Will anyone who feels embarrassed to let other people see your home office please raise your hand? When you open the door (if you even have a door to your office), maybe you’re hit with piles of mail, unfiled paperwork, and just plain junk on your desk. If you also use your home office for your job, you likely have work papers, electronics, and supplies that further contribute to the mess and kill any desire to get actual work done in there. And because it’s a home office, you might have to share it – voluntarily or involuntarily – with other members of your household and their stuff. The heck with letting your friends see your home office! You don’t want to spend any time in it either.
This week I had the opportunity to make a fresh start with my own home office. My husband and I used to share an office (which was challenging at times!). He started a new job that allows him to work from home full time, so I had to relocate my things to a nook in our guest room. Yes, it took a little time and effort to lug my stuff upstairs, but I used some techniques that made it quite easy after all. You can use these techniques for your own home office – even if you’re not changing its location. Ready for an organized office? Then let’s dive in.
1. Optimize Your Location
As in real estate, location is everything. We have seen too many clients set up beautiful home offices but never use them because of their location. You may not have the ability to change the physical location of your home office, but you can make it appealing to your senses so you will be happy to spend time in it. Make sure your desk has adequate overhead task lighting. Who wants to work in a stinky office? Eliminate musty smells with a dehumidifier and move the litter box. If your office is too hot or too cold, bring in a fan or a space heater. If you’re distracted by household noise, invest in a white noise machine to muffle the sound or download a white noise app on your smart phone. If your office is in a dual-duty room like mine, set up a visual barrier between the two spaces using a bookcase or fabric screen.
2. Define What You Do in Your Office
You’ve probably noticed that your home office can quickly become a catchall for extraneous stuff. I use my office for client work, business administration, and household administration. That’s all. So any papers or objects that don’t relate to one of those three activities have to live elsewhere. Move out things that don’t support what you do in your office.
3. Decide What You REALLY Need to Support Your Office Activities
I had a lateral file cabinet drawer dedicated to client files in our downstairs office. But we have completed our work with about 2/3 of those clients. The only client files I put in my upstairs file drawer are for those clients we’re actually working with right now. The moral of the story. . . just because you used to use something doesn’t mean you need it today and it does not justify taking up space in your office.
4. Store Infrequently-Used Things Elsewhere
What happened to the other 2/3 of my client files? I put them in a storage box in the closet because I don’t need to access them on a regular basis. Think of your desk as the cockpit of an airplane. Keep the things you need on a daily or weekly basis within arm’s reach. Everything else can go somewhere else.
5. Designate a Space for Each Activity
I have three file drawers in my upstairs desk, so I designated one drawer to hold papers related to each of the three activities I do in my office. If you don’t have enough file drawers, create a section in each drawer for each activity. Consider color-coding the file folders for each activity to make retrieving and putting them away easier.
6. Keep Your Desktop Sacred
For as long as I can remember, I kept a stapler and tape dispenser on my desktop. I rarely used either one though, so now they live in a drawer right behind my desk. Your desktop is to prime real estate. Start by removing everything from your desktop. Then evaluate each object, one by one, to see if it merits your prime real estate. Do you use it every day? Does it make you really happy? If so, then put it in its place on your desk. If you answered no to either question, it does not belong on your desktop.
Finally, at the end of each day, take a few minutes to return your desktop to its beautiful, functional, organized state. Put file folders back in their places and return any extraneous items on your desktop to their proper homes. You’ll be ready to start your tomorrow with confidence – and you’ll be proud to share your organized home office with your friends. Join the discussion! What have you done to organize your own home office? Please reply by clicking the review button below and share your own tips with others.
Certified Professional Organizer
Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization
President, Absolutely Organized, LLC (located in Baltimore and Atlanta)
Past President, Institute for Challenging Disorganization