Want to be more inspired and productive in your home office? Get organized!
No matter what the science may say about a disorganized and messy desk promoting creativity, being surrounded by disorder tends to burden us psychologically. Despite Albert Einstein’s famous words, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” for most of us, clutter only adds to the weight of our already packed to-do list.
Often, when it comes to our home office organization, it isn’t something that occurs to us until we’re overwhelmed with piles and clutter. Throughout the days and weeks, things seem to stack up around you – bills, papers, orphaned pens, magazines, coffee mugs – often visual reminders of what you’ve put off and don’t want to do.
Until… all of a sudden, you need something and can’t find it buried beneath the chaos.
It’s time to tidy and organize! But where to start? Your disappearing desk becomes the proverbial elephant in the room.
And how do you eat an elephant? Yup! One bite – or pile – at a time. Read on for six manageable, bite-sized steps you can take right now, and take control of your home office organization for a workday that offers more ease and, ultimately, more productivity.
The Purge – Declutter
Papers gather and pile up so easily – and so fast! Take control of paper documents and paper clutter before it takes over your desk. Use the handy System of Three to manage all the paper in your office: toss or shred it, file it, or take action with it.
The same can be done with other items that create clutter on your work surface and throughout your space. If you’re familiar with Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it’s only the items that “spark joy” that you should keep. If you have 25 pens, but only use three favorites, give away the others. If you’re hoarding four power strips and only use two of the best and most reliable, get rid of the other two – use them elsewhere or give them away.
Take a few hours on a less busy day to review the contents of your office and go through every single item. You’ll realize very quickly what you need, what you like or even love, and what must go. If you’re still not sure, ask yourself the question, “Do I need this?” If the answer is “no,” but you still can’t let it go, ask, “Does this item spark joy in my life?” If not, so long!
Taking care of papers and documents, particularly when they’re spilling over in piles on your desk, can be a particularly difficult task. Manage the paper clutter with efficient filing.
A well-organized filing system promotes a tidy and highly functional office space. Color coding is a super-effective way to easily keep papers under control, and not just temporarily. Using colors to label files allows you to identify your files quickly and easily so you can find what you need, or where documents need to go, in seconds, helping to minimize filing procrastination. Create a system for both digital and hard files.
To set up your filing system according to color, separate it into five color-coded categories:
- Green – Financial
- Blue – Personal
- Orange – Insurance
- Yellow – Home
- Red – Medical
Ideally, use sturdy hanging files and label each according to your specific business and personal needs. Organize your newly color-coordinated files in a nearby filing cabinet or, if nothing else, a dedicated drawer in your desk. If you only keep minimal paper files, opt for a stylish desktop file box, attractive and close at hand.
Given that it’s a New Year and a New Decade, of course, many of our files aren’t paper. When it comes to electronic files, it’s equally important to set up a system of organization so you can find what you need quickly and easily. Just remember to back everything regularly, ideally on an external drive or to an online or cloud account.
Use Containers for Storage
You may be blessed with shelves as part of your workspace, but if not, there are many container options available to help manage your office supplies and belongings.
Storing supplies and other items in containers – baskets, bins, and boxes – is a great way to keep all of your office essentials yet maintain uncluttered organization. Chances are, you’ll also find the exact containers to fit your home office style and decor.
Office supplies such as pens, pencils, scissors, sticky notes, envelopes, and more, take up valuable space on your work surface and should only be out when you’re using them. Otherwise, they only contribute to cluttering up your desk and can be a distraction.
To help identify your containers and for efficiency and organization, don’t forget to label storage containers to help you find what you’re looking for.
Clear Your Desk for an Entire Week
Much like an elimination diet, where you remove all foods that could be a source of food intolerance and sensitivity, clearing everything off your desk is a great way to help identify those bare essentials you need to keep on your work surface. You can then eliminate or store the rest.
Remove everything from your desktop and place it all into a large box (or two). Leave only items that are necessary, such as a computer or laptop and your phone. As you clear your desk, don’t forget to spend a little time culling items and toss that clutter you know isn’t worth keeping.
Store the box(es) nearby, but out of the way, so you’re not tripping over it to move around your office. Continue your work as usual and, if you find you need something from a box, set it in a sensible place on or around your work surface. For instance, if you find you need your tape dispenser, recover it from the box and place it wherever it most logically fits on your desk.
At the end of the week, you should have recovered and placed everything you need to work efficiently at your desk or close by. Whatever remains in the box(es) can be moved elsewhere, filed appropriately, given away, or tossed altogether.
Incorporate Clever Shelving and Storage Units
Shelves and storage units are an easy and stylish way to bring order and organization to your home office. They’re also great for stashing an abundance of items and work essentials out of sight, either in bins or baskets or behind closed doors.
Choose conventional shelving or stylish cubbies upon which to organize and display tchotchkes and keepsakes, houseplants, and other decorative items as well as practical office supplies.
Attractive storage solutions that include a hutch, credenza, storage cabinet, or any combination thereof – some that even include file cabinets – can make all the difference when it comes to efficient organization of essential office supplies.
Clear Your Bulletin Board
Like a paper daybook or agenda, many of us still rely on an old-fashioned bulletin board to keep essential reminders or to stay up to date on events. They often feature prominently in a home office because they’re such an easy way to keep important tidbits front and center.
However, they can quickly turn into an eyesore – a cluttered collection of sticky notes, menus, mementos, photos, party invites, and so much more. Rather than keep us organized, they get reduced to a jumbled time capsule!
If you look at your bulletin board right now, check to see if you’ve got anything pinned that you need to take care of immediately, today, or this week. Is there anything out of date? What else is there instead? Photos from last year’s summer vacation? Outdated artwork created by your children?
With your workspace in your home, it’s OK to keep it dedicated to only work-related items, equipment, and supplies. Keep office organization and your productivity in the space as top priorities.
Indeed, we all want to be surrounded by family photos and kids’ artwork in our homes, but your home office shouldn’t be the place to keep them. Unpin or unclip them from the office bulletin board and move them to another place where you’ll appreciate them.
Clear all outdated messages, notes, and reminders off the board. It’s time to move forward!