Mail Station Bliss

I have a love/hate relationship with mail. When it’s under control and I’m neatly stacking opened items into my pay-file-recycle-shred piles, I feel in control and ridiculously accomplished. When it piles up though, I hate mail. I mean loathe mail. And I slink past the growing pile slowly and glare at it like a cat looks at you when it’s in a bad mood. (You know that look).

My sister told me I should do a post on organizing mail the other day after I told her how I got so behind somehow. I had been going through the pile with my two kids in the room and they were literally rolling and burrowing in the pile of creased and sharp edged paper. Totally safe for little kids, right?

So I thought I would share a few tips and also the comfort that even people who pride themselves as ‘organized’ get way behind sometimes when it comes to daily tasks. So first, I present to you my extremely boring mail organizing system:

IMG_6904

This is the top drawer that holds basic office supplies. The basket in the bottom right corner of the photo holds my ‘mail related’ items, such as stamps and a return address label stamp.

IMG_6914This is the right hand side of my desk. You can see a small mail organizer, which has 2 compartments. In the back compartment, I keep mail I still have to deal with, whether it’s a bill to pay, a phone call to be made, or an invitation to one of the many black tie galas I’m invited to (no…not really, mostly just bills).  The middle compartment holds blank envelopes. The front compartment holds several misc items, such as a letter opener and apparently (according to this photo) my cell phone. Weird.

I also have my shredder sitting right next to my desk. I explain my love for my shredder in this post.  And the shredder is sitting on top of my file cabinet. So here is my usual process for going through mail.

-I open everything and separate them into 4 piles: File, Shred, Recycle, and Take Action

-I throw the recyclable item’ s in the recycle bin (conveniently located next to the file cabinet).

-I shred the ‘shred’ items. Or sometimes, if I’m really short on time, I’ll put them in the aptly named ‘To Shred’ folder in the file cabinet. I try not to do this too often though, because then it tends to build up.

-Then I file everything in the ‘file’ pile.

-Then I try to go through all of the action items and pay bills, make calls, etc. If there are things that have to wait, they go into the back compartment of the mail organizer.

Now this is not a perfect system and sometimes I get waaaaay behind. But it’s the best system for me and that’s what it’s all about.

However, here are a few other ideas I’ve found in blog land to inspire you to organize your mail stations.

How cute is this DIY mail station? She took a cardboard box, cut it in half and then covered with an adorable pattern. If you are short on space, using wall storage is always a great idea.

I love this mini workstation. It has everything you could need without being cluttered. The little pops of color would inspire me to keep my desk clear so I could see it!

Mail Center 4

This mail system is very similar to mine….except it’s a lot prettier to look at. Maybe someday…..

How do you efficiently go through your mail? Or is it in giant stacks all over the counter? Because we do both at our house 😉

~Erin

 

The Office Reveal

Well the office reorganization is finished….for now! I made a lot of changes and I can’t believe how much more calm of an environment it is to work in. Here’s the breakdown:

Remember this?

Ok, so I couldn’t see the top of my desk and my shelves were completely non-functional. I had some decent ideas going on with the shelves, but none of them were working right. My drawers and cabinets were a mess and I hardly used the space at all. Time for some changes!!!

First I took every single thing off the desk, shelves, out of drawers, etc. As I looked around, I realized how much unnecessary stuff there was. I had a huge box of stuff that didn’t belong in the office at all. And then another box of stuff that just needed to GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! I realized I could have literally opened my own office supply store (how many pens does one girl need?) so I got rid of a lot of stuff I didn’t have a real use for. Clutter be gone!

After I got rid of all unnecessary items, I reevaluated what I needed access to most. In this case, it was folders for work, my stapler, my shredder and better access to files. Those were my priorities. Let’s take a tour of the new digs!

Top Drawer – Before & After

Most of the stuff in my top drawer I didn’t use regularly (wait, are you saying I don’t need constant access to 6 rolls of packing tape???). So I designated this area as a place for my most frequented supplies. One basket is just for ‘mail’ and includes my address stamp and labels, letter opener and stamps. Then there are a couple of the other usual suspects. Notice the stapler is no longer there. It is on top of the desk now because I use it all the time.

Bottom Drawer – Before & After

Wow, this bottom drawer was a disaster. I didn’t use a single thing in this drawer on a regular basis. Correction…I didn’t use a single thing in this drawer…ever. Useless stuff out, file folders in! I took all of the stuff which was previously housed in harder to access storage and put them hanging files. So much easier to reach and sooo much prettier to look at!

Desk Cabinet – Before & After

Ok, so this cabinet technically didn’t change a lot. But let’s keep in mind that some of these boxes were previously stacked elsewhere in the office. Now all of my envelopes and blank folders are in one place. Should have done THAT a long time ago.

Desk – Before & After

I really have nothing verbal to add here. The picture says it all. Clearly I needed to just get that stuff off the desk and put it where it belongs. 🙂 Note the addition of the file cabinet which also gave me a great place to set my shredder. Yeah!

Shelf – Before & After

Ok, here’s the big change, so take note. At first glance the actual shelf organization doesn’t look much different between the before and after. It really looks like I just got stuff off the floor. However, what you might not know is the function of the space. In the before picture, I had stuff for my regular day job and then… a lot of other useless fluff. In the after picture, I not only have all of my day job stuff, but I have 4 drawers for extra office supplies, I have folders for the new Neaten Your Nest Organizing business, I have a file cabinet for all of my personal files and I have all of my scrapbooking supplies! I cannot believe how much I was able to fit into this shelf! It is amazing to me how using space efficiently can change your life. Not only was I able to use this space so much more effectively, but I was able to clean up several other areas of my house. Before, I stored my craft supplies in my room. I stored my personal files in my closet. I stored misc papers on my kitchen table. I stored extra office supplies on my kitchen counter. So the before picture at the beginning of this post isn’t completely accurate. Here is what the ‘real’ before picture should look like:

And here is the official ‘after’ picture:

I love, love, love it! It’s easy to use, easy to clean up, and let’s admit it, a lot easier on the eyes than the ‘before’ picture. Now I have a clean office, a clean kitchen counter, a place to hang my clothes in my closet, a place to access my craft supplies easily and a place to be efficient. I could not have asked for more in this reorganization. I would say that it took me about 7 total hours, which includes cleaning, purging, filing, shredding and reorganizing. I probably spent an additional 1 1/2 hours just staring at the space to figure out what I needed to do.

Lessons Learned:

-Don’t put off an organization task because it seems daunting. Large tasks can be broken down into a series of smaller tasks and be made much more manageable. Also, progress encourages you to continue so just get started!

-Create easy access to the things you use the most. This will save you time and sanity!

-Consolidate! There’s no need to have office supplies in 4 different rooms. There’s no need to open mail in one place and sort it in another. There’s no need to make a pile on the stairs, to be put in the room on a box, to be filed later. If you can consolidate like items, you are MUCH more likely to keep them organized and clean.

-Take time to look at a space. Even if you feel like you’re not being productive because you are just sitting there, you will actually save a lot of time because all options are carefully considered before you dive in. This was absolutely invaluable in this project!

So I’m going to take some time to live with all of the changes and see what works and what doesn’t. I also plan on revisiting this room to ‘gussy it up’ a bit. I’m going to eventually get some fun wall decor and make it just prettier to look at. But for now, I’m going to be uber excited about how much an improvement I have made. I actually love working in the office now!

~Erin

Introducing ‘Things I Love Thursdays’

There are so many things that I love: people, food, gadgets, places, the list goes on and on. However, when it comes to Neatening the Nest, there are some that make a bigger impact than others. To start off the Things I Love series, I present to you:

Ode to My Shredder:

Oh shredder, gadget of plastic and razor sharp teeth!

How you simplify my life, how you clean off my desk!

Ok, I can’t continue with the Shakespearean feel for more than 2 lines with a straight face. But I do love my shredder. It is one investment that has made itself worthwhile again and again. Now it doesn’t actually save me money in the strictest sense, but it saves my peace of mind. And it could save me money if it helps to prevent people from stealing my identity.

Now data varies on how many identity thefts actually occur per year, but it’s no secret that there are a lot and the number is growing. While you can’t prevent every piece of personal information from falling into the wrong hands, it’s important to do what you can. That means keeping certain info out of your trash can, such as social security numbers, credit card #s and passwords. The way I do that is through shredding them.

Several shredder tips:

1) My number 1 tip is to get a cross cut shredder. This mean that the paper is not just cut into vertical strips, but it is also cut horizontally. That makes papers exponentially harder to put back together.

2) Get a decent shredder. It doesn’t have to be top of the line, but if you plan on using it, you should get one that will work hard for you. My shredder will do 6 pages at a time and I have had it for about 7 years. It’s still going strong!

3) Shred the obvious stuff (like items with your social and credit card #s). However, consider some of the other items that might not be so obvious. I shred every credit card offer I get. Though the only information they have on them is my name, the thought of someone using one of these applications to open an account in my name is enough to freak me out. I also shred old utility bills and anything else that has identifying information. I probably go overboard, but I don’t care. I have a shredder and I’m using it!

4) Keep it where you will use it. If you keep your shredder in the bottom of the closet, chances are you won’t be shredding as often as you should. If you have kept up with my posts this week, you will notice that I just moved my shredder from the office floor to the top of a file cabinet. I now can shred things the instant I realize they aren’t needed and they are out of my life and mind forever! Yeah!

Trust me, this is a worthwhile investment that can actually save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Happy Shredding!

~Erin

Let’s get personal

I have always kept my personal files in my bedroom. There are several reasons:

-I felt it was a safe place to keep them away from tiny kiddos.

-I have never had a home office that was  structured to handle both work and personal files

-I didn’t want to put anything else in the office. I think this was because my office wasn’t a pleasant place to be before I started this organization. Who wants to try to work and sort in a cluttered, frustrating environment?

Now, technically none of this made any sense.

-My kids are in my closet a lot more than they are in my office.

-And my home office is definitely big enough to accommodate both work and personal things.

-It doesn’t make sense to have all files in different places. They should all be where the envelopes, pens, stamps, etc.are.

-If I had organized my office a long time ago, it would have been a great place to work and be from the beginning!

-When I kept my personal files in my closet, I would go through the mail in the kitchen, then I would put ‘stuff to file’ on the stairs for when I went to my room. Then I would put other papers in the ‘to shred’ box for when I finally got around to that. Then I would have a ‘to do’ file on my kitchen counter. Way too many steps, right? So incredibly inefficient and very time-consuming.

So as the ‘Great Office Organization’ continues, I have consolidated everything into the office!

Here is a picture of my file box in my bedroom before:

These are not clothes…So why are they in my closet???

Notice the pile of papers on top that I had yet to file. Oh, and the box on top of the papers, which I thought I might use as a ‘to file’ box. Not anymore friends! Time to downsize!

I have moved the files upstairs and put them into a file cabinet. This file cabinet has been my only purchase in the office reorganization and cost less than $40. The bottom half of the cabinet is personal files and the top half will be for my Neaten Your Nest organization business. I already had a file cabinet for my regular work files. Is this all confusing enough for everyone!

So here’s the wrap up.

-I was able to get my files OUT of my closet. I feel the calm coming back to my room already.

-Not only are my personal files upstairs, but all of my office supplies are too. This makes it so easy to go through mail there. I open everything and put it in piles: Recycle, shred, file, pay or take other action. Since I also put my shredder on top of the file cabinet, I can do every single one of those things within minutes. No more boxes, no more piles on the stairs, no more waiting. So, so easy breezy!

Lessons learned:

-When organizing, efficiency is key. Removing steps from a process can save time, money and sanity.

-Sometimes you have to be selective when making purchases for organizing. But it’s important to consider what will make the most impact. Buying one file cabinet helped me consolidate files, save time, it makes going through mail easier, elevates the shredder, and looks nice.

-Organizing something that needs it soooo much can bring a lot of calm to your life. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this change has already made in my life.

Sunday Survey time!

~Erin

My New Juggling Act

The office reorganization continues…..

As I was going through all of the items in my office, I came across a lot of things that didn’t belong there….empty picture frames, a broken camera, a record (really, a record). All of these things need to leave my office immediately. As I was compiling my box of things that need a new home, I came across a set of 3 juggling balls. Why, might you ask, do I have juggling balls? Well, I used to have them at my desk when I did corporate sales for Borders Books (sadly this company didn’t make it through the economic downturn!). I used to juggle a little every day just for something different to focus on for a few minutes.

I almost put them in the ‘go away’ box and then realized how much they had helped me in that job. It gave me a break, I learned a new skill, it was entertaining to other people in the office and it was fun. I was going to put them in a drawer and then realized they’ve been in the drawer for 1 1/2 years and I never used them.  From this realization grew an increasing number of baby realizations. Here are a few:

-If I am going to use these, they need to be front and center. But what other fantastic, helpful or fun items am I missing out on because they aren’t out where I can easily see and access them. I realized I needed several other items to be easily reached so that I would use them. One of these is my shredder. It has been sitting on the floor so instead of shredding everything immediately, I put papers in a box to shred later. What a waste of time and space! I am moving the shredder upward and getting rid of the ‘To Shred’ box!

-I also realized that juggling was a metaphor for the way I think and work. It is really a simple concept and so streamlined and efficient. You have to be aware of numerous things that are going on, but you have to hyper focus on the next ball you are going to catch. I noticed that this is how I need to work. I need to be aware of the many things I need to do, but I need to focus on the task at hand. I’m a multi tasker by nature, but it often defeats me and I end up overwhelmed. I now know that my main office organization goal is to have a clean desktop so that I can think clearly and focus on one thing at a time.

Several lessons learned today:

1) When you are organizing, focus on how the space will work best for you and what you need. Organization is not a cookie cutter business and one solution will not work for everyone.

2) Inspiration can be found in unlikely places or objects 🙂

3) Do not underestimate the power of having something fun or beautiful or whimsical if it makes you more productive.

Now I just have to learn to juggle with these, which I bought a set of about 6 years ago.

No seriously, I actually bought some.

More office updates to come!

~Erin

My junk drawer

Well, if I’m going to be a professional organizer, I better get organized! I have tons of systems in place to keep me organized, but some areas of my home are horrendous! Case in point…my home office. Our office is a place that is not used nearly as often as it should be. Even though we work from home, we have two young kids, so often we just bring our laptop downstairs to work. This created multiple problems:

-When we are working downstairs, we are much less productive.

-We bring papers, files, calculators, staplers, etc downstairs and they end up on our kitchen counter for WAY TOO LONG!

-When we put stuff back in the office, it often doesn’t go into an organized place.

Add to all of this that I recently decided to clean out our pantry and since I didn’t want to invest a lot in containers, I “borrowed” some organizers from my office just to see how they would work. They worked out great in the pantry, but I just threw all of their original contents on my desk. My office looked like this:

Yikes!

I’m super embarrassed to even post this picture (you cannot even see one inch of the desktop!), but I am looking at it as an opportunity.

-First, if I show the world what it looks like in it’s worst state, it makes me want to improve it.

-Second, if nothing else, it proves that even though I like to organize, there are places in my life that need a lot of help and attention.

-Third, it will allow me to get a sense of how long it will take to reorganize a home office. As an organizer, I will need to make time estimates for projects. What better place to start than my own house?

So first I looked at everything in the office and made some notes on what I liked, what I didn’t, what I needed, and how I wanted this space to function. Right now the office looks like this:

I can see the desk!

It’s far from finished, but I’m getting a better sense of what I need from this space. And what I need is NOT for it to be the world’s biggest junk drawer! I will post more progress tomorrow!

~Erin