This is the most tedious, yet the most satisfying part of organizing. When you’re done, you have identified only those things that really belong in the office. Chances are that 80% of the papers in all those piles can be discarded. However, to find the 20% of value, you need to go through everything.
Here’s a plan of attack:
Only office things in the office.
Get a box or bin and place it just outside your office door. Make a quick tour of the office and pick up those things that clearly belong in another part of the house. Dump them in the box and to put away later. Don’t get distracted by doing it now.
Sort objects first.
Group like things together. Separate the books from the professional journals. Put all those brochures together. Get all those little boxes of office supplies that are scattered around the office into one place. Are these all the notebooks?
Attack the paper piles.
This is when you sort the papers into broad categories. Don’t worry about making keep/save decisions. You can certainly ditch the obvious things like junk mail, outdated catalogs, shopping bags, and grocery receipts, but don’t overthink this step.
Purge the objects.
You will quickly see duplicates or opportunities to consolidate items. Discard pens that don’t write and used and frayed file folders. If you bought supplies in bulk, pull out only enough to last for the next couple of weeks. Be brutal with books. Will you ever read or refer to it again? Can you find this information easily online? Will someone else enjoy this novel?
Get rid of excess paper.
For every piece of paper ask yourself why you are holding on to it. Under what specific circumstances would you need it again? What is the worst thing that would happen if you didn’t have this paper? Keep only what is essential to your business and household, and what you need for taxes. Outdated magazines and brochures can go in the circular file.
At the end of this process you will have only those things that belong in your office.