Whether you operate a small business out of your home or simply have a dedicated spot in a room or closet for handling your household paperwork, it needs to be organized. If it's not, who knows whether everything will get done on time?
But organizing a home office is easier said than done. The common, ultra-simple storage solutions come to mind: shelves for stacking books and boxes, bulletin boards for tacking up reminders, and filing cabinets for filing away the papers you don't need to see again for a while. But what about all that other stuff? The steady stream of incoming paper and miscellaneous objects stack up, create chaos and make everything so jumbled, you don't even know where to start looking for what's missing. You need help. And you'll find it on the next 10 pages.
A bill binder will help you organize your financial business. Your bills will all be in one place and will be easily accessible -- not stored away in your filing cabinet. Buy a cheap, three-ring notebook. Place inside of it a clear, plastic pencil bag. Inside that bag, put your checkbook, a pen and stamps. Use a three-holed pocketed insert page to store bills, payment coupons and other urgent "to-do" financial and household bill items as you receive them. Once they're paid, the stubs can move to another pocketed insert page. Every two months or so, you can file away these past statements in a filing cabinet. Envelopes are stored in the inside-front pocket of the binder.
If you don't have a lot of drawers -- or maybe you just want easy access to the things you'll need a lot -- labeled boxes are a great way to keep stuff handy. Buy necklace-size (or larger) white jewelry boxes and label them with a label-maker or pen. How many you need is up to you, but these boxes, which stack easily and look attractive because they're all the same color and size, are ideal for "adhesives" (gluestick, thumbtacks, tape), pens, pencils and batteries, for example. If you want some bigger or better-looking boxes, photo storage boxes and cigar boxes work just as well.
There's nothing as frustrating and messy as a jumble of cords. Computer power cords, monitor cords, keyboard cords, printer cords, scanner cords, phone cords, lamps and extension cords are just some of the cords that can coil around a home office. And because the cords are in a jumbled mess, if you ever want to unplug or move one appliance, you'll have to unplug and move all of them. So get them organized. First, hook a standard plastic or metal basket underneath the desk, creating a cage. Run all cords through here, where they can stay wound and separated from each other. Once that's done, wind a piece of white tape around each and use it to label which appliance the cord belongs to. It doesn't hurt to label each cord on the plug-head, too.
It's low-tech and really cheap, but it works. It may involve changing your habits to cut down on clutter, but isn't that the point of all this? Every day, when you get the mail, take it to your desk -- or table-top row of baskets. How many baskets you'll use depends on your needs. But let's say one is for bills, one is for correspondence, one is for outgoing mail and one is for junk mail. Once the junk mail's out of the way, that's less clutter. And once the basket's full, you can take it to the recycling bin.
Once you're done with anything that has personal information on it -- bank account number, Social Security number, credit card applications -- get rid of it. It's useless clutter. But since it's not entirely safe to just throw it away or recycle it, you'll need a small paper shredder. Use it often. Keep a "to shred" box or basket right on top of the shredder, so it's always there to remind you to use it. Once the basket is full, turn that paper into confetti bits. It's fun to shred things. Most shredders have a removable waste basket. Line that with a plastic garbage bag, and once it's full, throw it away in a recycle container or in the garbage.
Another way to cut down on mountains of paper? Go paperless, however possible. Many companies offer paperless, e-mail-only, pay-on-the-Web billing, which cuts down on incoming mail, potential clutter and the likelihood of important things getting lost. Not only do you save a tree and a mess, but you may even save money because some companies offer small discounts for going paperless. There are even computer programs and services where faxes arrive as e-mails, not pieces of paper. It's also a good idea to back up all of this e-storage, as well as documents that stay in their non-printed, on-screen form, by investing in an external computer hard drive or an online file storage service.
Here's another way to eliminate paper and clear desk space: Put the calendar on the wall. In fact, turn the wall into the calendar … with chalkboard paint. It's available in a variety of shades of gray and green, which can be used to create a solid-color calendar, or a checkered pattern of boxes. And you can change it every month, because you can erase the dates and "to do" items and write in new ones. Extra chalkboarded wall space also makes for a great note station or place to write to-do lists or important phone numbers of people you need to call in the near future. The best part is: Nothing gets lost because you can't very well lose a wall!
Where's the cell phone? And the iPod with all the contacts on it? If you're the kind of person who loses your electronic gadgets a lot, or the cords you need to charge them up every couple of days, consider an electronic valet. A valet is a neat, tidy rectangular box (about the size of a shoe box) that plugs into a socket. It has outlets tucked away inside, where you can permanently plug in and store gadget chargers out of sight. The wires come up through a little hole in the top of the valet, where the phone, Blackberry, digital camera, etc., all rest, accounted for, while re-powering.
Your pegboard will be just like one you'd find in a garage or shop, only instead of hanging hammers, handsaws and screwdrivers on the wall, you'll hang rulers, tape, scissors, clipboards and other office tools that have convenient holes in the middle of them. You can even attach small boxes to the pegboard for papers and other hole-less objects. Here's how to do it: Drill holes in a small board, attach it to the pegboard, then assemble the box onto the mounted piece. In the box, you can put pens, pencils, letter openers and sticky-notes.
Magazine storage boxes get old magazines you're saving off the floor, off the desk, out of the way, and onto a shelf or a regular bookshelf. Best of all, they look good because they're arranged neatly inside of the box (hidden from view if you want to do that) and not stacked up vertically. And once full, they make fantastic bookends, helping to keep boxes full of office needs and other items from sliding around or falling on the ground. Most magazine holders have a bracket in front where you can attach an archival label.
Can you make your home office more sustainable? Keep reading to learn about the Top 5 Ways to Make My Office More Sustainable.
- ApartmentTherapy.com. "Look! Wooden Magazine Holders at Michaels." (Jan. 27, 2010) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/chicago/look/look-wooden-magazine-holders-at-michaels-070884
- HGTV. "Quick Tips for Home Office Organization." (Jan. 27, 2010) http://www.hgtv.com/organizing/quick-tips-for-home-office-organization/page-2.html
- Martha Stewart Living. "Organized Home." (Jan. 28, 2010) http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/25-closet-storage-and-office-organizers?#slide_6
- Martha Stewart Living. "The Ultimate Home Office." (Jan. 28, 2010)http://www.marthastewart.com/article/the-ultimate-home-office?page=2
- Real Simple. "20 Home Office Organizing Tricks." (Jan. 27, 2010)http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/home-office/20-home-office-organizing-tricks-10000001738889/index.html
- Stern, Nancy. "All Messed Up." Albuquerque Tribune. (Jan. 28, 2010) http://www.orderfromchaos.com/press.htm
- Suite101. "Use Magnetic and Chalkboard Paints." (Jan. 28, 2010) http://interiordecorating.suite101.com/article.cfm/use_magnetic_and_chalkboard_paints