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Introduction to How to Organize a Home Office

Having a home office is a great way to designate a space specifically for work or study. However, if your office is so cluttered and disorganized that you can no longer work efficiently, it may be time to make some changes. Organizing your home office may seem like a daunting task, but if you think about all the time you've wasted rummaging through mounds of old papers in frustration, you'll come to see it's one task that's worth the effort.

There are many reasons to get your home office organized. If you're running your business from your home, it's extremely important to be able to find client information or invoices as quickly as possible. If you use your home office as a place to study, a messy desk can be a distraction. Whatever the purpose of your home office, you'll find you function better in it when it's neat and clean.

The benefits of getting organized include a more productive environment and less stress. Plus, having a clutter-free environment can help you stay healthy -- clutter is a great place for insects and germs to thrive [source: Lyon]. If you have allergies or asthma, an accumulation of office clutter can result in an abundance of dust, which can aggravate symptoms [source: NY Allergy and Sinus Center].

Presumably, you've created a space for your home office in order to work or study. If there's a mountain of papers or trash, you may feel less inclined to do your work or study there. Keeping your office free of distractions means keeping it free of disorganization. From pens and pencils to cables and wiring, there are many areas within your home office that need to be organized. Check out the next section for tips on how to organize your office.

 

Wired Up?

Once you have all your equipment in place, you may run into a common problem -- an abundance of cords and wires. Having power cables and phone cords exposed can make your office look messy and pose a safety hazard, especially if you have small children. There are many products available to hide and organize wiring, so consider purchasing one [source: Cable Organizer].

Methods for Organizing Home Office Electronics

You invest a lot of money in home office electronics. Laptops or desktop computers, printers, fax machines and other hardware aren't cheap, so it's important to situate these items in a safe, organized manner.

Investing in a desk with adequate storage space is a necessity. Placing office equipment on the floor, especially if it's carpeted, can shorten the life of the device and create a fire hazard, so find a safe place to keep your electronics [source: Office of Compliance]. Measure the room, keeping in mind the placement of doors and windows, and find a desk that meets your requirements -- make sure it has plenty of space for a computer, monitor, keyboard, speakers and any other equipment you want to keep on your desktop.

If you have additional office equipment, such as a printer, fax or scanner, you may also need a small table or cabinet to house them. A cabinet with a door will allow you to hide your office gear for a neater look while still allowing you easy access.

If you need office furniture, but don't want to spend a lot of money, try your local classifieds or look online for budget-friendly options.

Now that you have your desk and larger equipment set up, it's time to bring in your office supplies. Check out the next section for tips on properly storing these materials.

Office Supply Junkie

If you love your office supplies and can't bring yourself to store them out of sight, try organizing them in a stackable unit with transparent drawers. You'll have quick access without adding clutter to your desk [source: Creel].

Methods for Organizing Home Office Supplies

Why is it that when you need a pen you can never find one? Having your office supplies organized and accessible will help you be more efficient when working in your home office -- and you'll always be able to find a pen when you need one.

The first step in organizing your office materials is making sure your supplies are in working order. Grab a sheet of paper and test all your pens. If they don't work, throw them away. You may be surprised how many of the office supplies you've stashed in the back of your desk drawer don't even work!

If you still have tons of pens, pencils and other office supplies after you've gone through everything, the trick is to consolidate. Pick out your favorites and put the rest in a small storage bin in a closet or under your desk. Keep the pens you decide to hold on to in one desk drawer, which will save you time when you're looking for a specific writing utensil. If you want to get even more organized, purchase a cutlery tray and place it in your desk drawer to store pens, highlighters and pencils [source: Life Organizers].

Any supplies you use on a daily basis should be stored within arm's reach and anything that's rarely used should be stored in your desk area to avoid clutter.

Once you have all your office supplies stored and organized, it's time to focus on all that paperwork. Check out the next section to learn how you can incorporate a quick and efficient filing system into your home office.

Label Away

Electronic label makers are cheap and easy to use, and they're a great resource if you want professional-looking labels [source: Global Dymo]. You can purchase one at your local office supply store or online.

Methods for Organizing Home Office Files

Getting your paperwork and files in order can be a challenge. However, with a little preparation and a filing system that works for you, you'll be on your way to a more organized home office in no time.

If you have lots of files piled up, the first step is to sort them into different categories. The first category will be files that you need access to on a daily basis, and these files should be kept within arm's reach. The second category contains files that you may need access to on a regular -- but not daily -- basis. The third category will be files you rarely use that can be archived [source: Creel].

To begin the sorting process, you'll need a few supplies including a file cabinet or file boxes, folders and a way to create labels, either by hand or with a label maker. Keep files that you need to access daily clearly labeled and organized by name or date in the file cabinet or box next to your desk. Category-two files can be kept in a corner of your office to allow for easy access, and files that you don't use often can be archived. You can keep these files in a closet or basement, but be sure to keep them off the ground -- you don't want a flooded basement destroying your records.

Once you've organized all your files, you may find yourself with a lot of trash. Check out the next section for some eco-friendly tips for disposing office waste.

Throw It Out

Need another excuse to throw out old documents? Silverfish and other insects can live and breed in old paper [source: Lyon.

Getting Rid of Home Office Clutter

Does the thought of throwing out old papers make you nervous? You're not alone -- many people find it difficult to throw things out. Whether you're anxious about throwing something away that may have personal information on it or you're an environmentally conscious person who doesn't want to create more garbage, there are ways to overcome your fears and clean out the clutter at the same time.

Once you've determined what is trash, you have several options. Tossing papers out with the garbage is your first option, but take a close look at each item before throwing it away. Don't toss anything that lists personal or valuable information like your social security number or full bank account number. What should you do with it? Shred it!

Shredding is an excellent way to dispose of documents that contain personal information, so you won't be at a higher risk of identity theft. There are companies that will shred your important papers for a fee, or you can purchase a home shredder for as low as $25 [sources: Google Products, Shred It].

You can also recycle your old papers. Look for a nearby recycling center, or see if your local waste management company offers a recycling pickup service.

Organizing your home office may seem challenging, but with a little effort, you'll be on your way to an orderly office in no time. For more information on organizing a home office, see the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks ArticlesSources
  • Cable Organizer. "Cable Ties, Wraps, Clips." (Accessed 1/13/10) http://cableorganizer.com/cableties-wrap-clips/
  • Creel, Ramona. "Clutter Control List." OnlineOrganizing.com (Accessed 1/13/10) http://www.onlineorganizing.com/ExpertAdviceToolboxTips.asp?tipsheet=12
  • Ghezzi, Patti. "Eliminating House Clutter." Chicago Tribune. (Accessed 1/16/10) http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/jan/01/health/chi-0101_health_clutter_rjan01
  • Global Dymo. "9 Easy Ways to Get Organized This Year." (Accessed 1/16/10) http://global.dymo.com/enCA/CampaignsHome/New_Years_Resolutions.html
  • Google Products. (Accessed 1/13/10) http://www.google.com/products?sourceid=navclient&rlz=1T4ACAW_en___US335&q=shredder&um=1&ie=UTF8&ei=xC5OS6eDOYuRtgflqIHnDA&sa=X&oi=product_result_group&ct=title&resnum=3&ved=0CDkQrQQwAg
  • Life Organizers. "Organize Your Desk in 8 Steps." (Accessed 1/16/10) http://lifeorganizers.com/Office-Home-Office/The-Organized-Office/Organize-Your-Desk-in-8-Steps.html
  • Lyon, William F. "Silverfish and Firebrats." Ohio State University. (Accessed 1/16/10) http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2108.html
  • NY Allergy and Sinus Center. "Asthma." (Accessed 1/16/10) http://www.nyallergy.com/asthma.php
  • Office of Compliance. "Exposed Energized Wiring and Electrical Components." (Accessed 1/16/10) http://www.compliance.gov/forms-pubs/eresources/fastfacts_exposedwiring.pdf
  • Shred It. "Home." (Accessed 1/13/10) http://www.shredit.com/