A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place: Home Offices and Work Spaces

The home office or workspace has many different uses – for work, paying bills, reviewing paperwork, etc., which makes this area very susceptible to constant clutter.

The organization challenge is twofold: keeping household clutter from invading the workspace and keeping work items from cluttering other areas in the house. The first rule of the home office is to organize papers – in a file cabinet or on some sort of display organizer. After everything is out of the way, look at how much space you have and think about what you might need.

Choosing the right desk is essential to help beat clutter. First and foremost, the desk must be the right size for your needs. The desk surface should provide enough room for basic office tools and have the space to write comfortably, open your mail and review files as necessary.

When setting up your desk, focus on the essentials. Pens and pencil holders, staplers and tape dispensers should be grouped together and can be bought with matching organizers. Trays (wood, plastic or wire) are must-have organization tools. A mail organizer is also essential to the home office because it is the natural location to deal with bills.

Drawers make it easy to put stuff in and then forget about it, which in turn results in a clutter basket. To make best use of your drawer and keep it as organized as possible, dedicate each drawer to one type of storage and partition drawers as necessary to keep things neat. Even if the desk does not have drawers, the under desk area can be used for storage and organization.

Technology and Equipment:
When deciding about your desk, figure out how much room your computer might take. Depending on your equipment, you may need to have room for a keyboard, monitor, computer tower, printers and mouse.
Cords always seem to be the biggest cause of clutter when it comes to technology. There are two basic options for keeping the cords organized: keep all cords together or do without them completely. Cord organizers are used to conceal cords, which can be tubes, braces or clip-in’s to keep them positioned and together.

Home office

Photo Credit: Good Housekeeping

Supplies and Reference Storage:
Shelves are the best option for storing reference materials. Open storage lets you see what you have and what you need without searching high and low. You can choose from standalone shelves or wall-mounted shelves. Make your decision based on how much room you need.

Paper and stationary supplies are best kept neatly stacked on shelves. If you don’t want a bookend on the shelf, folders can be used to keep everything neat. Magazine are best kept on racks and books should be grouped by type, so you can easily and quickly find the reference you need. Keep office supplies in a box or bin on the shelf or in drawers by type of supply.

One of the biggest challenges in keeping your home office in order is organizing a filing system. Begin by reviewing all of your paper files. Throw out what is no longer needed. Plan out the order of your files and organize them within the filing cabinet. Depending on your use and how much, stationary or rolling files are viable options for cabinets.

The best way to organize your files are to answer these three questions:

1.    Do your files have a system? You should be able to explain how your system works and finding the file should be easy. The easiest way is a simple alphabetic system organized by first letter of the topic. You also want to keep papers in order from newest in the front and oldest in the back.
2.    Do you have enough space for your files? If you are cramming files into an overstuffed cabinet, before throwing out your files, do an assessment and add another cabinet if needed.
3.    Can you digitize some of your paper files? Most paper can be stored on the computer or online. Make sure to keep hard copies of vital records and documents. Back up your computer hard drive on a regular basis to a zip drive.

Keeping Up:

Once a week, review the workspace. If you notice things are out of place and have no room for it, consider buying more organization aids. Put the items back where they are out of working space order and where you can find them.

Every two weeks, check your shelf inventory. Make sure you have adequate supplies as needed.

Every six months go through your files to determine if any are no longer in use and should be archived. Make sure files are not crammed into the file cabinet. It they are, buy another one.

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