When you work from a home office, you automatically put yourself at risk for greater distractions than if you worked in a typical office environment. You may have to deal with the distractions of children, pets, your spouse, neighbors, radio, television, and your refrigerator. Don’t let home office clutter be added to the list! Having a messy or cluttered home office will do nothing more than add to your stress load and make you less productive. Organizing your home office doesn’t have to be hard.
1. Planning – Make a list of your biggest home office organization problems. Do you have piles of papers that need to be sorted, trashed, or filed? Do you have general garbage surrounding you (such as drink bottles, old magazines, etc.)? Do you have disks or CDs everywhere with files and programs that you need? Do you have a problem finding a pen or paper clip when you need one? Can you easily reach your files when you need them? You can’t start to organize your home office if you don’t identify your problem areas first.
2. Remove Trash – Trash should be the first thing you deal with once you jump into organizing your home office. If you see something that you don’t want or need, or that you can completely do without, just trash it! This could include anything from drink bottles to old copies of trade magazines to junk mail. If you’re not sure about something, ask yourself “Will I honestly need, or use, this a month or two from now?” If not, get rid of it. Make sure you have a trash can in your office at all times. If you don’t have one already, buy one so you don’t feel tempted to let trash accumulate again.
3. Filing – Find a box, bin, or even a shelf where you can put all of your ‘to be filed’ items. Take any loose papers you find, and place them there for the time being. Then look at your filing cabinet or drawer (if you don’t have one, now would be a good time to purchase one). Do you have your folders well organized? Do you need to create more? Work on neatening up your filing system in general, and then set aside a few hours, or even a full day, to file any papers you added to your ‘to be filed’ pile.
4. Digital Storage Media – If you have floppy disks, zip disks, or CDs lying around, it’s time to give them a home. Disks can be stored in plastic containers, and CDs are often best stored in binders. While you can store CDs in several ways, binders are ideal for the home office, because you can organize and move them easily, as well as being able to add adhesive tabs to binder pages for labeling.
5. Scheduling – Always keep your schedule and deadlines in front of you. When you work at home, you have to work extra hard to prove your credibility, so missing an important deadline isn’t an option. Keep a planner or PDA with you at all times. Additionally, keep a large wall calendar near your desk, so you can view general deadlines at a glance.
6. Finding Space – By this point, you should be left with only what’s necessary for you to work (and possibly a few personal items). Find a place where you can permanently keep your writing utensils, printer paper, binders, and everything else you need on a daily basis. When you finish using something, get into the habit of putting it back there.
7. Organizing Your Computer – If your general home office space is cluttered and unorganized, chances are that your computer files are in disarray as well. You’ll find that you can work more productively if you don’t have to search for where you saved files. Simply delete anything you no longer need, clear any unnecessary icons off of your desktop area, and organize your computer’s file folders in a similar manner to your hard files.
8. Finishing Up – Once your home office area is organized, you should take some time to vacuum or sweep, wipe down your computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard with a little bit of rubbing alcohol, and wash your desk. Touch up your cleaning every few days to help force you into the habit of keeping your home office clutter-free.
What you’ll need:
1. Trash can
2. Filing cabinet and folders
3. Cases for computer disks
4. Binder for CD storage
5. Planner or PDA
6. Wall calendar
7. Bottle of rubbing alcohol
8. Clean cloth
9. Spray cleaner for your desk
1. Once your home office is organized and clean, touch it up frequently so clutter doesn’t re-accumulate.
2. Go digital wherever possible. File emails and documents on your computer in digital form, rather than printing everything out for paper files.
3. Only use rubbing alcohol for your monitor, mouse and keyboard. Other chemicals can damage them.