Last Updated July 20th, 2011

7 Steps to an Organized Home Office

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.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 29th, 2010

Guest Post – Organizing the Work at Home Office, Kids Included

Working from home can be challenging for the most devoted mom, but add in kids and the potential for problems is increased a thousand fold. Spending time with your kids is of course the entire reason you want to work from home, so preparing for issues that may arise is essential. Organizing your work area, and finding ways to involve your children will help your day go smoothly.

Setting Up Your Office

Whether you are just starting the search for a work at home job, or you’ve been working from home for years now, your office space can probably be spruced up. It doesn’t matter if you have a separate office or plan on working from the dining room table, you need to be organized to make the most of your time. Make a list of the things you will need to use throughout the day, from pens and notebooks, to calculators and phones. Now think about where you need these items to be placed in order to reach them without interrupting your work. Baskets, mugs, and drawers can help you hide things while keeping them in easy reach. If you are running a business with a lot of products you’ll have to consider shelves or other systems to sort and group items easily.

While you are considering the items and space you need to create for your work area, don’t forget to design around the activities your children will be doing while you are working. A small table beside you, or in your line of vision is great for toddlers, while you may want space for a bouncer for a baby. A small shelf area with toys, crayons or craft supplies will help keep them engaged while you complete projects.

Emergency Toys

No matter how organized you are, and what type of space you’ve put together for your children, there will come a time when you really need them to be occupied and they just aren’t interested in their current toys. Keeping an emergency stash with items they’ve never seen before is a great way to redirect their attention long enough for you to finish that phone call or writing deadline. The dollar store is a great place to buy small inexpensive toys.

The Egg Timer

Children are wonderful little beings, but they don’t really have a concept of time. When you ask them to be quiet so you can finish a phone call, they don’t understand how long that will take. Introducing an egg timer will help your little one stay focused as well as yourself. Start with 1-3 minutes and work your way up to 15-20 over a couple of weeks.
If you begin the egg timer training when you don’t have anything important to do the results will be better. Once the kids understand how it works you can put it into actual practice. Start the timer by saying how long you need them to entertain themselves and be extra quiet, give them a project to do or suggest a toy, and as soon as the timer dings make sure you praise them and give them a hug so they enjoy the process.

Get the Kids Involved in Organizing

Keeping your office area organized as well as the kids play area can seem daunting. Kids want to help out, and if you make the organizing time fun they’ll be even more excited. Set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of your day and bring out the egg timer again. Tell the kids it’s a race to see who can pick up the most toys by the time the timer goes off. While the kids are taking care of their area you can put your own items away or create your to do list for the next day.

Guest Post By: ClutterGeeks

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 28th, 2009

End of the Year Cleanup – Clean Out Your Computer Files

Sooo… how many free reports and other junk do you have cluttering up your hard drive? It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of downloading tons of information and never doing anything with it.

Rather than leaving them in your eternal “I thought I would do this but I really won’t” pile, get rid of them. Those free reports you’ll never act on. The ebooks you know you aren’t going to read.

Sure, your computer has a ton of hard drive space but this isn’t about freeing up space. It’s about freeing yourself to be more productive. Having junk in your work space can slow you down with “I ought to’s.”

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 9th, 2007

Decluttering Your Home Office

The trouble with home offices is that they are often a mess. In my experience, it is easy to feel like it is more important to work than to straighten up my office. There are just so many more things I could be doing and they seem more profitable than handling the inevitable clutter.

But the time always comes when the job must be done. I have to clean my home office. And so I will share my tips for it with you.

Papers are one of the worst items for cluttering an office. It doesn’t matter if you do your business 100% online, somehow paper appears anyhow. Check stubs, random stuff you’ve printed, mail someone else dropped in your office for some unknown reason. And it just tends to sit, unfiled or not in the trash can.

As you can guess, the first step is to sort through all those papers sitting on your desk or elsewhere in your office. If you don’t have a good filing system set up, make one! There will come a time when you will need one or another piece of paperwork, and if it is filed you will have a much easier time finding it.

Now, look at everything else in your office. What really belongs in there? Is it in the most sensible location for it?

Having kids, toys often end up on my desk. Just random stuff, generally small, but they do get in the way of working. Then there are the random computer accessories that are rarely used and really don’t belong on my desk.

You may have things like printer cartridges sitting about. Think about the right place to keep them; easily accessible for when you need them, but not where they’re taking up space on your desktop.

Look at your work setup, especially those areas where you do most of your work. Are they comfortable? Reasonably ergonomically set up? If you’re having to stretch to reach things all the time or if you’re having concerns about carpal tunnel or similar problems, you probably need to work on the way you have your office set up. The better you can manage this the more productive you will probably be during your work hours.

Check your office for any other problems. A cluttered home office can feel comfortable but it can also limit your effectiveness as you work. You may be surprised at how quickly you can fix clutter issues, especially once you have a good filing system. A little bit of time invested can help you to be more productive overall.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.