Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has it right: Decluttering your work space and home can immensely improve your life with balance, clarity, and overall wellness. As reported in The CheatSheet, “Kondo instructs every client to hold each item they’re attempting to tidy and put it through a test: Does it give you a thrill of excitement when you hold it? Does it give you that little spark of happiness? If not, then it’s time to let it go from your life.”
But, for lawyers, that might be easier said than done.
Overstuffed file cabinets, piles of papers, unused paper weights, card holders, countless pens and pencils, stacks of outdated books (or ones you’ll never read), swag from the latest conferences, and 1.5 inches of accumulated dust are all too common in law offices. What we don’t always realize is that a cluttered room may negatively impact your ability to focus and process information. A study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. In other words, clutter wears down your mental resources and can lead to frustration, anxiety, and an inability to focus.
So let’s get started. Here’s how to declutter your office:
Do it all at once.
There are different trains of thought when it comes to decluttering. Some organization experts suggest doing one room or task at a time. Ms. Kondo disagrees. Instead, she recommends decluttering all at once to change your mindset.
Think about it. If you are tidying only a little each day, you could be tidying up for weeks or even months! Decluttering in one shot might take a full day or two, or even an entire weekend. However, once it’s all done, moving forward it will be just maintenance.
Determine what is keep-worthy.
According to Kondo, once you decide what you want to keep, discard the items you don’t want to keep in the following order:
- Miscellaneous items
- Sentimental items
Obviously, as attorneys, by law we are required to keep files/documents for a certain number of years. This is where using a cloud-based practice management software solution, like Rocket Matter, and moving to a paperless law firm come into play. Products such as Rocket Matter have document storage built into their legal workflows. Also, going paperless and storing all your documents on a cloud-based platform will save your firm money, time, and space. I think Ms. Kondo would approve!
Organize what you keep by designating a “home” for each item.
Keep it simple. You don’t need to spend your entire next paycheck at the Container Store. Chances are, once you have discarded the unwanted and unnecessary items, you will have a lot of empty space (i.e. book shelves, storage cabinets, etc.) where your kept items can call home. Each item should have its place. Of course, it can’t hurt to buy some storage supplies if you need to do so.
Get the staff on board.
Explain to your staff what you are doing, why, and how they can help. Also, keeping an organized workspace environment can actually be a fun team-building exercise. Once a month, order lunch for the team, turn on your favorite playlist, and spend time organizing and getting rid of items you no longer need together.
An organized, decluttered workspace can do wonders for your law practice. As Kondo told CNBC, “When your office space is organized, it will result in increased efficiency because your use of time becomes much more productive. You’ll be much more comfortable in your office space and that contributes to your overall performance and your creativity…” That is the “magic of tidying.”