Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
A disorganized office makes you less productive and can contribute to stress. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “neat freak,” getting organized can really pay off. These 10 tips can help you organize your home office.
Does your home office look like a picture of beauty—maybe something that belongs on a beautiful Pinterest board or are you quite the opposite? Maybe your office looks like it was outside during a hurricane. If you’re an example of the latter, keep reading, we can help.
Because science says you should. Research shows that organized people get more done and have less stress. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, the biggest problem for most office workers are those important papers that seem to walk off. The study also found that the average person wastes 4.3 hours every week searching for papers. That’s a lot of wasted hours.
About 75% of all doctor visits are related to stress and looking for something you can’t find adds to stress because of lost productivity. See the problem? An unorganized office causes all kinds of issues in your life! If you’re one of the nearly 2/3 of Americans that admit that organization is a problem, let’s solve that.
10 Tips for Organizing Your Home Office:
Sometimes things get so bad that it’s time to clear out the drawers, filing cabinets, and “organizers” and just start over. How many times have you already organized the drawers but all you did was move a few things around? Get it all out, put it in a pile, and reboot. It’s a lot of work but you’ll love the results.
You might be a packrat if throwing anything away feels like a root canal. It’s time to make some hard decisions. You don’t need 50 pens, 4 staplers, and a dozen half-used bottles of Aleve. If you haven’t used it in 3 or 4 years, it’s unlikely that you’ll need it again—ever. The IRS says that you only need to save records that support an item of income, deduction or credit shown on your tax return until the period of limitations for that tax return runs out. For most routine items that’s 7 years at the most. (Important: records related to property, stock purchase, retirement funds, etc., as well as anything needed for insurance or regulatory purposes may need to be kept longer. )
We’re not trying to force you to do anything that puts you in a therapist’s chair. If those 15-year-old invoices from OfficeMax are that important to you, scan them. You can buy a cheap scanner and do it yourself or take it to a copy center and do it there. You can even get apps for your phone or tablet that will help. Once you’re done, make sure to back up the files. Use a service like Dropbox or put a copy on multiple flash drives (You should have at least one backup of important data in case the flash drive fails) and put them in a safe, cool and dry location. (And remember where you put it.) For safety’s sake, check your stored data every year or two to be sure it’s still readable – and that the device you stored the data on can still be read by current computer equipment. (When was the last time you saw a computer that could read a floppy disk?)
You took everything out, you threw away or scanned what you could, and now it’s time to prepare to put things back. One of the reasons for your clutter is likely the lack of space. You don’t have a place for everything. Think about going up. You could put shelves or some cool organizer on your wall, or buy a bookshelf or some trendy looking thing that gives you space on the wall that you didn’t have. Don’t know what you want? Pinterest is a great place to get some inspiration.
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The more electronics you have, the more cables you likely have running everywhere. Good news—there are plenty of cable organization systems out there. Sometimes it’s as easy as getting some zip ties while other times you need a fancier organization system. Amazon can help with finding the perfect system.
What’s the most important real estate for productivity? Your desktop! Although it might be tempting to find some trendy, modern looking stapler, tape dispenser, and paperclip holder for the top your desk, just say no. You need the space to be clear. Keep that stuff in your drawers.
Stop for a moment, minimize this article, and look at your computer desktop. Do you have files all over the place? Is it so dense that you can’t even see the beautiful picture? Does your child’s head have files all over it? Time to declutter your digital desktop too. Set up directories on your hard drive and move the files off of your desktop and into those directories. You can also use USB flash drives, or a service like Dropbox or Google drive to keep backups of your files organized in a safe place. Or consider using a cloud backup service that will automatically handle backup chores. You’ll pay for the service, but the price is small compared to the loss of time and money you might incur if your computer crashes and destroys all your data.
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Want to ugly up your office really fast? An overflowing trashcan is a sign of organization failure. Get a larger one if you throw a lot of things away or get a shredder. A bigger trashcan may also remind you to throw things away instead of placing them in the stack of procrastination—you know, that stack or papers to file but you hate filing so it ends up looking like a small skyscraper.
Every week, take 20 minutes and get everything back where it belongs. Make the hard decision to throw things away you know you won’t need, and give your office a good cleaning. Especially if you meet with clients, you need a great looking, well organized office. If you can’t keep yourself organized, why would a client trust that you’ll stay on top of their job?
Let’s be clear, most people don’t have this problem but if you love to organize, remember that not everything needs a bin, a cubby, or tray with a dozen dividers. Those bins, cubbies, and dividers eat up space so balance the advantages with the loss of space. Over organized can also be a problem.
There’s no time like the present. Go ahead and get started. Look around right now—what could you throw away, scan, or shred? Grab it and do something with it. The first step is always the hardest, right?
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