A well organized home office is a big help when you’re trying to be productive. It doesn’t matter if everything you do is on your computer and you never have to dig through the clutter on your desk – clutter is a distraction. Most people are more productive with an organized home office.

I’ll be the first to admit that my own office isn’t perfect. The kids often drop off their schoolwork on my desk. Mail gets left there. Don’t even ask me  how the random toy parts got there; I probably don’t even know. But when I take the time to clean things up, I still notice that it’s easier to be productive without all the stuff all over my desk.

Step 1: Get rid of the stuff that shouldn’t be in your home office anyhow.

As I said above, my kids put their schoolwork on my desk, and the mail ends up there a lot. That’s because it’s the first flat surface you come to in my house. Makes it an easy target.

While it hasn’t completely stopped the constant flow of schoolwork, it helps that I bought each of my kids a bin to keep their school papers in. I take a look at how they’re doing, but aside from that, they get to choose when to dispose of their papers if they keep them in the bin. Anything left on my desk is fair game for me to handle as I choose. The kids are still young enough to be pretty possessive of their schoolwork, so it doesn’t take much to get them to move it.

Step 2: Consider declaring the area off limits.

If you have a home office area that is a completely separate room from the rest of the house, consider declaring it off limits. The fewer people come into your work area, they less they’ll mess it up for you.

Obviously, this won’t work for everyone. My office space doesn’t have a door, and it’s also where the kids do their homework and crafts. I have a separate desk in there for them, not that they put their papers there often. Since it’s the second largest room in the downstairs area, I can’t keep it just for me. Just wouldn’t work.

Step 3: Separate professional and personal.

It’s not at all unusual to have a lot of your personal papers in your home office, although if you’re going for the tax deduction you should be trying to keep more of a dedicated office space. But separating your personal and professional paperwork and life in general is important for more reasons than that. It helps you to keep a more professional frame of mind if you don’t have too much personal stuff in the way when you’re trying to work at home.

Step 4: Organize your papers.

My office also has the file cabinet where we keep all our important papers – that’s the other reason the mail ends up in there. Shredder is in there too, so I don’t much mind having the mail in there, so long as the “to be shredded” pile and the “needs filing” pile don’t get too out of control.

Set up a filing system so that you can immediately put new papers in their place. The closer you can get it to a “touch once” system, the better.

My system, for example, has a place for important things that need more handling, such as bills to be paid or checks to be deposited. I don’t want to lose those, so they get a special place away from other papers that may clutter up.

Step 5: Organize your computer work space.

Clutter impacts your computer too. How many downloads do you have that you just haven’t made the time to read yet? How full is your email inbox? If someone emails you, how hard is it to spot that email?

I’m a big fan of filtering my email. This makes it easier to find personal emails as well as professional ones from sources which have contacted me before. Sorting those out makes it a lot easier to scan through the rest, deciding what’s worth reading, what’s just spam and so forth.

Do the same for your work computer files. Set up a system so you can find the files you need when you need them. If you run websites, keep separate files for each site, for example. If you have clients, set up a file for each, and subfiles as necessary for individual projects.

Step 6: Make sure your home office is a pleasant place to work.

Your home office doesn’t have to be a bland, colorless space. It’s yours, after all, and you don’t have to obey any corporate rules about how your office should look. Plants, pictures, whatever you like to make your space more comfortable, just so long as they don’t make the place too cluttered to work in.

I have an orchid I’ll be adding to my home office space just as soon as I get a little more clutter off my desk, a birthday present from my husband. A little green is always nice to have, and the blooms are lovely… I hope I can get it to bloom again in future years.

Step 7: Make sure it’s working for you.

Your organization system for your home office may not work for you the first time you try it. If it isn’t, try a new system after giving yourself enough time to have really tried out your first thoughts in the area. There’s no rule saying you can’t change things up.