Organizing Your Home Office

Getting Organized

Cabinets and wall shelving can help keep distracting clutter to a minimum.
Cabinets and wall shelving can help keep distracting clutter to a minimum.

For your first big step, start by aiming to create a home office workspace free from distractions. If you're just working remotely from the office, this can be fairly low-key -- for example, your sofa and a laptop stand could serve as your "desk" -- although a dedicated workspace is a bonus. If you're running a fulltime business out of your home, you'll probably seriously want to consider having a room solely for that purpose. That way it'll be easier to keep an appropriate work/life balance. You don't need tomorrow's tasks eyeballing you while you try to relax and watch a little TV.

Then before you break out the boxes and open up the filing cabinets, consider the big picture: Is your chair comfy? Does your lighting suit your tasks? Can you download that 50-page PDF without freezing your computer for an hour? Proper ergonomics are essential to the success of most, if not all, home offices. Good lighting, proper seating, a quiet setting, a fast Internet connection and superior organization are crucial. Speaking of organization, there are a number of ways you can improve the organizational setup of your home office.

Since a messy pile of unfiled paperwork can definitely be a stressful distraction, create a filing system. Whether that's a carefully defined set of drawers, a recessed wall space with allocated bins, a meticulously maintained file folder system, a mobile file cart or some other orderly technique, make sure everything you aren't directly using is out of sight and out of mind -- until you are prepared to deal with it.

A prolific use of labels can help you keep track of things, too. That way different files and containers will leap to hand quickly. It can be as simple as "done", "in progress" and "to-do", or as complex as you need to suit your means. Be studious about labeling electronic files too, because those are just as easily misplaced.

Financial documents often comprise a big chunk of the files cluttering up a home office and are key to running a home business or even just keeping personal and professional finances straight. It's a good idea to organize them in a separate space, otherwise an important invoice or other bill could end up swamped in junk mail you're meaning to shred. Or, even worse, something that should be shred ends up getting mistakenly chucked in the trash. That's not a smart move for security purposes, so ensuring these documents are properly organized is important.

Lots of desktop accessories are available that can help you always have the basics on hand, whether that be a sticky note, a pen and pencil, or a stapler, but these fixtures can also take up a lot of valuable real estate, so be flexible when it comes to deciding if one of these items is causing more stress than peace of mind. Sometimes a more diminutive accessory will serve the same purpose without accentuating an already clutter-prone space.

Get your feng shui straight, and your home office will be more productive in a flash.