has a “hot” file box on top of his desk for things coming in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Finally, older stuff he would rarely need to access was archived on the top shelf of his closet.

The relief Steve felt at getting his office under control was enormous, and there were instant financial benefits: we found cheques he had lost that he was then able to deposit. We also found many important documents that helped bring his CV up to date, which directly affects his career and income. Steve’s expenses are now organized, and he has a system to track his cash flow and stay on top of bills.


  • Being organized is mainly about retrieval. Your space should reflect your daily, weekly, and monthly activities. You want to be able to reach, from a sitting position at your desk, the things you use daily and weekly. These can be in a drawer beside you, sitting in a hanging file box on your desktop, or on floating shelves within easy reach.  Everything else should be stored out of the way.
  • Sometimes what you have works, so work with what you have. Steve had an Expedit shelf from IKEA in his office that wasn’t serving his space perfectly, but had potential. By using the door and drawer inserts available from IKEA, his messy pile of electronics and software was given a streamlined look. His stuff is now contained, but still accessible.
  • When organizing an office, pick up each piece of paper and ask yourself: “Why am I keeping this?” If the answer isn’t [a] “I need to take action with it”, [b] “I refer to it often”, or [c] “It’s required for legal or tax reasons”, it’s time to toss it out

Photo by PeskyMonkey/Vetta Collection/Getty Images.

Categories: office organization.
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3 Responses to Spotlight on… Steve’s Office

  1. Private Postal Address UK

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading The B Spot Blog Archive “Spotlight on Steve’s Office”. I posted it on my Facebook to hopefully give you more readers.I will certainly come back to read future posts. Private Postal Address UK

  2. Tina

    I’m glad to hear you’re finding the posts helpful.

  3. Janet Barclay

    One of the things that always used to shock me when helping someone to organize their office is how much unopened mail is sitting around, as well as mail that’s been opened and stuffed back in the envelope. Starting with that is an excellent strategy!

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