Monday, June 02, 2014

Spring Cleaning for Writers: Organizing your Office

Alright, so spring is nearly gone and summer is arriving.  And yet, my place still needs a massive dose of cleaning.  My office is that room in the house where random stuff gets tossed when company is about to arrive, so it's pretty cluttered.

A writer's workspace should be organized to help them produce their best work. Everyone has a different idea of how clean things should be. However, if you are constantly spending time looking for missing documents, then you aren't spending as much time writing as you could be! It is important to design a space that allows you to work efficiently and keep track of all the paperwork that comes with a writing career.

Where to Start

Make a list of all the cleaning projects that you want to undertake for your workspace. What areas are causing you the most trouble? Do you ever find yourself frustrated looking for research or invoices? Prioritize the tasks that will have the most impact on your space.

Begin the cleaning project with a quick purge. Take fifteen minutes to look over your writing area and find anything that you want to throw away, recycle, sell, or donate to charity. If you haven't touched it in months, decide if you really need it.

If possible, set aside your writing area for work only and rid yourself of distractions. Move books that aren't being used for research. Keep bills, non-writing to-do lists, and video games away from your desk. It's easy enough to get distracted with an internet connection - increase your odds of success by creating a space that is just for writing.

Think about what you use on a daily basis. Move the most necessary items to the most convenient drawers and shelves. If you have limited space and need to store things away from your writing area, they should be items that you need infrequently.

Organizing Paperwork

Notes, interview transcripts, drafts, and research can quickly get out of hand. Whether you prefer a series of binders or a file cabinet, find a way to organize your work so that you can find whatever you need. If you have items that you need to keep but will not be actively using, archive them in a separate space. A storage bucket in the closet should do. Make a list of everything that you have archived so that you know where to find it if it once again becomes needed.


Make sure that you have an accurate filing system to keep track of your billing and payment information. While you may want to take a creative, free-flowing approach to the other areas, the IRS will not accept "I'm a writer; I don't need to organize" as an excuse when you forget to file the correct paperwork. Create a system to record when you have sent invoiced and received payments as well - you don't want to forget to bill a project that you invested time and effort into.

Shopping for Supplies

As you go, create a shopping list of anything you wish to purchase at the office supply store. Consider new file folders, pens, staples, and notebooks. Check to see that you have an adequate stash of printer paper and ink cartridges. Get rid of tools that you are unhappy with and find ones that make you love to write. If there is a particular brand of pens that you always reach for, throw away the cheap ones and replace them.

Organize your Files

Don't forget to organize and backup your computer files. If your computer crashes, you don't want to lose hours of work. No matter what method you use to backup your work, choose a day to do it regularly. Take the time to update your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

Maintaining the Work

Once your space is organized, keep it that way. Just five minutes a day to file any loose paperwork can help you avoid needing to do a major clean next spring. If you watch television in the evenings, set aside the commercial breaks to do small tasks.

"Spring" cleaning doesn't have to be a burden, or a chore for spring alone. Spending just ten minutes a day organizing your work area can lead to a more productive environment in no time. Happy cleaning!

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