Minimalist Manager Challenge Part 4: Organize Office

The 4th task in my #MinimalistManager Challenge is here, and by random selection that means it’s time to…

Organize my office!

Several things went wrong on this particular task. I will be sharing ALL the nitty-gritty details with you below.

A Little Background…

The Minimalist Management is a philosophy of reducing our reliance on unneeded things, while also increasing our appreciation of the world around us.

I believe there are 4 essential areas we need to consider:

  • Care for Self
  • Organize Surroundings
  • Prioritize Time
  • Help Others

In this analysis, I will provide a Post-Mortem Evaluation of the task to help me determine the root causes of actions to avoid as a business owner, which includes:

  1. what happened
  2. what went well
  3. what didn’t go well, and
  4. how we can adjust for the future

Check out my first post to hear why I decided to start this challenge.

View this post on Instagram

Autumn is here, and it’s time for a new #minimalistmanager challenge! I’ll be experiencing tasks that get me closer to business goals, even if it’s uncomfortable… like eating #nosugar (tomorrow’s objective) 🍭🛑. Want to join me? Here’s how: . . . Pick 9 activities that feel slightly uncomfortable but move you toward your goals in four areas: • Care for Self • Organize Surroundings • Prioritize Time • Help Others If you own a business, consider ways to stretch yourself as an owner. Set aside a period of time to work on your challenge (I recommend 9 to 15 days). Write down your challenge tasks. Each day, pick one card out of a hat 🎩. [I scheduled 15 days with 9 activities; the extra days are to recognize and celebrate growth, or consider why it didn’t go so well.] I’ll be posting updates about my challenge here: https://laconteconsulting.com/blog Join me, and let me know what you learn about yourself!

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The full list

You can watch a vlog here, where I explain my struggle with compulsive collecting and why this challenge has made me get vulnerable:


Orderliness is Not My Strong Suit

I’m a somewhat disorganized person.

There, I’ve said it.

Some people find it easy to put things away, use a system to line things up, and keep track of every object in their home and office.

And then… there are the rest of us.

Apparently, having a messy mind does come with a few benefits:

  • We tend to be more creative, have a higher IQ, and think globally.
  • But we also have trouble focusing, lose track of time, and constantly need to keep our minds engaged.

(Check out the article for all 12 benefits of disorganization at Lifehack)


For me, the problem of collecting too much stuff has really improved. I have been able to successfully de-clutter most of my possessions.

Only a few things are left. They include:

  • stacks of printed material (articles, interesting websites, ideas for blog posts and articles, studies to review)
  • stacks of hand-written notes (things to do, articles to write, people to contact, goals to achieve, books to read, websites to research, places to visit)
  • stacks of books (books to read, books to review, books to re-read, books to store, books to give away)

To be honest, that’s it. I used to collect (“hoard” is such an ugly word) a lot of other things including cookbooks, craft supplies, rubber stamps, college textbooks, sewing projects, clothing, and handbags. You can read about my experience with de-cluttering my clothes.

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One thing in particular really helped me jump-start the decluttering journey: my family relocated to 6 homes in less than 4 years. Getting rid of nearly half of our possessions (including old hobbies, college notes, baby items, and paraphernalia) made the packing and moving process much easier. I got in the habit of removing items I didn’t use or need, and not holding on to them indefinitely.

That’s actually what attracted me to the Minimalist concept in the first place. I found myself asking:

How many items does one need in order to live comfortably?

What’s the least amount of possessions I could live with and not feel deprived?

Is it possible to live contentedly with a limited number of items?

How much of my life do I need to eliminate before it gets uncomfortable?

To be honest, I’m still answering these questions. I think they can only be answered on the journey toward the destination, not as a destination in itself.

So what happened after this 4th task? Let’s find out!


Part 4 of My Challenge: Organizing My Office

I work from home.

So my office is in my home.

One of the problems with working from home is that you tend to get comfortable with the way things are. A stack of paperwork or a load of laundry is left in the wrong spot, but after a few days it feels normal. Mentally, it’s really important to treat the workplace as a separate space.

In this challenge, I decided to set 3 goals.

Goal 1

I need sun.

I’m what you might call a heliophile: a lover of sunlight.

For years, I worked in the dark, dusty basement offices of hospitals and clinics. We called it “the dungeon,” because our only source of light was from flickering fluorescent lights overhead.

I don’t want to be stuck in fluorescent cubicle hell ever again.

hospital basement, basement, fluorescent light, flickering overhead light, dark basement, dark workplace
No natural light in this hospital basement! image

Now that I have the freedom to work from anywhere, I always choose to sit in or near sunshine. As the seasons change and the sun’s angle moves, I find different places to work.

So finding a spot with plenty of natural light is very important.

Goal 2

Secondly, I needed to find a better system for organizing my stuff.

As you can tell from my confessional above, my office area is organized in a messy-pile sort of way. I can find any document or file, in 30 seconds flat. The problem is, my piles keep growing. So it’s important to find a way to keep everything organized yet also easily accessible.

Goal 3

Books, wonderful books.

I am finally ready to admit that I have a book hoarding problem.

It’s actually similar to any other compulsion: the idea of getting new, interesting, visually compelling reading material actually makes me feel a bit of a rush. And after 2 years of collecting about 1 new book every week, I have 4 massive stacks that are precariously close to turning into a paper avalanche.

books, piles of books, book overload, library, book piles, bookstore, book hoard, minimalist, minimalism
This is what a book hoard looks like (or an overstocked library)

Just like any other compulsion, it starts small. There’s some sort of internal reward. The joy of acquiring is not balanced by a process of eliminating; it’s a broken process. So the number of items keeps growing until it’s out of control.

So today’s challenge was to:

  1. Set up an office area that gives me sunlight throughout the workday.
  2. Create a system that gives everything a home, without sacrificing my need for creative messy process.
  3. Eliminate books I don’t need and make a plan to read the books I choose to keep.

Essential Area

This task fits into one primary category:

  • Care for Self
  • Organize Surroundings
  • Prioritize Time
  • Help Others

Post-Mortem Evaluation

Organizing my office was quite an ordeal. Here is a summary of how it went.

1. What happened

Since the pre-selected day for the challenge was Monday, I began my cleaning process the previous Saturday. I had already decided to meet the sunshine (Goal 1) and home office (Goal 2) problems by arranging a new desk area near a window that gets sunlight all year.

I also faced my demons by pulling out all the books I’d been squirreling away (Goal 3) and taking a good, hard look at the problem all at once (see picture below). It was a real wake-up call.

2. What went well

This task did allow me to set up a proper office area, complete with Ikea desk and clutter-free work space.

Below is a picture of the progress. Believe it or not, I have been running my business from a saucer-type lounging chair for the past 2 years. I also regularly sit on the floor, both because it gives me a large area to spread out my work projects and because it’s more convenient for times of meditation.

In the After picture, you can see that I now have a proper desk with a chair, with a great view of Mount Hood from the window.

3. What didn’t go well

My book de-hoarding situation is still in progress. As a true introvert, I’m considering all the possibilities of how to consume this much information (which is, obviously, overly ambitious) before taking any action.

I have a few options:

  1. Sell or give the books away (this would be really difficult and wouldn’t solve the root problem).
  2. Keep them all and try not to acquire any more (this seems naive and still doesn’t solve the root problem).
  3. Evaluate which ones to keep, create a reading schedule, and let books go once I’ve finished reading them (the best and most effective option).

View this post on Instagram

Task 4 of my #MinimalistManager Challenge: Organize Office It’s 🎶 vulnerability time! 🎶 Here are some pics of my complete book collection (a massive pile of books To Read, and a small shelf of books that I’ve Finished Reading). I’m a book hoarder… which means books feed me and energize me; but when there’s no Output to balance the Input, they pile up and take over. In this task, I wanted to share my journey of recognizing what a book addiction can look like, and how to change the internal dialogue for recovery. . . . #minimalism #minimalist #vulnerable #sharingmyjourney #declutter #bookaddict #bookaddiction #addictionrecovery #badhabits #internaldialogue #changeisgood #dosomethinguncomfortabletoday #discomfortzone Read my updates here: https://laconteconsulting.com/blog

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4. How I can adjust for the future

Now that I’m sitting at a functional desk and have a more organized filing system, it is clear that clutter can be a source of distraction.

What you see in the pictures is a result of years of constantly adding, and nothing going out. Where there is Input (addition) on an ongoing basis with no Output (subtraction) to get rid of things, the result is a hoard.

hoarding, compulsive hoarding, book hoarding, book collection, addiction, book addiction, minimizing, minimalist
Grace’s visual on Overcoming Compulsive Book Hoarding

I am choosing to continue getting rid of “stuff” (using the the Input-plus-Output process above) because…

  • it looks nice,
  • it is practical, and
  • it allows me to feel more emotionally healthy.

Summary

A simple “Office Organizing project” quickly led to deeper topics that made me rethink WHY I was holding on to possessions, and why my clutter became so normalized.

This challenge has caused me to wrestle with some significant issues that were hovering in the background.

While you may not feel ready to share your struggles publicly, I hope my story gives you the courage to be more vulnerable about what is holding you back. Whether you are a business owner, leader, or employee, the act of moving past barriers can feel overwhelming. But it can also be very freeing and will ultimately help you to achieve big things.

If you want to discuss some practical ways to move your business toward your goals, let’s talk.


Follow my #MinimalistManager journey:

Stay tuned for the next installment, where I discuss going a whole day without Facebook! (Oh my!)


Grace LaConte is a Strategic Risk Expert who helps service business owners find and fix hidden risks that keep them from achieving long-term success. Using her experience as a Risk Officer in the healthcare and technology fields, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncovering hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at http://laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.

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