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Gert's Dirt: Office organization doesn’t have to be taxing

From Donna Bellino

Tax time is just around the corner. As long as you need to sort through your paperwork, you might as well organize your office space. I suggest setting aside at least two hours for this project. Let’s get started!

Empty everything from the drawers and remove items from the top of the desk.

• Wash the desk top, sides and the inside and outside of the drawers. If you want to polish the desk top and if you like a lemon scent, mix a drop of lemon essential oil in a tablespoon of olive oil. Apply this to the wood with a soft cloth. Using a second soft cloth, polish to a lovely luster.

• Vacuum under the desk.

• Wash the baseboards and don’t forget to wash down the chair.

• Sorting is the next task. Make separate piles as you go through paperwork. There should be one pile to shred, one to file, and one to place in the trash. You may want to use boxes or bins for this. Then, ask yourself three questions when making a decision on what to do with papers:

• Do I need it? Items like insurance cards, tax documents and vital records are usually keepers.

• Will I use it? Coupons, recopies, ideas from magazines may require more thoughtful consideration

• Is it something that has sentimental value? Keepsakes like love letters, photos or a child's drawing may be save-worthy. Sort realistically and throw items you don’t need, want or value in one of the discard piles.

Slaying the paperwork dragon

Everyone's office area is different and styles of organization vary from person to person. Find what works for you. I like to file paperwork in colored folders. Folders are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. Buy several and store them in one of your desk drawers. I like to use a red folder for tax paperwork. I write the year on the outside and when something comes that needs to be kept for taxes, I place it directly into this folder. This time of year, I have one for 2013 and 2014. Another color can be used for bills and so on. When you go through your mail each day, you can easily place important items in these folders. Since the folders will be used frequently, they should be stored in a top drawer or a desk-top organizer for easy access.

How about all the other stuff? Once again, get some boxes for sorting. Use one box for items that should be in your desk, one for items that need to be put away in other rooms, and designate a box for trash.

Use small boxes, bins and cups for paperclips, rubber bands, sticky note pads, spare staples and other small items. The stapler, hole- punch, ruler, scissors, tape, white-out, calculator, envelopes, stamps, address labels and envelope opener all need a home in or on your desk. Printer paper and ink cartridges belong in a drawer or cabinet close to the printer. Pencils should be sharpened and pens and markers tested to see if they still work. This can be a good job for a child who wants to help. Place only the writing utensils you want to use in a nice cup on top of your desk or in the top drawer. Put a rubber band around the rest and store in a drawer for later use.

Shred or dispose of sensitive paperwork and take out the garbage. Now what you have left is a box of items that need to be put away in other rooms of your home. Do that right away. If you don't, it can end up being clutter all over again.

Congratulations! Your office area is neat, clean and ready for tax season!

Donna Bellino is a nurse and owner of Gertie's Cleaning and Home Service. I care for you, your health, and your home. Gertie's: Naturally Clean!