What Happens When We Become Organized?

The things we keep in our workspace/office exposes what we decided will enhance our career, job, expertise, life, or business. When papers pile up or are dumped unsorted in boxes, this is an indication these items no longer serve you.

Getting organized will help you take back control. Until then, colleagues or spouses may think your workspace’s mess reflects your state of mind. “I know where everything is,” you’ll retort. “I can always find what I need.”

The problem is you won’t always be around to find a project or file due to a hospital stay, vacation, sick day, or out-of-town conference.

If you lose important papers or electronic files, you cannot pass on important knowledge, keep the information for company records or history, or find what you or others need.

When information gets missed, productivity and the company can suffer.

You know getting organized helps you, but did you know it will boost your work financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? See how below:

Financial Benefits

  • Only keeping what you really need compels you to focus on projects and goals you value most  allowing you to better meet company goals and faster
  • A cleared space leads to increased productivity, and a more profitable employee
  • By organizing supplies, avoid repurchasing those you have (save money!) and allows you to plan what you need in the next supply order
  • Instead of wasting time looking for files, you can spend your time effectively by being a more productive employee

Emotional Benefits

  • Feels like huge weight lifted off you (“I must get to this” is now done)
  • Seeing what’s really important to you may inspire you to pursue new projects, or a new role
  • Lift away that guilty awareness that your space is cluttered
  • With a cleared space, you clear your mind
  • Each morning, instead of starting your day with frustration at the clutter and disorganization, you are ready to work on your newly identified goals
  • Clearly see what is truly important to you at this stage of your career or business
  • Become more passionately involved or feel recommitted to work
  • Gain renewed confidence in decision-making abilities
  • By confronting what we no longer need, we get to reset our work lives
  • Make decisions based on newly identified values

Physical Benefits

  • Spend less time searching for files or projects
  • Reduce stress and feel less overwhelmed
  • Find things you’ve been looking for
  • Have room and feel comfortable to host meetings in your office
  • Tackle projects hanging over your head untouched, ignored, or hidden
  • Face your tendency to procrastinate
  • By reducing files, have more room to work
  • Digitize old files and that tower of business cards you won’t use
  • Easy-to-maintain system, reflecting the individual personal work style, helps spaces stay clear, and productivity remain high
  • Stand or sit at your desk properly, with an ergonomic computer set up, helping to reduce neck or lower back pain
  • By selecting what you keep, make choices and decisions on your future
  • With boxes gone, you have a clear path to your desk
  • Organized files are at hand when you need them

Spiritual Benefits

  • Organizing your work space can be reputation-enhancing, as colleagues and clients see you in control of your workflow
  • Learning to let material go and giving away, recycling, and archiving files or items can be cathartic, leaving you with a feeling of freedom
  • Items in your office are signs of what you value, and a reflection of what you want to get out of your career
  • By digging out from stuff that has been burying you, you can forge ahead uncluttered, ready for change
  • Feel ready to tackle projects you couldn’t bear to look at before
  • Be more passionately involved and able to focus on what matters most


New Year, New Office Habits

You go to work every day, and there’s money for bills and food. It's a good time of year to ask:  are you happy, or just satisfied?

I believe people make New Year’s resolutions because we always want to improve our performance as humans. Lose weight, save money, eat healthier…

How does that translate into our work lives? Could we be more satisfied? January seems like a good time to consider this.

According to Rana Florida, in her book, Upgrade, we can always decide to transform your career. “The reality is that the majority of us don’t think about how we can optimize our lives.” She says we just “slog through” in a state of “managed dissatisfaction.”

Good point. And it got me thinking.

Do most employees just go to work because it’s what you do every day? Do most Canadians feel engaged? Turns out, we do!

In 2018, Monster Canada found nearly two-thirds of Canadian employees are content with their jobs. That’s right. Canada has some of the most satisfied and engaged workers in the world!

What’s strange is that a few years before, a 2015 survey showed 82% of working Canadians feel extremely disorganized. So why the disparity between the two statistics?

I think some of the reason is the disorganized state of Canadian workspaces. With files (electronic and physical) disorganized, boxes stacked up, papers piled around, and business cards in disarray, etc., people’s minds feel cluttered. How can you start your day without that kind of guilt?

Employees, executives and entrepreneurs want to get rid of old projects and recycle unused or broken supplies and electronics, as well as paper and digital clutter, but don’t have time. Or the energy. Or know how.

It’s 2020. It’s a wonderful time to form new habits, and get that office, desk, or workspace organized. Let’s start your workday being inspired.

Time to End Cramped Cubicles

With skyrocketing real estate costs, businesses are opting for smaller employee work spaces like cubicles and group desks. That’s why you don’t have your own office anymore.

Even 10 years ago, in a midlevel position, you often got your own private office with lights you could control, a big window, and a door to close.

These days, with the “hoteling” trend, desk shares, and working from home, the traditional office is still reinventing itself, with the latest being long desks in a wide-open space. But cubicles remain. I must wonder why.

Recently, I organized a cramped cubicle for a male employee who stands 6’3”. It’s so tight in there, he cannot stretch out his legs, and has to crane his neck back while opening his cupboard door so that he doesn’t whack his head. When a colleague comes to the half-wall entrance, he has to swivel his chair a full 180 degrees to see who it is.

He is quite uncomfortable in this space.

It takes more courage, than most people have, to ask during a job interview: “What does my office look like? How much square footage is it?” Once you are hired, you must accept wherever the employer assigns you.

The cubicle was invented by Robert Propst, an office-furniture company designer. When they debuted his concept of walled-in private space in the early 1960s, it was a time when individual office space was shrinking.

Instead of long tables, shared desks, and wall-less spaces, he invented 6-by-6 square cubicles to give office workers more privacy through semi-enclosed workspaces, thinking it would lead to a more efficient, happier employee. His design was trying to replace open spaces, but we now have both designs.

And both are noisy, distracting, lack privacy, and frustrate employees.

The 1960s cubicles accommodated more employees joining the workforce, in particular women, while minimizing space and companies’ rental estate costs. But so-called Cube Farms make most people feel caged in, especially if there’s no sunlight. Some employees may goof off since no one can see what they are doing.

As such, popular entertainment has immortalized cubicle culture: Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ brilliant cartoons, the TV series Mad Men sets the scene, and we feel the pain in cult movie hit, Office Space.

Remember the disrespected, mumbling character, Milton, in Office Space? He was let go five years ago and no one even told him! So he kept going into his pod, surrounded by boxes, stacks of paper, and clutter, seriously unhappy with being moved every few months into another cramped space.

So where does this leave us?

In this modern business world, our society has shifted to activity-driven, employee perks (foosball anyone?), and open spaces for collaboration.

Office designers are combatting the lack of sunlight and privacy with open spaces, and “breakout rooms.” Companies build spaces to accommodate different work tasks, such as a private room with comfy couches for brainstorming, or a closed off booth for private phone conversations.

Whatever we do, let’s retire cubicles.

Kondo Cleaning Craze Catches On

Marie Kondo’s book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, has been a sensation since it was released. Five years later, Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has elicited a second wave of love as millions unload items that don’t “spark joy” by following her “KonMari Method.”

Professional Organizers have already been practicing parts of what she preaches for decades. Yet, Kondo introduced a few new perspectives on decluttering and organizing.

Her brilliant practice of folding a sweater or t-shirt into a small package and standing it on end vertically, side by side -- instead of stacking clothes on top of each other -- is revolutionary. How did we not think of that before!

Part of her inspiration is that Japanese homes tend to have much less space to hold stuff. They don’t have the luxury of buying in bulk, and fill up their spaces like we North Americans. Our consumer-driven society seems to have reached the breaking point of too much stuff.

Therefore, I am on board with her practice to greet a space, and show gratitude toward things you own.

The “KonMari Method”

People begin tidying by item, rather than room, gathering the same category into one location. First clothes, then books, papers, “Komono” (kitchen, bathroom, garage, misc.), with sentimental items last.

I agree we should see everything we have before discarding. However, seeing a mountain of books or clothes may be daunting for some.

Many people have trouble distinguishing categories, making decisions, letting go, and worse, keeping up an organizing system. As a result, this subset may become frustrated with the KonMari Method, or feel guilty for not embracing her method’s success like everyone else. Or cannot maintain it.

Yet, Kondo is adamant you don’t divert from her proven methods, and claims no client has never rebounded or backslid.

That statement surprises me.

The "Spark Joy" Challenge for Many

People have emotional attachments to their things and can easily start a “someday” pile again.

Similarly, some people can’t hold each piece of clothing to see if it sparks joy. Instead, they want to reminisce and keep it. Those who struggle with hoarding tendencies, for example, find it difficult to let go once they have held an item. Also, your tax return might not spark joy, but you need it (for seven years at least).

Also a challenge for many is her maxim to tri-fold socks, stockings, and tights. I cannot imagine a busy parent trying to keep this up, especially if he or she is folding everyone’s laundry. Pairing up socks and folding once is just fine, in my opinion.

The good news is, many Professional Organizers in Canada specialize in working with people who have ADHD, who hoard, and who are chronically disorganized. There are also Organizers for those who want help organizing their office, setting up a home workspace, or getting their papers straightened out.

Another area where I waver is how Marie wants us to treat clothes and books like they are alive. She suggests stroking a book cover awake before deciding if you need to keep it, and thanking our clothes for doing a good job each day, then letting them “rest.” Sorry, but I cannot pretend inanimate objects like sweaters are mad at me for keeping them in a plastic tote. However, I agree we need to respect our belongings and treat them with care.

I prefer store-bought containers to hold items. But keeping with the Japanese tradition of using boxes to store items, Kondo says she has an aversion to purchased organizing supplies. She sees them as imprisoning our belongings, and suggests we use shoeboxes instead. This is economical, but these cardboard boxes can be thin and tear, get wet from leaky containers, and hide what’s inside. However, I love Marie’s Hikidashi Boxes she had custom-made for the public, to fill in what she sees as a gap in the marketplace.

The KonMari Method is inspirational for the general population. I’m excited Marie has people passionate about tidying up their spaces, and feeling inspired to keep them clear. If you focus on what you want to keep, you’ll be left with what’s really relevant to your current life.

Now that’s magic.

Is Your Work Style Early Bird or Night Owl?

Each workday, Night Owls drag themselves out of bed to arrive at the office on time, while Early Birds fight taking a nap in the early afternoon.

Wouldn’t it be great if all employees were able to design their day based on their body’s natural circadian rhythms and personal preferences?

Everyone’s work style is different, yet many work places still expect its employees to adhere to a set schedule.

In order to be organized, though, I believe we should work according to when our minds and body are at our best.

What Job May Best Suit You

If you like to keep on the move, are fidgety, or like to tip your chair, you might be best suited to a job where you can walk around (security), stand (retail store; pharmacy), put items on shelves (store), move items along (grocery), pack boxes (manufacturing), or be under pressure to hustle (emergency worker, police).

People who have amazing hearing and are inspired by sounds (audiophiles) might like to arrange music (producer, composer, recording studio), play an instrument (orchestra, band), sing (opera, commercials), install hearing aids (audiologist), work on a radio show (voiceovers, DJ, host, technician, interviewer, producer), or teach others language (teacher, speech therapist, linguist).

Those who are more visual and enjoy seeing what they do might be best matched to outward-looking ventures such as creating beauty (make up artist, painter), experimenting (scientist), inventing (entrepreneur, engineer), making (woodworking, costumes), capturing beauty (photographer, videographer), crafting viewpoints (writer, advertiser, actor), or building (construction).

Whatever you choose, here’s hoping you get to sleep in or go to bed early, and work at a pace that honours your natural work style.

Organizations’ Disorganization

It’s not just an oxymoron: an organization’s disorganization. It’s a threat. Before work begins, companies and business owners have to decide (1) their main focus (2) what they’ll avoid, and (3) how the operation will be set up to run smoothly.

Once organized, employees know where to prepare food, hold a meeting, photocopy, get help, or procure office supplies. Yet how an individual workspace functions is still up to you.

The challenge is that many employees, executives, and small business owners don’t know how to set up their own office or personal workspace for its highest efficiency. No one teaches us that — or even expects it.

People grapple with how to handle expense receipts, for example, or what to do with a filing cabinet when all their files are digital. When you don’t set up a system for dealing with common working issues like these, or account for individual preferences, this is where employee disorganization thrives.

With too many employees unfocussed, the organization’s goals can suffer.


Work is always challenging, whether it’s conflict with colleagues or struggling with too much work. So why put off organizing offices until ‘things calm down?’

As soon as employees are frustrated or stressed by mess, it’s time to take steps to tackle the culprits. Following are some tips:

Recycle, file, or archive paper, stationary, digital files, and knick-knacks to make room for new projects and ideas.

Choose new projects only if they help you reach your goals or teach you a new skill you want.

Turn down insignificant projects that may bring your attention away from your true passion, the reason you were hired, or why you started the business.

Discard/recycle/give away items you no longer use, never have, but feel compelled to keep. Clutter is anything that stops you from accomplishing your work. This could be projects, ideas, or sketches you didn’t finish. It’s all holding your space hostage.

Your decision to reorganize will lead to action, which brings about change, and shortly, renewed focus. Everyone wins.

Obsolete or Disappearing Office Traits

As digital technology transforms our personal lives, it inevitably changes the way we work too. If you have been in an office for more than a decade, you’ve seen the advent—and demise—of fax machines, floppy disks, couriers, developing photos, and smoking in the office.

Following are some other office tools, supplies, machines, and well-established habits disappearing in our work lives.

Office traditions: using recipe cards to give a presentation; hanging a calendar; putting your business cards in a holder or a Rolodex; traveling for a business meeting; and holding a Christmas party for all staff

Technology-driven: tape recorder; fax machine; hand-held camera; desk phones; desktop computer; pencils; USB thumb drive; and mouse pads

Cultural shifts: formal business attire (ties and panty hose); a 9 to 5 job; corner office for executives; communal coffee pot; and the need to remember someone’s phone number or address

Paper-related: paper holder; notepads, 3-hole punch; cerlox binding; “wite-out” correction fluid; filing cabinet; staple remover; schedule planners; and erasers

It’ll be fascinating to see what the next 10 years will bring!

The Evolution of the Office

Remember when the media hailed the advent of “working from home?” Exciting. Then email made us reachable on weekends. Less exciting. Next, cell phones made us available… pretty much any time. Traditional work hours faded.

Technology advances our convenience factor and leaves “the old way” behind. As a result, we don’t use landline phones, desktop computers, or fax machines as much—if at all. Office workers stand at desks, answer email on smart phones at the grocery store, and instead of gathering at the traditional water cooler, carry personal water bottles.

Here are other office customs altered or made obsolete by the digital age:

Coffee and tea breaks. Like the water cooler, there used to be a communal coffee pot. Now, employees go to Starbucks or Tim Hortons for their java fix. It’s an opportunity to get out of the office and perhaps catch up with a colleague.

Filing cabinets. As we work on the go much more often, we are keeping files electronically, and not in paper format, file folders, or binders. So if you don’t need to physically file paper anymore, don’t like it, have time, or just don’t want to, get rid of the filing cabinet to make space for something else. Like a popcorn machine.

An individual office or workspace. Conventional places to work have evolved from employees having their own space, to sharing them. While having a door and ceiling is often a status symbol in an organization, many companies want to level the playing field: collaborative spaces signal a new office culture.

As such, Millennials often line both sides of long tables tapping away at their laptops, usually at a start-up. And while some companies pack staff into cubicle spaces, many head offices set up extra workspaces for visiting employees.

For those who have an office, those are changing too. Many employees only need a small desk, a chair, and a laptop. It’s becoming rare to need a pen, staple remover, notepad, or even a schedule book. In a world of stuff, we are paring down.

The Office Building. If you were to take a poll of where each employee was one day in 1977, almost everyone would be in the office, or out smoking. If you took a poll in 2017, workers would be scattered: getting coffee, at the gym, at a seminar, working from home, on a conference call to France, FaceTiming a colleague in Japan, collaborating over a ping pong table, visiting a satellite office, or on a company brainstorming retreat.

Clearly, digital advances have impacted the way we work and changed our corporate culture. Yes we’ve given up some privacy, but gained flexibility, freedom, and self-determination. I think that’s exciting.

Making Your Office Yours

As a new employee, you probably walked into your office or cubicle, and got right to work. After logging into your computer, you may have checked out the office supply situation.

You most likely didn’t go much beyond these steps. Most employees don’t adjust their chair or computer monitor to the right height, consider the best furniture configuration, sanitize the keyboard or mouse, or ponder whether they need everything in the space.

Given you sit in your workspace for years—potentially decades—these are important missed opportunities.

Most people don’t think of changing their office set up when walking into a new job. And some people don’t have that option (cubicle or built-in furniture). Yet, workspaces are not calibrated for YOUR highest efficiency—yet your needs will be different than the last employee.

So if you have some leeway, what should you do to make the office yours?

Consider where your desk faces. Most people don’t like colleagues or clients approaching from the back. Others don’t mind. Some people want to hide their computer monitor for privacy, while others need it visible to visitors. Only you can decide the best desk placement, so think about what you need. For example, if you have a window, it’d be refreshing to face it, but only if there aren’t people constantly standing or walking by outside, which could be distracting. Experiment with different options, and ensure you have an ergonomic set up.

Get rid of your filing cabinet. As we move further toward digital files only, we don’t need to physically file as much. If you are a low paper generator, and can make do with digital files only, make space for something else. For example, a small meeting table and chairs. You might even spring for a mini fridge to keep pop, water, or your lunch.

Put up those photos, degrees, and awards. So many employees have the best intentions of putting up framed posters, autographed pictures, and your children’s paintings, along with business-related frames. But that task often goes down the to-do list. Time to pick them off the floor, and make arrangements with the office manager to have them hung.

Add some personal touches. If it’s part of your job to review reports or publications, consider a reading chair, floor lamp, and side table. If you are an avid coffee or tea drinker, bring supplies and place on a tray so you can make it right there. Saves time, and money. And you may make new office friends!

Whether you are an employee, executive, or small business owner, it’s a great time to refresh your work life and set up your office how YOU want it. Make it yours.

Organizer's Picks for Best GTA Office Stores

The lazy days of summer are soon coming to an end, as we enter the last long weekend for a while. I urge anyone with an office or workspace to take a look at your space, and see where you could make improvements. Time to get ready for the crazy pace of autumn (yes, already)!

I have compiled a list of my favourite places to shop for office furniture and accessories in Toronto.

CB2 (651 Queen St. W.)
An offshoot of Crate and Barrel, this airy, uncluttered space is one of the best places in the city to get stylish, affordable, modern desks. Their well designed filing cabinets, console tables, and bookshelves can amp up your home office too.

Structube (5233 Yonge St.)
This store has a large selection of funky, modern, colourful chairs, whether you need one for your desk, reception area, or for meetings. They always seem to have one that is stylish, but ergonomic and adjustable, and often on sale. Gotta like that.

Space Solutions (660 Eglinton Ave. E.)
If you have an odd-shaped space, or want to start from scratch, visit this 31-year Toronto business for custom built-in desks, bookcases, and shelving. I love that you can choose the finish, material, or fabric to get exactly what you want.

Haworth (55 University Ave.)
If you are a big or growing firm, this ideal place can plop a staff café, library, conference room, and even strategy room into your space. This company has already worked out the details of optimal workspaces, offering complete furnished spaces. You don’t have to design it yourself!

Solutions (2329 Yonge St.)
To make your work life easier, storage containers and desktop accessories warrant a trip here. Just like the American chain, The Container Store, in Canada it’s where Professional Organizers shop. Another location opened at 256 Queen Street West in May 2018, and they have plans for further expansion.

IKEA (15 Provost Dr.)
Once your desk is set up, to remain productive every day, IKEA has perfected practical, fashionable, and yet reasonably-priced office accessories. Organize your monster paper piles with containers, media boxes, and magazine files.