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How a Broken Refrigerator Can Motivate You to Clear Your Desk

The following post is from Lisa of Working Naked:

source: NatalieMaynor

A few days ago, my refrigerator stopped working.

When I opened the refrigerator door, the light turned on but everything felt a little warmer than it should. When I opened the freezer and squished an ice cream sandwich that should have been frozen solid, I knew I didn’t have much time to clear everything out.

A neighbor let me store my frozen food in her extra freezer and I crammed the non-frozen items in my wine refrigerator. It felt like I was back in the dorm using a mini-fridge.

Let the cleaning begin

While I cleared out my freezer, I tossed a few things I’d had a bit too long. I did the same thing with some of the food from my refrigerator. Then I went on a cleaning binge. My refrigerator and freezer were completely empty, so it was easy to scrub every square inch of the top and bottom units.

I was making a clean start (no pun intended).

My forced refrigerator and freezer purging and cleaning made me think about people who struggle to toss papers they don’t need. What if the papers scattered all over your home office were fruit, vegetables, or meat that had an expiration date? You’d be forced to deal with them within days instead of within weeks or months from when they hit your desk.

You may have stacks of papers on your desk that you want to get rid of, but don’t know how. There are a few ways to get started:

Decide what you need to toss or keep

Think about the stacks of paper on your desk and the papers you’ve filed, even though you know you’ll never look at them again. What can you toss — actually, recycle — to make way for papers that truly need your attention? Take the “toss or keep” test to figure out which papers are “spoiled” and can be recycled:

“Toss or Keep” test:

1. Will you refer to this piece of paper again?

2. Do you have a place to file it?

3. If you tossed the paper and needed to refer to it again, would it be difficult to replace it?

If you answered no to all three of these questions, then toss — recycle — the piece of paper. If you answered yes, then that piece of paper is a keeper.

Move paper forward

The saying “handle paper once” is a myth. In fact, I cringe when I hear it because it’s unrealistic and doesn’t apply to every piece of paper. Instead of following the handle-paper-once rule, do something to move each piece of paper forward. Start with my P-A-P-E-R method.

P= Put it in a stacking bin or a basket near your desk that you’ll go through at the end of the day. These work better than stacking trays that fill up easily and tend to be a graveyard for papers you’ll never refer to again.

A= Act on it: Either enter the information on your calendar or to-do list, or scan the information and then toss the paper.

P= Put it in a file: If you have a working filing system, drop the piece of paper in the corresponding file. If your filing system has broken down, take the time to create a system that works and makes sense. Start by using hanging folders for the main categories and manila (interior) folders as subcategories.

E= Enter it on your to-do list and then file it: Before you file a piece of paper that needs action, make a note of what you need to do. It’s too easy to keep a piece of paper on your desk to remind you to do something with it later. That’s when the piles start.

R= Recycle it: That should leave room for papers you need to keep.

Without a deadline or reason to deal with a piece of paper, it’s too easy to keep papers stacked on your desk. Unlike my refrigerator issue that forced me to clean out my fridge and get rid of food that needed to go, don’t rely on a crisis to get rid of papers.

What motivates you to clear the piles of paper off your desk?

Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of and the author of five books about working from home, including her new book, Organize Your Home Office for Success. Lisa works with entrepreneurs and home-based employees through seminars and individual consultations, to create functional home offices that meet each individual’s working style.