Office Mission #4: Office Wild Card

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 6:44 pm on Monday, January 26, 2009

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We’ve attacked the papers and we’ve addressed the desk. Now take a look around your office area and see what remains. Make a list of office projects you need to complete and then see this week how many you can get done. Here are some suggestions:

1. Declutter your bookcases.

2. Clear out old files on your computer.

3. Sort your coupons. For help organizing your grocery coupons, visit Coupon Mom. Coupon Mom has a search engine which lets you check whether there are coupons currently out for specific products-without searching through your piles of coupons. You can create a coupon binder and place each week’s coupons in a separate pocket. With Coupon Mom you won’t even need to clip!

4. Get caught up on your filing!

5. Assess the area for items that don’t belong in your office. Give them a better home.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.

Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Weekly Weigh-In: Desk Decluttering

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 11:27 am on Monday, January 26, 2009

I’m not quite sure exactly where this past week went.   If thinking about decluttering your desk counts, I was successful in this week’s mission.  I thought about it a few times, and kept planning to get to it after the breakfast dishes were done, or after the laundry was finished, but it always seemed like there were new dishes and new laundry to get to. So before “weighing in”, I tried to practice what I preach and I set my buzzer for 15 minutes to see what I could accomplish.  In 15 minutes I was able to get through the 2 main drawers of my desk.  I corraled some “like items”, I pitched some garbage, and I rejoiced when I found some stamps.  Now I can cross the trip to the Post Office off of tomorrow’s to-do list!   Not bad for 15 minutes!   I hope to continue with the rest of the drawers this week!

How did you do?  If you struggled this week like me, set a timer and get to work for just 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish!

Office Mission #3: Desk Decluttering

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 12:09 pm on Sunday, January 18, 2009

messy desk.jpg

(If you’re new to the Monthly missions, click here. Want to receive my weekly projects by email? Sign up for my free newsletter.)

Now that you’ve gotten through your papers, it’s time to address the rest of your desk. (If you don’t have a desk, sort through the areas of your home where you store your stationary and office supplies).

1. Go through one drawer at a time, putting like objects together, throwing away trash, and donating unnecessary duplicates.

2. Create themes for each drawer, such as “stationary”, “office supplies”, “computer supplies”, “pens/pencils”. Be sure to put your most frequently used items in the drawers that are the most accessible.
3. If you pay your bills at your desk, place your necessary bill paying supplies (envelopes, check book, stamps) in an area of a drawer. If you pay bills on-the-go, put your supplies in a portable container.

4. Use drawer organizers. (Click here to shop for some) to organize smaller items. Or use containers your already have. Ice cube trays are great for storing rubber bands, paper clips, thumb tacks, and other small items. Be creative! Use gripping shelf liner to prevent your items from sliding around.
5. Clear off the surface of your desk. Can some of the items be stored in your drawers? Do you have too many knick knacks on your desk? Maximize your work space by minimizing these items.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.

Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Weekly Weigh-In: Paper Monster Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 11:15 am on Sunday, January 18, 2009

Since I already had my general reference files and financial files created, this week I tackled my paper monster by doing a quick purge of my files and getting my shredding done. Fortunately, the paper purge only took about 40 minutes (including distractions).   It was pretty painless.  Since most bills only need to be kept for a year, I file my bills by the month.  This means, that when I pay bills this month, I will grab my January file, shred last years bills, and place the new ones in the folder.   It’s a great way to keep your paper monster tamed and easily maintain your filing system.    And it definitely simplified this week’s task.

So what do you do now with all your purged personal papers?   Most home office shredders can’t handle backlogs of paper (Trust me, I’ve tried).  A great alternative is to find a residential shredding service in your area and get the job done instantly.   I took a “field trip” to a local shredder this week.  Tri-State Shredders (2209 N. 7th St. Harrisburg, PA) offers FREE residential shredding (up to 5 boxes) on Fridays from 9-11.  With a box of my own papers, 3 boxes from my clients, and my infant in tow on a blistery day, I was hesistant as I parked the car.  But the staff was very helpful.  The attendent came to my car with a dolly and loaded my boxes for me.   I watched (along with the video camera survalliance) as the boxes were distroyed in seconds.   It was an incredible service that I highly recommend.

Did anybody else make any paper progress this week?

Office Mission #2: Conquering the Paper Monster: Part 2

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 10:23 am on Sunday, January 11, 2009


In Part 1 of Conquering the Paper Monster, we got control of our ACTIVE files. In this section, we will find a home for our REFERENCE files.

If you already have a filing system that works for you, spend some time getting your filing up to date.

If you are not sure if your filing system is working, set a timer for 5 minutes. Now try to find the following items before your buzzer goes off.

  1. Your birth certificate
  2. A copy of your last tax return
  3. Your favorite take out menu
  4. Your auto insurance policy
  5. The instruction manual to your vacuum.

How did you do? If you could find all 5 items, you’re in good shape. However, if hunting down these papers was more like a scavenger hunt, it’s time to create a filing system.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Reassess your reference papers. If you can find the information easily on-line, you probably don’t need to keep it. And you don’t need to keep EVERYTHING for 7 years. Here’s a chart to help you decide what to keep.
2. Review Monthly Missions Week 1 Orientation, step 3 “Create a Filing System” and get to work!

3. You can make the filing process easier by purchasing the Set Me Free Filing System.

4. If you’re overwhelmed, commit to 15 minutes a day until you get control of your backlog of papers. Or hire Set Me Free! to give you the hands-on help that you need!

If you are motivated by this project or have a great organizing idea that works for you, please leave a comment to inspire others!

Weekly Weigh In: Paper Monster Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 6:18 pm on Saturday, January 10, 2009


I don’t know about you, but I waited until the last day of the week to get to this week’s mission.  The good news is that I was finished in less than 30 minutes.  And that’s good news for you too!  Once you take the time to get organized, it takes a fraction of the time to STAY organized.

I had already had  my Set Me Free! piling system for Active paperwork in place.  So all I needed to do was work on some of the items in my “TO DO” bin, sort a small pile of papers that had piled up over the holidays, and then file my “TO FILE” bin.    This week’s mission was really an example to me the difference between organizing clutter and the maintenance of organization.  My papers already had “home”, I just needed to get a few of them there! And in the process I did a little “dance for joy” when I found a few gift cards I had received over the holidays and and forgotten about!
If you’re still taming your own paper monster, be encouraged that once the project is done, it will be easy to maintain if you continue to follow these mission!  You can do it!

Join the Set Me Free! Clutter Challenge on Facebook

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 2:14 pm on Thursday, January 8, 2009

“Set Me Free! Clutter Challenge” has just become a group on    Now it’s easier than ever to exchange organizing tips from friends and meet new people with the same organizing challenges.

Like the Monthly Missions weekly email that you can register for on this website, the Set Me Free!  Clutter Challenge group announces the weekly clutter challenge.   In addition, the Facebook features allow you to discuss your progress, tips, and challenges through the discussion boards.

A current discussion is what to do with your Christmas photo cards now that Christmas is over.  Join the group and join the discussion!
To become a member of the Set Me Free!  Clutter Challenge, simply follow this link:

Office Mission #1 Conquering the Paper Monster: Part 1

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 8:11 pm on Friday, January 2, 2009

paperpile21.jpgIt starts with a single piece of paper, but before you know it, your desk and counters have been overcome by the paper monster! The paper monster can be scary to face, but with a few tips, you’ll be able to confront and conquer your paper monster.

#1 Contain your monster: Take a laundry basket and go around your home collecting all your un-filed papers, coupons, junk mail, etc. By collecting all the paper you are containing your paper monster into one (or more) manageable baskets. Your paper monster is no longer attacking your entire home!
#2 Sort: You’re probably panicking that that you’ll never find that “important” piece of paper buried in your laundry basket. Quickly go through each item in your basket using a “one-touch” rule, picking up each piece of paper and putting it into one of the following categories. (If you work from home, you may want to have 2 piles for each category, keeping your work and household papers separate.)

“ACTIVE” (papers that you need to respond to, act on, etc)
“DISCUSS” (If your household consists of more than 1 decision maker, place items that need to be discussed here. For example, estimates for home improvement projects, RSVP cards for weddings, donation requests, etc)
“TO FILE” (Information that you need to keep for long-term reference and cannot access some place else).

You may also want to create a separate pile for each member of your household or other appropriate categories.

#3 Create “homes”: Get rid of your trash, shred your papers, and put those “TO FILE” papers aside. (We’ll be addressing those in Part 2). You should be left with 3 categories “ACTIVE”,”DISCUSS” (if applicable), and “BILLS TO PAY”. You may also have piles for each member of your family or other categories you would like to add.

Now it’s time to create a filing or piling system that works for you. If filing doesn’t scare you, (and it does for some), consider getting a small desktop filing bin to keep these frequently used files handy. You may need to create subcategories such as “errands” “phone calls” “email”. WARNING: Be careful! Do not create a system that is so complicated that you need to be compulsive in order to maintain it. Your goal should be to create a system that allows you to find what you need when you need it AND that is easy to maintain.

Does filing scare you? Some people, (myself included), don’t do well with filing active files. Visual people need to see things in order to remember to do them–and it’s hard to see through a file folder! I have found that piling can be as organized as filing. I use clear plastic storage drawers. One drawer contains my “ACTIVE” papers, one drawer contains my “DISCUSS” category, and one contains papers “TO FILE”. I have a separate container that houses my “BILLS TO PAY”. Every day, I sort my mail into these categories. When a drawer starts to fill up, I am cued to sort through it, make my phone calls, pay my bills, etc. You can also use these drawers for each member of the household. I love this system because I can keep my “piles” organized, it’s portable (just grab the drawer you need) and it’s easy to maintain because it isn’t “over-organized”.

Here’s an example of my piling drawers:

piling drawers.jpgIris 3 drawer shallow chest. (
#4 Now that you have homes for your files and piles, spend some time using the system. Complete your correspondence, pay your bills, and discuss necessary paperwork with your partner.

Next week, Part 2 will help you tackle your backlog of filing. Purchase a Set Me Free Filing System to make next week’s task a breeze!

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 10:13 pm on Thursday, January 1, 2009

Yikes!   A new year.  A blank slate.  And all the pressure is on for starting the new year on a good foot. (Gulp).
I’ve got mixed feelings about the whole “resolution” thing.  It feels like an “all or none” approach to improving your life.   Whenever I make a New Year’s resolution, the urgency of the New Year’s resolution seems to diminish as soon as I slip once or twice.  And it’s so frustrating when I experience New Year’s deja vous, you know, that feeling like you’ve made that same resolution before.
But I do have a few resolutions to share with you, resolutions focused on improving my life, decreasing my stress, and of course, getting more organized!
1.  Continue my 2008 resolution:  On my days home with the kids, I will get myself and all the kids dressed by 9 am.   Last year’s resolution has increased my productivity, and allowed me to be prepared for some last minute stress-free playdates and company.

2.  Not only will I complete my own Monthly Mission assignments, I will update you on their status.   I’ve done this a bit in the past, but I hope to be more consistent.  When I complete the tasks, be  inspired!   But when life gets in the way of me accomplishing my missions, be relieved that this Professional Organizer is not perfect, but human!
3.  I despise New Year’s resolutions that involve dieting.  Of course, I will always want to improve my health and increase my workouts.  When I eat healthy food and exercise, I feel better, have more energy, and am more productive.  But the “D” word is such a turnoff to me.  So instead, I’m adopting this simple principle:  Feed myself as I would feed my children.  Of course, I came up with this revelation as I was munching on some chocolate chip cookies with my morning coffee on New Year’s Day!  “If I wouldn’t feed this to my kids for breakfast, why is it okay for me to eat it?”
Okay, so that’s probably my 3 main resolutions.   But I think we should all add just one more additional resolution.  We need to view EACH day as a new start and a new chance to make positive changes in our lives.   When it comes to getting organized, if you find you can’t get started on one of my weekly missions, start again the next week, or just set a buzzer for 15 minutes and take the first step!

And if you need accountability to complete your missions, remember you are always welcome to leave comments after each mission to help inspire others!  Resolve to “weigh in” on your progress!

So what are your organizing resolutions in 2009?
So how are you going to be more organized this year?