A Career Girl Guide to Being Neat

Posted December 5, 2013 by Adrienne Asselmeier in Life After Five
I have never thought of myself as a tidy person. As I sit here typing this, I am looking at a dining table covered in things that need to be put away (birthday gifts, Christmas decorations, and mail, mostly). I painted my bedroom this weekend and drug all of the furniture into the dining room, so there is also an explosion of bedroom items in front of me. And it really isn’t bothering me. I’ll probably leave it for another day or two, do a little touch-up painting, and move it back into the bedroom. The mail is something that I am not great at taking care of. No one told me that once you buy a house, you get on about a hundred mailing lists for crap you don’t want, but they try to trick you into opening it by putting some fake notice on the front.

With all of that in mind, I just don’t think I’m a really clean person. I like to pick up. When I clean, I do a very thorough job. I’m somewhat different at work, though. Yes, my desk has some papers on it, and there is a pile of shoes hidden behind my file cabinet, but I never leave my dishes for someone else. I always clean up spills in the kitchen if I make a mess, and I put things back after I use them. Starting my new job and getting to know the crew there, I’ve discovered that I am the clean one. It’s not difficult to develop the habits I’ve developed from working in a number of industries since I was a kid, and the steps are simple.

If you’re looking to turn a new leaf this year and get organized at work, here are my tips to becoming a neat Career Girl.

  1. Two-minute pickup. Before you start work for the day, take just a couple minutes to put away your lunch, change shoes and stow the spares, put away your coat, and deal with anything you may have left on your desk the day before. You may not have time to really address all of the work, but you should have a system for where to put things that are currently on your agenda. Then, once you’re done for the day, take another couple minutes to wash your dish if you dirtied one. Reorganize your desk space to put away any work that you may have completed, and take anything from the fridge that you may need to bring home. It is just a couple minutes, but it makes a big difference!
  2. Make a system for your inbox and outbox. I wrote a post about how to manage your email inbox, but it’s also good to have a system for your desk space. I tend to have very few actual papers sitting on my desk as part of my regular work, but when I had a lot more paperwork, I had a great system. I always had a Current Work or Inbox folder where I could shove important papers and items relevant to certain projects in order to keep them in one place. If a project was more extensive, it would get it’s own folder. I had an inbox for other people to drop papers for me, which was clear and helped keep things from getting misplaced. I kept these things in a desktop file holder for easy access, and I put folders away into my file cabinet after I was done, or when I stopped using them so much.
  3. Multi-task. This isn’t what you might think. I like to frequently get up and take a walk away from my desk. I pop into the kitchen for a coffee refill, walk to the water fountain, find a reason to go ask someone a question, and so on. Since I am looking to get up and away from my desk, I do the double-duty of taking just a moment to pickup a common space. I usually wipe the kitchen counter, put away dry dishes, or run my recycling to the main bin. It’s a chance to get up from my desk, and it helps me stay organized.
  4. Finally, add cleaning time to projects. I was surprised to discover that some people say they’re too busy to do their own dishes, and they’re too busy to pickup common spaces after working on a project. What is that? I’m a busy person, but I would feel so guilty if I left my mess for someone else, even if it was in their job description. If that’s the case, I’ll add five minutes to my day to make sure I can clean up after myself.

Not everybody has to be super-clean with a sparkling workspace, but your mess should never be someone else’s problem. If you’re disorganized, you’re going to lose things and hurt yourself and your teammates. If you’re excessively messy, you’re just going to annoy everyone else. Don’t be that person! Take a few minutes to pick up and have a happy, neat office.

About the Author

Adrienne Asselmeier

Adrienne "Dren" Asselmeier is a writer and marketing specialist. Dren has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and is a blogger, runner, over-achiever, and friend to everyone. She likes to write about science-based health and fitness, small business ownership, and motivational topics.