Organizing My Home Office
Organizing My Home Office
Mary Astadourian (Professional Organizer) gives expert video advice on: Does my home office need to be in its own room?; How can I create a dedicated home office space?; Why does my desk get so cluttered? and more...
Does my home office need to be in its own room?
Home offices are really fascinating because there are more and more home offices nowadays. In fact, more and more people are working from home, and so it's important to have a good space to have your home office in. Ideally, it would be great if it was a separate room, especially if you're working out of your home. I recognize that that's not always possible, and sometimes you've got to utilize an existing space and make a little corner of it or portion of it your home office. I think what you've got to do first is figure out what space is this home office going to be in, and then figure out how to best utilize that space. If it's a part of an existing room, like if it's a part of your dining room, let's say, or your living room, you want to make sure that you get everything, that you compartmentalize everything in a way that it's not interfering with the rest of the environment that it's going in, and that it's functioning, it's streamlined, and it works for you. If it's a separate room, then you've got more freedom and more storage, and you're able to perhaps have a filing system in there as well, and storage for your supplies and things like that. It depends on where that home office is going to be, but pretty much everyone nowadays has a home office of some sort.
Why does my desk get so cluttered?
I've seen desks that have everything from nail polish, to toys, to clothing - everything. And I think desks tend to be like some sort of all-purpose dumping ground. It's a nice surface that you can use to throw things on that you say you're going to get to at some point. It's easy access drawer space that you can shove things into. And for some reason people just love using their desks as sort of little storage units. But what happens then is they just get really cluttered and then they no longer are desks. I can't tell you how many times people say to me, "Well that's my desk but I don't really work on it, I work on my dining room table because there's too much stuff on my desk." So the idea is to make your desk your desk. And create a workspace for yourself so that it's where you go to work and not where you store your stuff.
What kinds of organizational tools do I need in a home office?
When I'm setting up a home office for someone I want to make sure that the desk, itself, is organized, that the drawers are efficient, they're compartmentalized, they have all the things that they need in them. I would need trays or things to compartmentalize those desk drawers with. I like to make sure that the surface of the desk is pretty clean, but I do want to have some sort of pending file system so that I can keep the file folders that I need to access immediately for the projects I have going on. I think we should always have an inbox and an outbox and your general tools that you would have in any office: stapler, tape dispenser, some post-it notes, a cup or receptacle for your pens and pencils and things like that. You want to make you have all of these things and that they're all there, they're not in some other room of your house or somewhere where you're searching and saying to yourself "where is that?", "where is that pair of scissors? Oh, they're in the kitchen." You want to get another pair of scissors for your office, because you don't want to waste time having to search for things.
What kinds of records and documents should I keep in my home office?
If you're working a regular job out of your home office, you're probably going to need to keep things that pertain to your job. With regards to your home, the things that you want to keep are all the things that relate to running your household, such as folders for repairs that are done around the house, for bids that you might get for work that you're going to have done, or for construction or renovation work. You want to keep the bills that you're paying, the utilities and the phone and the cable and all these various things. You also want to keep any files you may have for activities or school, or things that pertain to your children. You want to keep all of your medical files for all your insurance reimbursements and all those kinds of things. Also, and I recommend this to everyone, keep a folder that I call the 911 folder, which is all the really important, relevant documents that you have that you would keep in one place. Photocopies of your passport, your drivers license, your children's passports, your medical insurance cards, your driver's registration cards, all of those things that if anything should happen if you needed access to that information, you have it all in one place.
What kind of filing system should I set up in my home office?
Filing systems are very personal things. And, I've set up a lot of different kinds of filing systems, and I'll tell you what I like personally. I like having some key categories that I can create my filing system with. I have a Household category where I then file all of the different categories of things for my household, whether that's repairs, maintenance, all of the different utilities and bills, or anything like that. I like having a Medical category, and, basically that's where you have a file for each individual person in your family. You can put all of their medical bills, their statements that they get, lab tests, things like that, in each one of those folders. And, that way, you just know if you're looking for a folder on one of your children, you just pull out and all of the medical stuff is in there. I like having a filing system with a little category, for the children. Especially, because nowadays, children are much more involved in a lot of activities. There are all kinds of school records you might need to keep, things like that. So, you can keep that all under that main category. And, I also like having something for Automobiles because, we tend to be more than a single-car family nowadays. And, there's a lot of maintenance, repairs and things that go into having an automobile or automobiles. So, that's another category that I like to have. Sometimes, depending on what the situation is, I like having a category for all of the different insurances. Because, again, between auto insurances, life insurance, fire, theft, earthquake, and depending on where you live and what kind of insurances you have, that can also be a lot of things. It's nice to keep it all together, and then, another thing I recommend to people for all of the things that don't fit in those categories, just have an alphabetical filing system, A through Z. And, all of those things that you would say, well, it doesn't fit into one of these categories? It goes under whatever letter it starts with, but, it still, it has a place. You can keep it as simple as that. If you don't want to do the categories, then just have the alphabetical system. But, just make sure that you actually have a place to put everything.
How important is a filing system?
People are often resistant to having a filing system because it makes them feel like it's too corporate and it's too “businessy”. I understand how people can feel that, but there is such an upside to having a filing system. Having a structure where you can house all of your papers and really have an order to them. I really encourage people to do that, because if I had to pick one thing that I think people need to have in their homes, it would be that they need to have a good filing system. This is because it would get rid of so much of the clutter that they have, and so many of the issues they have about not finding things or not being sure where they put things. It is the key to having an organized home.
What space-saving tools can I use in my home office?
Anytime someone says space saving, I always think going up. So, I would say, if you have a limited space in your home office, and you have a desk, get trays that stack up on that desk. If you don't have a lot of drawers to put all the different little things you might need for that desk, you can get a little drawer system to put on the desk where you can keep your paper clips and your binder clips and all those things, just all stacked on top of one of another. If you're limited in space, go up. If you've got a little space above your desk, maybe you can put one or two shelves into the wall and use that to put binders or containers to store paper in. Just try to work up if you can, because obviously if the space is limited you can't go out. So, you've got to think about what are the things you can buy that can help you do that.
What kinds of storage containers should I use in my home office?
You want to be careful on a home office in what you are using for your storage containers because it is still your home, so you want it to have a certain look. When you are at a company or a regular office you are not always as selective or picky about what you are using. But in your home, I think you have every right to be a little choosier about it. So I think you want to look for things that are more decorative looking, but functional. Now, there are lots of things out there that you can purchase and they can range in costs from not so expensive to very expensive. So that is up to you, but if again you are on a limited budget, you can look and see what kinds of gift boxes you have received, or things that you have gotten in that past that you can utilize to use as storage for your home office. Even nice coffee mugs; we have all done the using a mug for our pencil holder. But it is actually great and it works really well or even a nice glass if you do not want to have the handle. Just anything like that, it really takes away from the more corporate feel that your home office might have and gives it like a homier touch, which is always nice.