It’s hard to get work done at a messy desk—especially one that’s at home, where it’s susceptible to more than just work-specific piles. And who wants to spend time organizing when you should be working? While I can’t promise that organizing your desk will chase away all distractions that might strike, I can guarantee that if you tackle your home office clutter soon, you’ll be happier and more productive. Really!
Photo courtesy of ClosetMaid.com
The first step to getting organized is to take stock of all the items that are cluttering your home office in the first place. This DIY episode provides a great overview of the necessary steps.
Begin by sorting every item—down to the paperclips—into piles by function. You might have a stack of bills in one pile, miscellaneous school permission slips and report cards from your children in another file, and those darn paperclips sitting with a stash of other office supplies.
Next it’s time to purge. Toss pens that are out of ink, recycle paper you have no use for (shred the confidential stuff first), and make a pile of books that can be donated or given away. Perhaps the trickiest part is figuring out when it’s OK to toss or shred paperwork and when documents should be kept.
Once you’ve sorted and purged, it’s time to take stock of what’s left and figure out exactly what you need to keep everything in place. For paperwork and files, this might be standing file organizers for your desk, file cabinets with hanging folders, baskets, or a combination thereof. Separate personal files and papers from business items by designating a separate drawer or folder for each.
Bookshelves or wall-mount shelves come in handy for books, magazine holders, and baskets. For versatility, make sure your organization plan includes a mix of open and closed storage—open storage makes it easy to find and grab the items you need, but closed storage is ideal for stashing office supplies and other items that might get disorganized quickly.
Now that you have a spot for everything, it’s time to think about the best office setup. Many people swear that an L-shape work surface is the most effective, but it’s really a matter of preference. Just make certain your office space is ergonomically correct—spending the money on a well-made, comfortable office chair and positioning your computer monitor at the right height can make a world of difference. And make sure you have good light.
Whether you’re the creative sort who loves to tear ideas from magazines or you just need a very visible calendar to keep on top of dates, a framed piece of corkboard or a large linen board is perfect for keeping your desk clear and providing an easily visible spot to display ideas and dates.
Keep your desk clear of random items, but ensure that what you use most frequently is within easy reach. Designate a spot nearby for supplies—notice I said nearby, not right in front of you on the desk. Aside from a couple of pens and perhaps a pad of post-it notes, do you really need it all right beside you? (Although I will admit all those cool containers for holding pens, clips, and other office supplies are perfect for displaying.) Storing items on a rolling cart is one way to keep things out of the way but easy to move within reach.
Once your office is in tip-top shape, all you have to do to keep it that way is to spend a few minutes at the end of each day (or at least those days you use your home office) clearing clutter. Piece of cake, right?
Bonus Tip: Once you’ve tackled the clutter in your home office, it’s time to take a break and celebrate. But sometime soon you might want to address that other cluttered desktop in your office—the one on your computer. Create specific folders on your computer for specific tasks (and separate business-related files from personal ones), much as you did with the files in your office, to whip your computer into shape in no time.
The Home Know-It-All