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Home Office Organization

When it comes to office organization there is no one size fits all. For one person a home office is a dedicated room, for another it’s a tiny bit of countertop in the kitchen. Besides the obvious differences in space, there are variations depending on the type of work being done. Are you running a family or running a business? Are you grooming dogs or trading stocks?

These tips are not intended to address every possible scenario. Generally speaking they will help you think through the process of creating an organized home office; and with a little creativity you can alter them just enough to make a work-space that works for you.

Find Space

If you always end up in the living room, don’t fight it. Incorporate a desk into your decor, maybe instead of a sofa table. The point is to select a place you will really use. If your space is no space than make a portable office using a file box or canvas tote.

Tote Bag

You can order a canvas tote from LL Bean embroidered to say “Office.” You’ll need small pouches to keep office supplies organized, and project envelopes to organize paperwork or bills.

Select a Surface

You’ll need a desk or table to work on. IKEA and Office have great, affordable selections. I also love Scenario Home, which has some unique, stylish options. If you have the budget, build a custom desk and storage unit can end up saving you a lot of hassle and keep you super-organized.

Office Cat

Desk and rolling file cabinet shown above are from the See Jane Work Kate Collection, available exclusively at Office Depot.

Although there are recommended heights for desks I’ve found that they are rarely accurate as you have to take into account your height, the flooring and chair size. Check the height of an existing work area that you are comfortable at (could even be your kitchen table) and bring that measurement with you when shopping for a desk.

Basic Storage

Sharing an office? Look for a wide desk and instead of placing it against the wall let it float in the room. Then someone can work from each side.

Plan For Storage Needs

Open or closed storage is a matter of personal preference. If you choose open storage you will need to be prepared with storage boxes to keep it from looking messy.

Black and White Storage Container

Also unless you have amazing decorating skills it’s best to match your storage unit to your desk. Most office spaces are on the small side. You can accessorize with a unique chair or other furniture piece, but the two main pieces should be complementary.

Several Storage Containers

Bedrooms are often converted into offices so your storage may actually be a closet intended for clothing. It’s worth investing in specialized closet shelving to organize supplies. Stacks of plastic bins on the floor of the closet will quickly become annoying when you need something that’s at the bottom.

File In Style

Decide on a filing method. The traditional method involves a drawer with hanging files then additional files inside the hanging files as needed. This doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve known people that file their bills in a giant manila envelope with the month and year on it. It may not be sophisticated, but at least they can find what they need when they need it. Be realistic about the method that will work for you.

It’s All About Location

Assign a location to everything from your stapler to extra staples. If other people will be using the space, make sure to use labels so that everything is returned to its proper place.

Magazine File Label

Function Matters

A few knick-knacks in an office can make the space feel personal, but keep in mind they have no functional purpose, so keep them to a minimum.  Instead, choose a basket for a unique waste can or a vintage trophy cup for a pencil holder. The space will feel decorated and personalized, but in a functional way.

Trophy Cut Set

Trophy Cup with Paper Clips

Edit, Delete, Repeat

Keep only those items you use frequently, near or on your desk.

Blue Drawer Organizer

Choose Wisely

Consider your habits when selecting desk accessories. If you tend to stack then use letter trays, if you prefer to file then use a file box or drawer. Visually-minded? Use bulletin boards.

Message Boards

Buy What You Need, Use What You Buy

It’s not likely you’ll use a tub of 10,000 paper clips in your lifetime. Those supersize containers seem like a good buy, but they are not intended for home offices. After buying extra storage to store your excess office supplies, I assure you have not saved. Try sets with built in organization and a small amounts of various supplies.

Black Drawer Organizer

Watch the Clock

Keep regular office hours and at the day’s end set aside 15 minutes to organize. When you work in a traditional office company policy may keep you from a messy desk, but at home it’s easy to let the little things go. Resist the urge and you’ll save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration.

Organize By Color

Use color to keep your business and personal files from co-mingling. Without even checking the label you can quickly find what you are looking for if it’s a particular color.

Bad Habits Beware

Resist the urge to wander the house with paperwork. You grab the mail, then open it in the kitchen where you have a snack, then you hear the dryer bell and go to get the laundry–before you know it you have paperwork all through the house.

Take Notes

Go back to school; figuratively that is, get a spiral notebook to use for all your notes. If you fall off the wagon and find yourself with random sticky notes and scraps of paper simply staple them inside your notebook.

Spiral Notebook