It sounds simple: When you take out a file, put it back in its drawer when you’re done. When you use a note pad to jot something down, you put it back in its place when you’re finished. This is the concept of completion — when you start a task, you finish it by putting objects back in their “home.”
But this singular notion will help you keep your office tidier, your paperwork better organized, and both your personal and professional life running more smoothly, according to Regina Leeds, known as the “Zen organizer” and author of the book Right Size, Right Now (De Capo Press, 2015).
“We live in a cause-and-effect universe,” Leeds says. “If you see an effect you don’t like, it might be a behavior pattern. I teach people to think and approach their environment differently.”
“A Zen, organized space has no clutter and contains everything you need or want to use. The sum purpose of that environment is to nurture you from the moment you walk into it,” she says. “Function is powerful.”
When you bring clients into your office, whether to meet for the first time or to sign closing documents, you want to present “tasteful ownership” over your workspace. Here are six tips to accomplish Zen organization at your place of business.
1. Take a lesson from doctors. Medical professionals have tools set out in the order they’re going to be used — no more, no fewer than they will need. Use this operational approach when organizing your office or desk, Leeds suggests. Make items you use frequently most accessible, placing them closest to you and organize outward from there.
2. Eliminate everything you don’t need or use. Get rid of old letterhead, brochures, and business cards. Set up a biyearly day to clean out and recycle around the office. Then create a standardized filing system based on name, date, or categories, Leeds says.
3. Tell a story on your walls. Bare walls make it look like you haven’t taken ownership over the space, says Leeds. Frame and hang photos and artwork related to your profession and your community. Celebrate what makes your market special. Display awards and personal photographs, but don’t go overboard to the point of clutter.
4. Bring an office to life with plants. Plants breathe a ray of warmth and light into an interior space. But you need to pick the right species for the environment and amount of sunlight. Consult your local nursery if you need help, Leeds says.
5. Candy: One of the oldest tricks in the book. Put a small bowl of candy out on your desk to make your office more inviting for agents or clients.
6. Make maintaining common areas a job duty. A real estate office can become like a college dorm pretty quickly, with people leaving dirty dishes in the sink or not putting supplies away. Sometimes sharing cleanup duties can work at an office — but sometimes it doesn’t. An easy solution is to put one person at your office in charge of common areas, Leeds says. This person should make sure conference areas and break rooms are clean, monitor supplies, schedule maintenance or place orders as needed, and take general ownership over the space. But if you’re adding this job duty to an employee’s workload, you must compensate them accordingly.