Keeping an organized home office is important for productivity. I don’t like having a lot of “stuff” or furniture that takes up space and clutters my room. I also don’t believe in having a variety of items lying around “just in case.” My tips for an organized home office may seem a tad unconventional, but in my case less equals more.
My “home office” is actually a corner of my dining room. It’s a room we use for “company” but don’t use often enough that I have to pack up and leave every time I finish up work for the day.
Though my work area isn’t large, it’s big enough that I can spread out a bit and have everything I need in front of me. Having everything I need in an uncluttered environment and within reach enables me to stay focused on what I need to do.
Tips for an Organized Home Office
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1. Use notebooks
I used to use bulletin boards, giant wall calendars, and white boards to list my reminders and deadlines. However, they take up a lot of space and aren’t easy to stow away when I need my dining room back. They also require regular cleaning and upkeep. Notebooks are more efficient for my needs.
I love notebooks, I use several at once – all color coded and all Moleskine:
- One notebook for each client where I can jot ideas and notes
- One notebook for my daily to do list
- One notebook for my personal projects.
I like notebooks because they are right at hand. I can pick up my notebook and write my ideas or look at my notes. For me, this is much easier than opening new tabs or typing into Google docs or Evernote. (I love both those tools, by the way, I just love my notebooks better for this). As a writer, there’s something immensely satisfying about writing things in longhand, and reading handwritten notes.
I use the Moleskine notebooks because they’re pretty, strong, and make me feel good to write in them. If you’re more comfortable using a legal pad or old-school composition notebook, that’s what you should use. Your favorite tools should be those that make you most comfortable and productive. I also prefer ruled notebooks over a blank page, because I can’t write straight and my uneven lines will drive me crazy.
Keeping notebooks organized
I use a basket to keep my notebooks organized and in my reach. My basket of choice, believe it or not, is an old Easter basket (similar to this) that I found when I was cleaning the basement. What I like is how I can just grab the basket and put it in a closet when I need my dining room back. Also, if I want to work outside, it’s easy to grab my basket of notebooks and go.
2. Google calendar
As I mentioned above, I don’t have the space for calendars, nor do I like how they look. So I use Google Calendar instead. It’s a simple tool, but it’s reliable and it’s free. Best of all, I can share it with anyone I want.
I have several working Google calendars:
- A family calendar which is shared with each of my family members.
- A calendar for each client that includes each day’s content, deadlines, invoice dates, and invoice due dates.
- An appointment calendar for all of my business appointments.
- A special occasion calendar with birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
- My own editorial calendar for personal projects.
A Google calendar is clean, hidden, and private. The perfect clutter-free, home office tool.
3. Go Paperless
I am not a fan of paper! I began working in an office in the 80’s and there was paper everywhere. We didn’t have email and were just beginning to use fax machines. It was the days of endless filing, interoffice memos, and spending hours at the copy machine. Nowadays, I have much less paper in my life, thank goodness. In fact, my printer broke years ago and I never replaced it.
In the early days of my freelance writing career, I printed everything. I had papers and envelopes everywhere because of sending in client work and manuscript, or printing stuff to read later. Thanks to my tablet, the Instapaper app, and all my lovely online tools, I don’t have to deal with paper much anymore at all. My only exception to the paper rule is my notebooks.
Use baskets, bins, & shelves in moderation
There are plenty of tools for keeping an organized home office. My problem with a lot of them is they take up precious space, and, in my opinion, lead to more clutter.
Instead of finding places to put things, I prefer to not have as many non-essential things. I don’t print anything so I rarely use tape, staplers, or file folders. I don’t buy physical books, (thank you, Kindle app!) so I don’t need bookshelves or places to put books, either. The large, ceramic, “red Solo cup to keep pens is about the extent of my organizational system.
To me, it makes more sense not have as many items, rather than find furniture or storage bins to hold all my items.
4. Choose items that work with the room
I like to find functional items that have style and are aesthetically pleasing. I work better in a place that is pleasantly decorated and colorful. I’m also more likely to use things that are visually appealing. I’m not happy in an antisceptic-looking office. A happy me is a productive me.
5. Day to day items within easy reach
The beauty of having such a small work space is how everything I need is within easy reach. I don’t spend a lot of time looking for a pen or grabbing a notebook. As long as everything I need is within arm’s length, I’m golden. Keeping everything within reach also means I spend less time getting up to grab things I need or rummage through a bin or drawer.
6. Hide wires and other unsightlies
Wires get in the way. It drives me crazy when I’m charging something or have several items plugged in and the wires are everywhere – or worse, knocking over things. My power strip helps to keep wires contained in one area. I also like to use a charging station , so I can charge gadgets in an organized manner.
Remember: If it doesn’t have a home, it’s clutter!
My biggest tip for having an organized home office is that everything should have a home. If you have items that don’t have a proper home – whether a basket or bin, closet or cabinet – you have clutter.
A lot of people who work at home only need a place to set a laptop. I need a little more than that, but not much. I learned over the years that there are many things I can do without. Having only the most essential items handy means there is less stuff to clean, less stuff to move, and less stuff to rifle through.
Oh, and one more thing…when I had a bigger office with more stuff, I spent a lot of time trying to keep everything neat and organized. I realized the boxes and bins I bought to keep things in their place were causing the most clutter. For me, keeping items to a minimum is the best thing I can do to have an organized home office.