It always seems so sensible to purchase the multi-pack of tape, I mean, it gets used all the time, right? Or, does it? I went looking for a roll of tape to wrap presents and ended up finding five rolls – two in use and three brand new rolls that I probably bought last year when I went to wrap gifts.
All I really need is one roll. I can get a new roll when I notice the one in use is more than half done. How often do you use transparent tape and how much do you need to keep on hand?
Having pulled out an old roll of masking tape only to discover that it was impossible to pull off a piece that didn’t tear at an odd angle or that didn’t pull off several layers of tape with the strip, I learned that masking tape’s stickiness doesn’t last for long.
If you keep a roll or two of masking tape, give it a pull and a tear to check that it’s still in usable condition.
If this task doesn’t apply to you – Check through your office supplies to make certain they haven’t multiplied when you weren’t looking.
Do you still have an old address book – with pages so filled with some people’s multiple moves that you struggled to decipher their current address? Consider typing up the current addresses in a more legible format.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Sort through papers you’ve saved and see if they still contain useful-to-you information.
I love how organized three-ring binders (and sheet protectors, let’s not forget about sheet protectors) make me feel. At one point, I had FIVE two-inch thick binders filled with crochet patterns (fit into individual sheet protectors). Do I really have to mention how few of these patterns I’d used? (Very, very, um, very few.)
If the three-ring binders help organize information that you use, awesome! If you haven’t looked at the information stored in these binders since you snapped shut the rings, consider if you can let this stuff go (or scan it into your computer if you are concerned that you need it for reference).
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Organize the contents of one digital or physical file folder. Eliminate what you don’t need and keep what you do.
A common freebie from charities is address labels, but how much print mail do you send nowadays? When you receive address labels, do you slip them into your desk thinking that they are a useful item you should hold onto?
Toss them. How many mailing lists misspell your name? How many labels have images that you don’t care for? Even if you do use address labels, chances are you don’t need many. At one point, I realized that I’d rather write my return address on the occasional piece of outgoing mail than store a stash of labels.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Sit with a cup of coffee or tea and just focus on enjoying your beverage. For five minutes, don’t look at the television, a book or magazine, or your smartphone. Look out the window and watch the clouds or bird or leaves blowing in the breeze.
Unless you have multiple office spaces within your home, chances are a single stapler will serve your home. If you have a few staplers because you can never find one when you need it, decide where your stapler will live.
Then, when you need to staple something, go to the stapler and use it where you store it (although, if you are doing paperwork in your home office, your stapler will be handy – and, by home office, I also mean the desk in the corner of a room or the bin that serves as your mobile office).
If other members of the family are always taking your stapler (and not returning it), perhaps they need their own stapler. Or, the house stapler needs to be labeled with a friendly reminder to ‘return to the desk.’
As for boxes of staples, one box can last a long, long time. Unless you use a lot of staples, you don’t need back stock of staples in your home.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Delete five bookmarked pages on your smartphone or computer.
If you store papers in file folders, you want that folder to hold its contents. If the folder is torn or if the paper is warped because you accidentally spilled water over the folder, consider if it is time for an upgrade.
Look for folders that only hold a sheet or two of paper – is it necessary to divide a topic to that narrow a subset?
Are there file folders holding papers that you never reference? Unless these papers are tax documents or for personal identification, do you need these papers?
Open your file cabinet and look at the hanging file folders. Do you use the hanging file folders as your folder to store papers? Does this work for you? (Usually, the hanging file folder holds the loose file folders that can be removed without disturbing the hanging folder … this can make it easier to return folders to the proper place.)
Are your hanging file folders labeled? (Don’t worry about the file folders, you’ll look at them tomorrow.) Do they cover a topic that can be broken down into smaller topics? (For example, Insurance can be broken down into Health, Car, House. Utilities can be broken down into Gas, Electric, Cable, etc.) Big topics for the hanging file folders with the loose folders being devoted to the subtopics.
If you don’t have hanging file folders, just a drawer full of file folders, no problem if this works for you.
Recently, when I decided to start working as a professional organizer, I ordered a batch of business cards to hand out to everyone I know, with the hope they’d pass the card along to someone in need of decluttering services.
I did feel a pang of guilt … am I adding to people’s clutter with these cards? In most cases, if I’m looking up the website or telephone number for a business, I’ll go to a search engine before I think to look for a business card I may have held onto. However, since I’m starting out, I figured that asking friends to share the cards with their friends and family was the best way to get my name out there.
What do you do with the business cards you receive? Do you refer back to them (what was the name of the chimney sweep you used three or four years ago?)?
If you use business cards as a reference, then keep them together. Weed out the ones that aren’t important. If it is a souvenir, keep it in your memory box instead of with companies you do business with. Tuck the business cards in a small box so they don’t slide around a drawer. And, each time you go looking for a business card, weed out the ones you no longer need.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Intentionally skip or turn down an activity you want to avoid.
My mother-in-law gets lots of donation requests from different charities, and often the envelopes contain address labels or pads of paper. The address labels are useless (since she passed away two years ago … we had her mail forwarded to our house … and, yes, I’ve put her name on ‘do not mail’ lists and I’ve even listed her as deceased with the post office, but we still get this mail.
I keep the pads of paper, I mean, they are useful, right? After writing the previous sentence, I had the feeling that we had a lot of those pads of paper, so I went and counted them. Sixteen.
Stationery also includes notebooks, journals, legal pads, memo books, and actual letter-writing stationery. Do you use these items?
Organize them from fewest blank sheets of paper to most and use up the nearly empty ones first. If you won’t use them (or you have stacks), see if your child’s teacher would want them or bring them to work, or give them to a child who loves drawing or writing. Would it really matter if a two-year-old scribbled over the pages? No, the pages will get used.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.