Ask the Expert – Getting Organized in 2017

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Ask the Expert – Getting Organized in 2017

In honor of January’s nationally recognized Get Organized (GO) Month, we pulled in our resident organizing expert, Heather Walker, founder of Functional Spaces Organizing to help with your personal organizing questions.


We sourced questions from ScanSnap followers on social media and questions ranged from topics on home and office to phone organization. You asked, we answered. Without further ado, let’s #AskTheExpert!

I want to get more organized in 2017, specifically in my home office. Any suggestions on where I should start?

Start with purging the paperwork pile-up on the desktop. Even though papers from every direction and multiple aspects of your life (work, personal, kids, pets, family, home info, etc.), there are really only 3 categories of information: action, reference, and archive.

  • Action. This includes paperwork and requires you to do something with it, then it passes to someplace else (a file, back to the sender, etc.) Resist the urge to group the information by category (like “kids”, “school,” “work”, “volunteer”, “pets”.) Just take ALL of the items you need to deal with and put them into one “TO DO” folder – invitations to respond to, bills to pay, etc.
  • Reference. Such papers include documents you need to refer to every so often, but they do not need action. These can live in a file in your drawer, a closet – or somewhere accessible, but not on top of your desk.  In fact, I personally scan many of my reference items so I access them digitally when I need them – and they don’t take up space anyplace. For example, my health insurance card. That is scanned and I can access it from my phone or computer – at any time.
  • Archive. This category includes paperwork you want to keep, but you rarely need, like past taxes or memorabilia. These items can be stored in a banker box or other storage bin farther away. You don’t need it on your desktop – or even within an arm’s reach. (In fact, scanning much of this paperwork is a great way to save the documents, but eliminate clutter.)

Next, clear off the top of your desk so it only contains what you use on a frequent basis. Is your 3-hole punch or stapler dusty? Do you have a printer taking up space on the top of your desk? In the ‘old days’, those items saw a lot of use. Today, not so much. Move them off the top of your space. How many jars of pens and notepads clutter your desktop? You really only need … well, one at a time. If you respect your desk and its value, don’t let objects clutter it up that don’t get used. Find a home in a closet nearby.

If you still have energy to continue, move on to systematizing your work habits. Create a paper(less) workflow, so you’ll have less paper to deal with over time. Your goal isn’t necessarily to have NO paper, your goal can be to have less paper so you can find what you need quickly.  {Just make sure you don’t trade a physical mess for a digital mess. Make sure you set up a digital structure that works for you, regardless of where your digital files live (on the cloud, on a hard drive, etc.)} For example:

  • Business Cards. Using Evernote, scan your business cards (both sides if you’d like) and ditch the card itself. You can adjust Evernote’s settings to store the contact information in Evernote alone, or to populate the default address book on your phone/computer.
  • Receipts. Use your scanner to create digital images of your receipts. Store them in a cloud service – like Evernote, or set up a custom management system in a program like Dropbox. Any way you do it, you can loose the paperwork once you have an electronic copy.
  • Other important paperwork. Car registration, insurance claims, prescriptions, copies of passports or drivers licenses, and more: scan, scan, scan. Use the cloud to your benefit.

Finally, if you can maintain your system by addressing the paperwork and other clutter on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, clean up should be a snap. You don’t need a perfect system – you just need to stick to it.

Heather Walker
Founder & Chief Organizer, Functional Spaces Organizing