Is your home office a room you conveniently close the door on and avoid at all costs? Do you survey the mess and feel your blood pressure rise? Have you taken over the dining table or part of the kitchen because you don’t have a dedicated home office space?
At first glance the volume of stuff in a home office can look like hundreds, if not thousands, of items. In reality, there are only 5 TYPES of items that make up a smoothly functioning home office. Hold up your hand and count them off…
- WORKSPACE. This is the necessary flat surface for doing work.
- Make sure you have adequate room for computer AND some papers if possible
- It’s a work space so don’t use it as a storage Only use for storing active papers and very minimal supplies
- EQUIPMENT. The electronic tools we use to get the job done.
- Computer, printer, scanner, phone …
- Try to keep them stored off the floor, cables managed
- Keep easily accessible from workspace if often used
- SUPPLIES. All the usual suspects
- Evaluate high use vs. low use (If you only write thank you notes a few times a year, don’t store 5 boxes of thank you cards in your top right hand drawer of your desk!)
- Only use desktop if absolutely necessary for critical supplies: stapler, tape, 1 pen cup, paper clips…consider adding a wall shelf instead
- Drawers and shelves work best for supplies
- Stock desk or workspace with a small amount of critical supplies and store overflow loose supplies in sorted, clear lidded containers on shelves further from workspace.
- ACTIVE PAPERS. These are To-do’s and Active Reference.
- Active reference usually means things like schedules, phone lists, and upcoming events. This is the one type of paper that can justify taking up some of your workspace.
- Piles can work OK but go vertical over horizontal by using, magazine holders, desktop file sorters, or desktop file crates
- RESOURCES. Files, books, magazines.
- Files live best in a filing cabinet, not flat in a drawer or loose on a shelf
- Consider real estate value when assigning homes. Don’t give over a prime drawer to low-use files such as warranties & instruction manuals.
- Make sure you have enough shelving space to accommodate the number of book/magazine resources you need
Even if your “home office” can only be a section of counter or the dining room table, assess the space for how these 5 elements are being handled. Keep your desktop as clear as possible and use drawers and cabinets to hold what isn’t active.
Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, come back to this concept…use your hand as a visual reminder. Everything in a home office falls into one of five categories. Take it slow, you can focus on one element at a time and make significant progress.
It make take more than one hand to get yourself picked up to start, but once you have your systems in place, maintaining it should be quick and easy. And if all else fails, you can use your one hand to wave at the mess as you close the door on it.