With many more people having to work from home these days, a home office has become a necessity. Whether you work remotely, run a home business, or just have hobbies that require space, peace and quiet, an office at home can make life far more comfortable and conducive to being productive. But, only if you can keep it tidy.
Home offices often become a bit of a dumping ground. Our desks become the place where we put things that don’t have another home—our shelves overflow. And if our offices are private, we don’t worry about keeping them tidy, seen as no one else spends any time in there. We close the door and pretend all is well. I know I am guilty of that!
But, a messy office can make it hard to focus. You might become stressed out because you can’t find the things that you need, and it can be hard to be creative and get things done when you are surrounded by clutter and mess. So even though you have made this dedicated space, either in a corner or a separate room, it really isn’t fulfilling it’s purpose.
Once things have become a jumble, it can be hard to get on top of it again. Here’s a look at some tips to help you to take back control of your home office.
Manage Your Mail
Nowadays, a large amount of the post that we get is junk. But, if you run a home business, some of your mail might be essential, and you certainly wouldn’t want to get it mixed up. Getting an online PO box access can help you to manage your work mail while helping you to keep your desk clear.
When it comes to junk mail, try to unsubscribe from anything that you don’t need, or want. Some you can’t stop from coming but that doesn’t mean it should be able to infiltrate your space. Get in the habit of sorting paper mail as soon as it comes in your door. Taking the few minutes to take care of it then could save you lots of time going through a huge stack later. Recycle and shred immediately those items you do not need.
Clear Your Inbox
Your email inbox might be even worse! When was the last time you didn’t have a little number, signaling unread emails, next to your inbox? Clearing your office also means clearing your online office. Spend some time clearing your inbox, unsubscribing from junk mail and unwanted newsletters, and setting up folders to organize everything that is left.
Folders are like your online filing cabinet. If you have ever wasted time looking for a particular email, folders will save you lots of time and frustration. And you can set up as many as you want! I have ones for my business, anything related to my kids, and home renovations, where I keep receipts for purchases. Just to name a few. The possibilities are endless. Seriously, when you start to use folders, you will wonder how you ever found anything without them. It literally takes a few clicks to move emails to them. Set them up today.
Keep Your Desktop Tidy
Your computer desktop is another part of your virtual office. When it’s messy, things get lost, important documents are hard to find, and it can become confusing. Again, using a system of folders or stackable in-boxes can keep incoming paperwork somewhat organized until you have time to sort them properly. Make sure everything is effectively labeled.
A nice and neat desktop does wonders for your productivity as well as your stress levels and motivation. Isn’t it easier to get to work when your desk is clear first thing in the morning? It only takes a few minutes at the end of the day to clear it off and your morning self will thank you for it.
Install the Right Storage
Decluttering your office is a great first step to keeping it neat and tidy. The less stuff you have, the less you have to organize. But even if you have rid your office of most of it’s clutter, it won’t stay tidy if you don’t prioritize what is left with proper storage solutions.
Everything in your office needs to be sorted into three categories by how often you need to access the items: everyday, once a week/month, rarely (i.e. once a year).
It is easiest to begin with the items that you rarely need to touch. They should be stored in your office, out of the way. You don’t want to have to move these items everyday because you have to get to something else. It is unnecessary. They can be organized in a closet and/or plastic bin. Or maybe in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet or the bottom/top shelf of a bookcase. Tucked under your desk is another good solution for small office spaces.
Next, deal with the items you require often but not typically everyday. These items need to have storage solutions that are easy to access but not within hand’s reach of your desk or your main working space. On a corner bookcase or the back of a filing cabinet drawer are examples. Where you home these items will depend on your office size but I encourage you to think, plan and layout your space before you decide what type of storage you need.
Lastly, organize and decide how to store the things you use everyday, like certain files, books and tools. These things need to be close to your workspace but not clutter it up. A filing cabinet right beside your desk, a shelf above your computer or a portable bin on wheels under your desk are all great ideas for storage.
There are so many storage solutions to choose from. And I know you can sometimes get excited seeing examples of someone else’s office on Instagram or Pinterest and want to mimic their set-up. But before you run out and buy, assess your own needs first. The right storage for you will be key to keeping your home office neat and organized.
Get Into Good Habits
A big part of taking control of your home office is taking care of things right away and not getting into the bad habit of letting things pile up or worse, shoving things in drawers. It’s easy to tidy up; it’s harder to keep it tidy. Don’t you just hate it when you spend a weekend cleaning and in a few days, it is like you didn’t do anything at all?
So, now that you’ve got a clear base, get into good habits, like cleaning as you go, organizing at the end of the day and filing as soon as you are finished with something. Make it easy for yourself and create a tidying system that works for you. Then stick to it.
You must be able to recognize what works for you and what doesn’t as you work within your home office. Even though you have taken the time to organize and store things, and implement some good habits, you may have to make some adjustments periodically so that you can keep your office clean and tidy.
Here are some circumstances that may signal changes need to be made to your environment or habits:
- your work needs have changed
- you are frequently needing to access things allocated to deep storage
- you never have time to tidy up at the end of the day due to family obligations
That is just to name a few instances. If you can’t seem to keep your office clean and tidy, you need to re-think, re-organize and adjust your habits.
Setting up your home office and being able to keep it clean and organized is not rocket science. But it does take some brain power to get the right set up and instil good habits that will work for you. Take the time to do so and your space will help you to be more efficient and productive. And you will look forward to being in your home office as well as work in it.