If your home office is not organized, then you may be working in clutter and chaos. With a commitment to change the space, invite the kids to help or warn them about the forthcoming flurry of activity. They should know that Mom is ready to tackle the piles of papers, files and books in the home office. You can also organize shared office space, although that needs to be a team effort between spouses. What you think is junk may be your spouse’s sketch for an invention. Whether you are alone or with members of your family, just start and you can transform your home office.
Purge and Clean
Attack the home office with plans to organize every corner and drawer. Remove the papers, books and files that are not in drawers from the room. Place all office supplies in boxes and move them out of the room. Let preschoolers and older children give your pens and markers a test run on a piece of paper. Have them throw away any dried up pens. Remove any curtains or fabric table coverings in the office and put them in the washing machine.
Move furniture out of the room, if possible to give the carpet or floor a thorough cleaning. Empty out existing file drawers and evaluate each paper. If it’s current and you need quick access to it, put it back in the file folder. If it’s old toss it out. Bankrate.com recommends tossing out pay stubs older than one year, once you have a W-2 in hand. After seven years tax returns may be tossed out, according to Bankrate.com
Sort and Organize
Sort each item into a piles. Sort books together and put them back in the office on a bookshelf. Sort through papers you kept and create individual files or storage boxes for receipts for work, receipts for the house, medical files, and make a file for each child for their school and medical papers. Scan documents which you would like to keep but don’t need the original copy. Making electronic files will save space in the home office.
Determine how much and which types of storage you need based on the sorted piles. Re-purpose wicker baskets, storage bins or any other containers from other rooms in the home. Professional organizer Kathi Burns recommends using plastic shoe organizer containers. Use plastic curtain bags to sort and store markers from pens and pencils. Keep similar items together, including glue, tapes and double-stick tape. Keep scissors, letter openers and other sharp objects together and out of reach of the kids. Purchase an organizing storage system if you need more storage space.
Store and Maintain
Place two boxes on your desk, an inbox and an outbox. Handle each paper as little as possible: in box, out box or file drawer. Sort through the inbox daily to keep up with bills, recital schedules, home maintenance and all those birthday party invitations. Record important dates on a wall calendar and on an online calendar with an audible reminder. When you’re done working in the home office, clear all pending issues off your desk, take action, file or toss the papers.
Minimize the use of paper sticky notes which cause clutter. Use online notes or the notes application on a cell phone. Keep a list by the door of office supplies which need to be replenished and take this list with you when you go out. Wipe down keyboards, mice and monitors daily. Vacuum or sweep the floor once a week to keep the office neat and inviting. Coral messy computer wires and extension cords with plastic ties made to wrap around electronics.
Store important documents including birth certificates, car titles, a divorce papers or a marriage certificate, a will and other important family health records in a fireproof box with a lock.