Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hoarders: Office Edition

Other than my regular Sunday night episode of The Tudors, I rarely pay attention to what's on TV. But somehow, I channel surfed my way into a show that reminds me of a train wreck; its so gruesome that you want to turn away but sheer intrigue keeps you glued to your seat. The show is Hoarders on A&E and though I can't even begin to guess the scheduled date or time it airs, when I happen to come upon it while randomly checking the channels, I get a little giddy.

Hoarders features people who, for various reasons, have this uncontrollable desire to get and keep stuff. This stuff accumulates overtime until their whole lives are completely and utterly controlled by this stuff. I'm talking piles of stuff years high. Whole rooms inaccessible because of floor to ceiling stuff. One woman had filled her entire home and bought the house next door to start filling it as well.

Everyone featured is at some end-stage level where they are about to have their home condemned or their loved ones have threatened to cut them off so its more of an intervention show than plain old exploitation. Therapists specializing in hoarders are called in to help assess the situation, move the hoarder to a point where letting go of the stuff won't cause a meltdown and then volunteers pour in to clear out the mess.

I've seen more than one home that I would have just let be torn down rather than go through the hassle of cleaning them out. During the clean up of one elderly Louisiana woman's home, carcasses of dead cats were unearthed as they began clearing layer after layer of pure garbage that had collected over the years. One guy's front door couldn't even open all the way because of the huge mountains of stuff in the way. To actually go inside, he had to CLIMB the mountains of stuff!

Honestly, I can understand how an elderly person with no local assistance could end up suffocating in a home piled with stuff but some of these folks are way younger than elderly and, at first glance, appear to be normal, well adjusted members of society, holding down jobs, taking vacations, having relationships, etc. Then they roll the footage of their home and reality shifts tremendously. At this point, my forehead furrows. How is that possible? The guy with the mountains of stuff that I mentioned was ex-navy, looked a little like Christopher Reeves and had a girlfriend who had never been to his home! He always stayed at her place was a meticulous housekeeper while there. He finally agreed to let her see the place during the show and, just as I suspected, her jaw dropped, a look of horror/confusion flashed across her face and she left him. I would have done the same thing. To me, for someone to exhibit behavior like that, something must be mentally unstable. For lack of better word, its CRAZY! And who wants to be laying in bed next to a crazy person every night?

Anyway, since I've been watching this show, its made me super aware of my own home and the things I keep in it. A few days of letting laundry pile up in the chair in bedroom and I panic. Oh no, I'm becoming a hoarder! I throw things away at record speed rather than letting the mail pile up on the counter for weeks. I'm terrified that one day I'll wake up into a nightmare similar to one of those featured on the show.

Well, today, for the first time, I took a look around my office/cubicle and saw the piles of paper, the outdated folders, several days worth of coffee mugs and a styrofoam cup from a fast food lunch from weeks ago. Like those hoarders, I had cleared a bit of work space, just around the keyboard and to my right to actually work in but the entire surface of the desk was obscured by . . . STUFF!

Noooooooo . . .

Tomorrow, I've vowed to march in there and clear the mess but I'm intimidated and overwhelmed. I've never used a real filing system! I print out nearly every email that requires an action so that I won't forget it. I have copies of proposals mixed in with articles that I printed to read later, memos rendered soggy from leaning against drink cups, a storage cabinet full of 2008 Christmas cards and bottles of lotion accumulated after birthdays and holidays. I don't know where to begin but I've got to slay this dragon immediately before they create a spin-off show in my honor: Hoarders: Office Edition!

Any REALISTIC organization tips are welcome and appreciated. I cannot order new furniture but I can order new accessories; bins, hanging thingies, etc. And I do have a soft walled cubicle which is now push-pinned to capacity with my childrens' artwork and school schedules, old to new travel itineraries, birthday cards, random memos and a deskpad calendar which I decided to hang to save desk space (ha!).


Melanie's Randomness said...

I am an office hoarder. Guilty. I have pens that don't write anymore & I have pencils with no lead, I have 3 towers of papers that are dead work that I never have to touch again, & just alot of crap on my desk. Maybe its because I don't have a drawer in my desk...I know my bosses are idiots to by desks without drawers. lol!

Corporate Chickee said...

I hope I can help! I'm a little OCD on the organizing side of life... a few little things that help me stay organized and not get too cluttered:

1. Flag emails that require action instead of printing them. Then periodically throughout the day (or the near the end/start of the day) sort your inbox by flagged emails. Then you can go through and unflag the ones you've done, and tackle the ones you haven't done yet. I do still print emails at times - but this helps for all the little stuff - like when you want to make sure you get back to someone with a question, but not a whole proposal or anything.

2. Color Coding. I LIVE by color coding. I'm a very visual person and color coding helps me stay on top of things. If I look at my work calendar for next week and see a lot of turquoise - I know I have a lot of out of office meetings to prepare for. Orange means internal meetings. Neon green is urgent, etc.

3. along those same lines - plug in anything you need (reminders, to do's, etc) into your work calendar. If I know I need to get back to a client by the end of the week - I scroll to friday, plug in what I need to do, and set it to remind me 4 hours prior, or whatever.

4. Those standing file-folder stands that are tiered. I'm not sure what they're called - but I have two of them that I keep on my desk for things I use ALL the time. Then my filing cabinets are for storing resources/contracts/etc.

5. I'm also big on those post-it tabs. I use those to highlight accounts as 'new' or one that has a certain service, etc.

Hope that helps a little bit!! :) Ooh, and one more thing: At the end of each week I make my to do list for the next week. I typed it up in word so it has the stuff I MUST do every week already on there. Then I can write in details for what is needed. Each afternoon I review it, mark off what I have done, add anything that needs to be added, etc. Then each Friday I review the old one, and create a new on for next week. This way I start each day with a fresh list of what I need to focus on, and I don't lose track of things as easily!

Just Jay said...

There is an accordian file out there that is numbered fro 1-31 (days in the calendar). For every e-mail printout or file, designate a day in which you will take care of it and put all the papers in the day slot, when the day comes, take out stuff from that day and that is your ONE pile on your desk!

luckygirl said...

i don't keep a very neat house but i do keep a very neat office. my main tips are to only print things that you absolutely have to. recycle when done. i have a tray on my desk that i keep items i need to read and when it reaches the top i make myself read what's in there. i usually get through about half and i start at the bottom. then i recycle what i don't need! works for me :)

Ms. Attitude said...

I have seen only one episode of that show is it was the one with all the dead cats being dug up.

I would recommend this: I have a tier file holder that sits on my desk with what needs attention. Then, I file everything immediately after it has been addressed. I would recommend that you use a planner for everything (school schedules, your schedule, etc.) Leave it open on your desk every day and check things off as you get them done. That's what I do and it seems to work well.

Jess said...

Corporate Chickee is right on! I'm a crazy office organizer myself and I color code everything, have individual file folders, flag emails, utilize the Microsoft Office calendar so I don't forget things and try to straighten up my desk a bit each night before I leave. I think that helps the most because I come in the morning not feeling so overwhelmed because I have neat stacks. Plus, I feel like I can't think, let alone work in a mess. You can do it! It's kind of fun organizing your workspace and you can make it personal with fun fonts and stuff! :)

Anonymous said...

You say you can't understand hoarders and they are carzy, yet you yourself gave defined a little bit of what a hoarder goes thru. You keep stuff on your desk and the thought of cleaning/ getting rid of stuff scares you a little. Take this to a lager scale and you'll get what hoarders are going thru. I'm not saying the behaviour is right or healthy, buti do think hoarders have underlying issues which lead to their hoarding and to call them crazy is wrong.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but my mom actually told me today that's gotten addicted to Hoarders and watching the show has been motivating her to get spring cleaning done. Go figure.

Samantha - Tiny Cha0s said...

I might not be the best to give out advice on tidiness, but I will tell you what I have learned from my many mistakes : )

1)As tedious as this may sound, even make the task of organizing a highly organized process. Figure out in what order you would have to tackle everything so it doesn't feel endless ( far to often we get buried in stuff because "okay I want to file this, but to file this I need to organize that, to organize that I need to move this, etc etc). Make a list, and set aside a little bit of time at the end of your work day to cross out a few things from that list at a time. This will make it seem less overwhelming. Also, creating a prioritized list of how to conquer this ensures that you aren't making temporary cleaning solutions, but a really neat system that will last and make your work life TEN times easier.

2) Yes yes yes to the calendar. Make note of the small tasks to get them out of the way. Its the small things that lead to disaster, I believe. The little purchases that we don't make note of when balancing our check book, the couple of brownies or sliders we have at a party that we figure "don't count"...all little things add up, and tasks/emails/old
paperwork are the same way.

Mind you, I am guilty of all of the above :). Good luck! Hope some of this helps

Ellen said...

I wish I had some advice for you, but I really don't. I am a TERRIBLE hoarder, which is especially terrible for someone living in a tiny NYC apartment. There is just STUFF everywhere...annoyyying!

Healthcare Working Girl said...

Thanks so much for the great suggestions. I'm applying several and hoping for the best but, as my post of yesterday denotes, I'm just so busy right now I don't know when I'll have any serious reorganizing/de-cluttering time. Maybe if I were more organized, I wouldn't be so busy. UGH!

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