Home offices are on the rise — approximately 20 to 25 percent of the workforce teleworks on a regular basis, according to a study by the Telework Research Network. Even if you don’t technically work from home, most people consider the home office to be the hub of the home – the place where you corral vital papers and projects.
But a cluttered office can set your day off on the wrong foot before you even start working. We went to the experts to compile some best practices for organizing your home office for maximum productivity:
Find your space.
If you have a dedicated office in your home or apartment, you are one of the lucky ones. For those who are more space challenged, the key is to be creative. All you really need is a space that is quiet so you can focus, and that offers good lighting, says Alison Kero, owner of ACK! Organizing. Even a large closet can do, under the right circumstances. The one place to avoid, she cautions, is your bedroom.
“Keep that room sacred, or you’ll find you’re not getting enough rest,” Kero said.
If your work area is part of another room, visually divide the space to help create a mental separation between work and play, recommends Allison Clark Nie, owner of Curio Design Studio. She advises creating a small-scale room divider or even adding a small hanging light fixture to anchor the area.
Use your walls.
One overlooked area is vertical wall space, according to Nie, who suggests mounting a whiteboard or bulletin board to organize big ideas, current to-do lists and inspirational images.
Done with a particular set of notes on the board? “Snap a photo,” said Hillary Bruce, owner of Honey Hive Home.
Then you can literally wipe the slate clean for your next brainstorm, yet not lose data you might need later.
Don’t skimp on the filing cabinet.
Stacey Agin Murray, owner of Organized Artistry, advises clients not to overlook the value of a high-quality filing cabinet. “I have worked with many clients who wouldn’t file their papers because the drawers in their filing cabinet are always stuck or aren’t deep enough. Buy a quality cabinet with high sides and ball bearing drawer suspension for smooth opening and closing.”
Cut the paper chase.
What to put in that filing cabinet? Whether they are invoices, school permission slips or your taxes and bills, paper clutter is the bane of every home office’s existence.
If you’re overwhelmed with a huge blizzard of paper, Bonnie Joy Dewkett, owner of the Joyful Organizer, advocates flipping the pile over to start sorting at the bottom.
“Chances are that most of the stuff on the bottom is old, expired, or no longer pertinent, so you will be able to make a big dent quickly,” Dewkett said.
When deciding whether to file or shred something, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that would happen if I threw this document away?” and “How difficult would it be for me to obtain this if I had to?” These questions, Dewkett says, will help you determine what to file, what to put in deep storage, and what to shred.
Deal with the digital.
It’s all too easy to fall prey to digital clutter, especially if you decide to scan documents to avoid the paper pileup. Create separate data files for work and home documents, and use file names you will be able to recall easily.
“For example, if you never remember the name of the gas company, just label it ‘gas,’” said Dewkett. Or, if you are sorting by project, give the files an easily searchable name.
Corral your cables
While we’re talking electronics, Bruce of Honey Hive home suggests taming those stray cords.
“Identify the ones you have with a quick Google search to ensure they’re still necessary and then label new ones as they come in so you won’t be left wondering what cord connects to your printer when you need it,” Bruce said.
Tidy up daily
Whether your home office is part of your living area or hides behind a closed door, Murray of Organized Artistry recommends using the end of the work day to tidy up. Return scissors and calculators to their homes, file excess papers and empty your recycle bin. Then, spend a few minutes prepping. Put out the files or supplies you’ll need the following day so you can jump right in.