Written By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC
So you have a home office and you feel like it is time to spring clean. I think all of us who have a home office try very hard to keep it organized and tidy, however this is certainly easier said then done. Where in the world does all this paper come from anyway? I thought we were in a virtual and somewhat paperless world. My reality is that I am nowhere near being paperless and clutter free. I am trying to make this happen and I thought it would be fun to write about some of the ways I have found to help me get to that goal to organization. It’s spring, so why not do a little spring cleaning in your office. Just take a few hours and organize your office and I think you will be energized and your mind will respond well to the un-clutter appearance of your new digs. Here are some tips that will help you get started on your clean-up routine.
Just moving paper from one side of your desk to another side is no answer.
Before you clean a single thing off your desk, remember you have to put it someplace and not back on the desk. If you do not have these following items, you might want to hit the Office Depot.
- A tray or inbox where you can put things when you first get them in the mail, by fax, email, etc. One place where all new and not attended to yet items can be placed. This way you will always know where they are when you are ready to tackle them.
- An outbox is also a great help. This is where you can put items you have completed and yet have not been able to file.
- A rack to hold files that are your current work tasks
- A nice big trash can as well as a recycling container to be Green
- A shredder…very important
- A filing cabinet (At least 1)
Now that you have the system designed, you might use this idea for a workflow.
- The in box will be your projects first stop.
- The file rack is the next stop after you have started to work on that project.
- After your project is all finished, you file it.
- The next stop will be the round file or recycling bin. Be sure that you know how long you are supposed to keep records for tax purposes as well as for personal reference. The round file step is a very important one. You HAVE to throw things out eventually or your will be buried alive. Take a deep breath and enjoy the the cleansing process.
Start with a clean slate (desk)
Take everything that is on your desk off, with the exception of your computer, printer and phone. Go grab the duster and give your desk a good cleaning. Now you are ready to prioritize and organize the items (other then paper items). If you use your stapler daily, find it a home either on your desk or in a handy drawer. How about that big calculator that is sitting there? Do you use it daily, weekly, or monthly? If you use it monthly, it needs to find a new home with other supplies you do not use often. Just take a look at what was sitting on your desk taking up space and decide if it really needs to be there as a priority item. If not, find a place in your office that makes sense for you.
You will still have important accessories that you need to keep handy and easily accessible to you while you are at your desk. Consider putting up a shelf on the wall above your desk that you can easily get to. It is also a great spot for the books and reference materials you need to get your hands on regularly.
In your desk drawers try to use trays or other organizers that will hold your pens, paper clips, tape, sticky notes, etc. One great place to find such organizational items is at The Container Store. If you have one in your area, be sure to check it out. If not, many office supply stores also carry these handy items.
Refresh your filing system
Hopefully, you already have your file cabinet(s) in place. If not, you can always find used ones on Craigslist or in your local paper. The best bet is to have a four drawer cabinet or at least two smaller ones.
Organize it using hanging file folders and decide what is the best set up for you in terms of alphabetical, numerical, color-coded, etc. Take the time to put a label on each one of these hanging folders, which should be your main categories. There are several great articles online about organizing your files and we also dedicate a chapter to organizing files for travel agents in our book “How to Start a Home Based Travel Agency“.
Take some time to get rid of everything in your office that you are no longer using regularly. Items to consider are old magazines, pens that don’t even work anymore, as well as outdated documents you no longer need to keep.
Unsure when it’s okay to throw out certain documents? Here is a link to the IRS site that outlines the answers to this question.
Control the cable snakes
If your office is anything like mine, you have way more cables and items to plug in then you have outlets for. This is one of my pet peeves and I keep trying do get those cables under control. I have invested in several items to try to control the mess. Some of the solutions seem to work and others not so much.
To lessen the number of cables, put away or get rid of any electronic equipment you use infrequently or no longer use at all. Make the effort to use as many wireless options as you can. Examples of some are your mouse, keyboard printer. Now you will simply need to have some extra batteries on hand should your keyboard or mouse use those and almost all of them do. I also invested in several USB hubs to be able to plug in several other devices that I need.
Now you have hopefully limited some of the snakes and you can plug those remaining into a surge-protected power bar. Be sure you use these! Many a computer, monitor and other electrical items can fry during any power surge or perhaps a electrical storm. This is a precaution you must pay heed to!
There are several different ways to now bind those cables you still must have. I use Velcro wraps that I get at the office supply store or computer store. There are tons of great options now with Command Strips as well.
Enjoy the process of spring-cleaning and your office and I bet you be re-energized and find yourself to be even more efficient then ever.