Help! I Can't Find Anything on My Desk
Is your home office a complete and utter mess? Are you too embarrassed to bring your boss into your workspace? Do you always meet clients someplace (anyplace!) other than your office? If this is you, not to worry--you're not alone. With all your files, supplies, samples and other paperwork, it is easy to let your home office get out of control. However, with only a little planning, you can bid goodbye to a chaotic and unproductive home office.
- Go Big
Take a look at your home office. Is it a mish mash of furniture, boxes, and files? Alternately, perhaps you are in the process of converting a spare room into an office and your space is completely bare. Either way, if you need major organizational help, a complete office system may be the answer. These multi-piece stations are available at home organization stores and include shelving, desks, chairs, and storage knick knacks. The pieces come separately, so you can buy only what you need, expand when you need to, and even assemble and install it yourself for extra savings.
- Use the Wall
The walls of your home office should do more than just stare back at you--put them to work! Walls are frequently overlooked as means for storage. With shelving and corkboard, your walls will create space for files, books, pictures, and pieces of paper. If you are feeling more ambitious, you can build a message board to take notes and mount clippings. Assess your desk mess: is there anything that can go onto shelves? Eliminate the items you do not need on a daily basis and you can probably eliminate 80% of what is sitting on your desk right now.
- Scrap It
Another question about your desk: Is it littered with little scraps of paper? Post-it notes scribbled with reminders? Receipts? Old bills? If the answer is "yes" (and it probably is) try to get rid of as many pieces of paper as you possibly can. File them, toss them or put them on a larger to-do list. Stacks of random pieces of paper are no help to anyone.
- Put your Computer to Work
Think of your computer as one giant storage space as well as your personal assistant. Computers keep information organized much better than you can; they are built to organize all of your information into specific folders and files, all without using any paper. Use your computer's calendar and contact programs to keep appointments and store business card information. (Business cards are notorious for taking over empty desks). Also, scan any important documents you need to keep and then back up all of the information by copying it onto disks.
- Convert a Closet
Often the home office was once a spare bedroom. If this is the case, use the former clothes closet for office storage. This extra space is invaluable. How you use it depends on what kind of work you are doing, but you can easily install shelves or a wall unit inside a closet. Store books, files, supplies, even sample products. Taking the doors off the closet can open the room and provide easy access to your belongings. However, if you aren't quite organized yet, you may just want to keep those doors and close them when you are not working. Check out our directions on how to transform your closet into an office.
- Toss, Shred or File?
Many people put off organizing their home office because they aren't sure what paper to toss, shred or file. Some legal, tax, retirement and property documents have to be saved, along with receipts for big-ticket purchases (for insurance purposes, in case they are ever stolen). Talk to your lawyer and accountant to determine which papers can be discarded after a specific amount of time.
What to Toss:
Junk mail and old catalogs
Magazines (clip and file interesting articles)
Receipts not bearing bank account or other vital information
Expired coupons or warranties
What to Shred:
Credit card applications
ATM records or receipts bearing your bank account information
Checks (voided and canceled)
What to File:
Any tax-related documents or receipts (most tax documents can be shredded after 7 years)
Credit card statements
Operating instructions for appliances
Receipts and warranties for expensive purchases
- Practice Constant Upkeep
Staying organized is a process that requires you to act mindfully. It's unrealistic to think that an organized workspace is going to stay that way by itself. Set time aside for cleanup and organization. If you spend ten minutes a day on this, you'll be shocked at how much more productive you can be. Keeping on top of things should become part of your job and not something you can overlook or put off for another day. An organized office is guaranteed to make you more productive and happier.
Getting your home office in order is a matter of sifting through what you really need and what can be put out of reach. Many people live in a perpetual state of untidiness in fear they will toss something important, but this won't be a problem if you stay organized and focused. By investigating your options and putting in a minimal amount of time and effort, you can have an office that works for you.
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