7 Steps to Organize Your Home Office (Even If You Don't Have One)

7 Ways to Organize Your Home Office (Even if You Don't Have One)

7 Ways to Organize Your Home Office (Even if You Don't Have One)

Organizing your home office can seem impossible. I know. If you’re on my email list, you know I used to have a HUGE PROBLEM with it, and that I was a certified Office Supply Hoarder.

The thing about home offices is, they’re often hidden behind closed doors. And since they aren’t part of the main living space, it’s easy to ignore them. No one has to sleep there. No one’s getting dressed in the office or taking showers in there. No one is preparing meals in the home office. And if you need to do some work, well, sometimes it’s just easier to grab your laptop and escape to your living room couch.

I was gonna write, “AmIright?”

But yeah, I’m right. I know I’m right because that was my home-office-life for forever. Until we made some huge changes.

The first change was this – when we were expecting our baby boy, we “sacrificed” our home office to create a bedroom for him. (Which might be kind of silly, since he barely used it at all before we moved.) This meant we really took a hard look at everything that was in the room and determined whether we needed it or whether it was excess. Most of it was excess… Decluttering so much really set us up for the second change.

The second change? We moved to a house in Maryland for 2014, and decided to use a little nook of the main living space as our office, rather than putting it behind closed doors. (This way, our kids also got to have a playroom!)

Maryland Office Tour

For the first time, our home office space was really, truly, honestly out in the open. There was no escaping our messes if we made them. There was no “toss it in and close the door” mentality when it came to things we needed to do later.

In fact, as you can see in the picture below, our home office space was literally the first thing someone would see upon entering through our front door.

We needed it to be neat. Organized. Tidy. And of course, usable.

Maryland Office Tour-5

Here’s what we did to organize our home office.

  1. Declutter. Significantly. We (I) went through ALL of our office supplies, and only kept the things we actually enjoy using. Extra supplies and refills (tape, staples, etc.) all needed to fit into one shoebox-sized storage box.
  2. Make personal kits. Since we each prefer to use different types of products (paper clips for him vs. binder clips for me, for example), I made a little “kit” for each of us. In the dresser in our office area, we each had two personal drawers, which held our office “kits” as well as whatever else we needed in the area. His had a lot of work-specific things, and mine housed things related to my blog, my stationery, and so on.
  3. Share. The top drawer of our office dresser was for shared tools and supplies. Our tape dispenser, stapler, scissors, hole punches, envelopes, and postage stamps went here, along with the small box of extras and refills.
  4. Centralize and minimize paper. Aside from our personal notes (his work things, my website things), our papers were all stored in our filing drawer. We try hard to only keep things we’ll actually need, so our files are pretty minimal. We have tax documentation for the last 7 years, a file for our dog Zora for her Veterinary records, a file for each of the kids and myself for medical things we might personally want to reference (the rest, we just trust the doctors to keep for us), important things about the kids’ school, a file for each vehicle’s maintenance records, and a copy of our current lease. I think that’s about it. Some of it could definitely be scanned and tossed, but my husband does like to have physical papers, so we’ve kept those.
    How to organize a home office spaceThe messy-looking files in the bottom drawer are the kids’ school papers and drawings. I have a folder for each of them, and though I recycle a lot of things right away, if something looks worth saving, I put it in the front of their folder. Bigger projects go in the box standing vertically, between the drawers and the wall. Then, periodically, I can go through them and scan the “true keepers,” recycle everything, and start over. Of course my VERY favorites get displayed, not filed. Or displayed first, then filed when something new is displayed.The top drawer has extra printer ink and other printer supplies (specialty papers, etc.). The second drawer is just printer paper, and the third drawer holds our accordion file of user manuals from all over the house.
  5. Hide cord clutter. Electrical cords are ugly. So we do our best to hide them when we can. We had a tangle of charging cords on top of the dresser for a while, always charging our phones and tablets. It looked like electronic spaghetti. After a while of hunting for a great charging center, we got fed up, I drew this, and my husband built it. Easy.
    Homemade charging stationThe top of the back, behind where the phones are sitting, opens up to reveal one of these USB thingies. Only ONE cord to plug into the wall, and the USB charging cords were all hidden within our charging station. So nice!
    Maryland Office Tour-3Inside our desk, in the keyboard drawer, we charged both of our laptops. If only one of us needed to use our computer, we could do it at the desk (where I wrote while my husband was at work). If we both needed to work at the same time, I would go to the couch with my laptop, or he would take his to the dining table or another surface.
  6. Have a place for trash. A trash can might not be glamorous or at the top of your wish list for an office space, but having even a small one makes a huge difference in the tidiness of the space. Scraps are immediately tossed instead of saved up “for later.” The little basket to the right of our desk was our office trash can. Every few days, I’d take it to the kitchen, pull out the paper trash for the recycling bin, and add the rest (tissues or whatever) to our kitchen trash can.
  7. Add something pretty. Hang pictures that make you smile, or display quotes that inspire you. Do something to make the area a joy to work in!

It’s funny, writing these “home tour” posts about our Maryland home, when so many things are different now that we’ve moved back to California. Guess what! We have an actual HOME OFFICE now, not just an “area!” We’ve definitely made some changes from how we had things in Maryland, and I’m excited to share our current space with you.

So, do you have any questions about what to do in a home office when you DO have one? Or anything that’s bothering you about your home office (whether just an “area” or a separate room)? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to include my answers in my next office post!

3 Time-Saving Kitchen Hacks (Using Stuff You Already Have)

3 time-saving kitchen hacks, using things you probably already own!

3 time-saving kitchen hacks, using things you probably already own!This is a guest post by Barbara Fernandez, the Raw Rock Chick.
Do you have a story or tips to share with So Damn Domestic readers?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I pass the ‘convenience food’ aisle in the supermarket (aka frozen ready-meals), I often catch myself smiling (smugly, if I’m honest).

“That won’t be me,” I say to myself. “Ready meals full of who-knows-what chemicals? No thanks!”

And yet there have been times when this was far from easy.

When my children were small, I was tempted by the frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks for an occasional change — but I held fast.

Instead I found myself spending ages making complicated ‘children’s meals’ from scratch — which may have been healthier, but was a bit time-consuming.

Have you ever made your own chicken nuggets? They take ages! And try getting fish to form neat little rectangles that won’t fall apart when you dip them in eggs and bread them…ha!

I prefer to spend my time doing other things than cooking…including being with my children.

So I embarked upon a personal odyssey to teach myself how to make ultra-fast healthy food (more about that at the end of this article).

And part of this process included learning what I call ‘kitchen hacks’, some of which are below.

These time-saving kitchen hacks will enable you to whip up healthy meals in minutes, without a lot of extra effort.

You’ll be proud of the food you’re eating, without feeling frazzled or stressed. And I’m sure you can think of a million things to do with the extra time, right?

 

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How to Implement a Toy Rotation System

How to get started with a toy rotation system - Tons of practical advice and tips, plus 10 steps to starting a system from scratch (AND a printable checklist).You love your kids.

You want them to be creative, to explore the world, to use their imaginations. You want them to learn, make connections, and grow. You want to encourage their interests, support their passions, and broaden their horizons.

And for many families, the playroom is where it all goes down.

But there’s a problem that happens in playrooms.

It’s the same kind of problem that happens in your own closet if you’re not careful. You know the feeling that you have too many clothes and nothing to wear? Kids get that too, with toys.

When they enter a playroom that’s full of toys, but there are things they’ve outgrown, things they don’t like anymore, and mismatched pieces, it’s pretty overwhelming.

What would make you look at your closet, let out a frustrated groan, and then choose the same yoga-pants-and-tank outfit you usually wear? That’s the same feeling that makes the kids leave their playroom and grab the pots out of the kitchen cabinets to play with.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing yoga pants and a tank top, and there’s nothing wrong with the kids playing with cooking pots. But wouldn’t you rather those things happen on purpose, instead of as the only alternative to an overwhelming number of choices?

Toy rotation is a huge help in those situations, and I’m happy to share with you how to get started.

But first, let me tell you where I’m coming from. If you’re already on my email list, you probably know that I used to be seriously addicted to office products, and you’ve seen the photo-proof.

And I was every bit as into “kid stuff” too. Before I even had children. Well before my daughter was born, I had a huge collection of children’s books, educational materials, and toys.

Why did I already have such massive numbers of toys?

I studied Early Childhood Education in school, where people were always telling me that my school would most likely not have the budget to afford even the simplest classroom materials. So I kept an eye open for great deals, and bought books and manipulatives to save for my classroom. Then I spent a couple of years teaching (where it was true that we didn’t have a lot of resources or much budget) and doing in-home childcare. After that, my husband and I were expecting our little girl and I transitioned into being a stay-at-home-mom.

Most of what I had was appropriate for preschool-aged kids. I even wrote in a blog post while I was pregnant, “I have a LOT of books and toys and stuff for 3-5 years old. Our baby girl is gonna be SET in a few years.” (You can also see pictures of the mess in that post.)

Nearly five years later, my little girl is a full-fledged preschooler, age 4. Plus, we have a little guy who’s 2 but likes to play with whatever his sister is playing with at the moment. Both of them have been on the receiving end of countless gifts and hand-me-downs. It’s so sweet that so many people care about and love my kids, and want them to be happy!

But it all adds up, and without a toy rotation system, my kids would have had a chronic case of “‘So Many Toys and Nothing to Play With.”

In the last 5 years (and 3 houses), I’ve learned SO MUCH about toy rotation, storage, and organization, beyond what I had learned in my early childhood education curriculum.

Why is a toy rotation system something kids (and parents) love?

  1. Kids don’t feel like there’s “nothing to play with” when all of the options are good (age-appropriate, in working order, no missing pieces, liked by the child) ones.
  2. Kids can get right down to business of playing when there are not too many choices causing “paralysis by analysis.” (Like when you sit down at Cheesecake Factory and receive their 38-page menu filled with delicious choices, which causes you to not be ready to order until 45 mintues later.)
  3. Kids periodically get fresh choices of toys to play with, so they have the same excitement of walking into a toy store or visiting a friend’s house, where things are DIFFERENT! and NEW!
  4. All of the gifts lovingly given to your kids have a chance to be really focused on, loved, and played with, because they won’t just be on a shelf or a cubby full of bins filled with 400 other toys.
  5. Clean-up is a cinch when there’s not too much stuff out at once.

Check out my simple, bright, open-ended playroom tour for an example of what all of this looks like when put into action!

If you’re just getting started with a toy rotation system, this is what you’ll need to do.

1. Gather EVERYTHING in one place.

If you plan to rotate books too, include them here. If not, just gather ALL of the toys from the far-flung corners of your house into one place. It doesn’t have to be the place where they’ll end up. So if your kids’ toys will normally be in the bedroom, you can gather them in the living room for now (so you can work on it while the kids sleep). The important thing is to find every toy.

Grab a few empty boxes for decluttering too, and any storage bins you plan to use for the toys.

2. Declutter.

Having everything in one place is pretty eye-opening. I mean, I knew I had a lot of toys and children’s books, but when we moved into this house and everything was in one place for me to deal with, I realized how insane the quantity of toys was.

Do a first-pass of everything, and declutter as much as you can. There’s no need to save outgrown toys, things you or your kids aren’t seriously looking forward to using in the future, or the less-favorites of several items in the same category. Broken toys and pieces of incomplete sets should leave too.

If you need some more encouragement to declutter, check out these 3 *Different* Questions to Ask Yourself When Decluttering. They don’t only apply to your own stuff… they apply to everything.

3. Organize like with like.

Building toys, dramatic play or imagination toys, educational toys, manipulatives, dress-up things, active toys, noisy toys, puzzles, and so on.

4. Declutter again.

When you organized the toys and put like items together, you might have discovered that you have a ton similar things in a certain category. Maybe you have 38 dollhouse dolls, dozens of puzzles, or 7 different sets of building toys. If you decide that’s too many, you can go ahead and get rid of some more stuff. Other kids will be happy to play with it, and your kids will still have plenty!

Double check that the toys aren’t using these 4 excuses to get you to keep them.

5. Determine your space and limits for “in rotation” toys.

I aim to have one toy or set of toys (like a basket of small cars) per cubby shelf in our playroom. Sometimes a few items are on the top of the shelves, and dress-up clothes or larger toys aren’t included in that limitation. But my general idea of checking whether too many toys are out at once is the same no matter what.

My other limit is that if the kids have all of their “in rotation” toys out at the same time, they still should be able to clean up without overwhelm (with some guidance since they’re small). If that isn’t possible, it’s too much.

I also want to be able to clean up the area in less than 5 minutes myself.

Your space and limits may look different than mine, but having guidelines like that will help in the maintenance of your toy rotation system.

6. Choose a collection of toys to have out together.

Remember your “like with like” categories you created? Now’s a good time to look at each one separately, and pick one or two from each (depending on your space and limits). Maybe one building toy, like blocks, would go well with the small plastic dinosaurs, and playsilks.

I always imagine what the kids could do with the toys together when I choose each collection. They could build volcanos and mountains out of the blocks, and the playsilks could accent the landscape with grass, water, and lava. Then, they could use the dinosaurs in the world they’ve created.

Of course, it never actually goes down like that (unless I guide it). But it’s nice in my head and the possibility is there.

If you’d rather just kind of randomly choose toys, that works too.

7. Store the rest, out of sight.

Keep your categories together, like with like, in containers if possible, to make rotation easy when you’re ready to swap the toys out for “new” ones.

Or you can do what I used to do when I did in-home childcare, and have one box for each month of the year, each with its own toys and books. This was a great strategy when I had a lot of seasonal or holiday-related manipulatives, lessons, and toys, and didn’t want to forget about any of them.

Wherever or however you store the out-of-rotation toys, make sure that they’re out of sight of the kids. This could be in a locked closet, on the top shelf in your bedroom closet, or in an area of the garage on shelves in bins. If you store the out of rotation things where the kids can see or access them, you’ll find they aren’t stored for very long

8. Decide on a rotation strategy.

Will you rotate on a schedule, or as you notice kids are getting bored? Will you wait for them to ask for something out of the closet? Will you allow them to “shop” for new toys, or will you choose which will come out?

When my daughter was a baby, I rotated toys about once a month, but kept the ones that still seemed challenging and interesting to her in rotation. I put away the too-easy or too-hard ones, and brought the too-hard ones back out a couple of months later.

I’ve been experimenting with something new lately. Instead of letting the kids “shop” in the closet like I had been doing recently, I ask them which toys (from memory) they’d like. They are ALWAYS happy with their choices, and I’m learning which toys are their favorites, and which I can declutter after a little while.

9 Maintain the system.

Make sure more things don’t “sneak out” without putting some things away first. If the kids get frustrated or have a hard time cleaning up, double check your space and limits and make sure you’re still honoring the boundaries you set up, or change your guidelines to fit your current situation.

Just remember though… if you have fewer toys to maintain (even out of rotation)  in the first place, you’ll have way more time on your hands. Only keep the good stuff, and if you realize later something doesn’t make the cut, declutter it. Keeping an eye out for more to declutter is part of the maintenance!

10. Experiment, observe, and have fun with it!

What happens when your kids have fewer toys out? What if you only had building toys out (but all 7 types at once), or set up the play area as a miniature house, instead of having a wider variety of types of toys? What would the kids do if you put away all of the toys, and filled their playroom with blankets and pillows instead?

Now you’re ready to start a toy rotation system!

Go ahead and download my printable checklist of the 10 Steps to Starting a Toy Rotation System! That way you can work through them without having to constantly check back to this page.

Toy Rotation Checklist - How to get started with toy rotation (More details about each step are at the blog post).

And if you’re ready for even deeper toy organization, click over to grab some labels for your containers or shelves, to keep things in order.

Printable Playroom Toy Bin Labels and Planning / Tracking Checklists

Start now!15 minutes is all it takes to get started decluttering, organizing, and homemaking

It’ll take less than 15 minutes to print out the checklist, gather a couple of boxes for decluttered toys, and grab your containers for toy storage.

Put everything together in your work area so that as soon as the kids go to sleep tonight, you can get to work on your new toy rotation system the whole family will love!

Real-Life Garage Organization Tips & Tricks

Real-Life Garage Organizing Ideas

Real-Life Garage Organizing IdeasA garage can easily be a Last Holdout. Ours definitely was.

What’s a Last Holdout?

Those are the spaces that stay messy, unsorted, disorganized, basically unusable long after the rest of the house is under control.

Our garage used to be lined with boxes of things to sell at a future yard sale, totes full of stuff from my teaching days and remnants of my craft show days.

I can’t tell you how many rags my husband had for working on the cars. Probably two milk crates full. I think he also had three pairs of “mowing the yard” shoes, too.

There were so many redundant basic tools, yet somehow it was always hard for me to find a hammer when I needed one.

And if I ever wanted to sweep the garage, I had to move tons of stuff around just to reach the cobwebby corners… but I was pretty much afraid to do that, because who knew what would be lurking there. (Seriously, we lived in the Land of Black Widow Spiders.)

So mostly we just left it alone.

Sure, we were able to park in there, but it wasn’t pretty. And getting the stroller out to take the kids for walks was usually a challenge.

Our garage here in Maryland isn’t gorgeous. We don’t have matching brushed metal bins with hand-stamped labels and custom wall shelves. The one finished wall is unpainted, and the others aren’t so glamorous either.

But it works.

We can find the things we need when we need them, and things don’t get in our way when we’re not using them. So I’m pretty pleased with it overall.

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5 Simple Steps for Taming Your Craft Stash

declutter your craft materials

I'm an Organizing Junkie

I’m so so so so so excited that Laura asked me to be a regular contributor on her blog, I’m an Organizing Junkie. She’s fantastic to work with, and her entire website pretty much rocks my socks. So, here’s my first post on her blog as an official contributor!  5 Simple Steps for Taming Your Craft Stash

declutter your craft materials

I get it. I’m a crafter too.

I know what it’s like to see the potential in that tiny scrap of fabric, that beautiful woven ribbon that came unexpectedly wrapped around the last thing you ordered from Etsy, the stacks of printed and textured paper that are 50% off in the craft store.

Chances are your “stash” will keep you busy for a long, long time. Unfortunately, if your stash has developed a life of its own, oozing out of designated baskets and boxes, spilling off of shelves, and piling higher and higher, it’s going to keep you busy managing your materials rather than creating masterpieces.

So how can you cut through the clutter, get to the good stuff, and really start creating again? It’s pretty simple. Here’s how I’ve been doing just that, since we moved into our house in December.

Read the rest at OrgJunkie.com – 5 Simple Steps for Taming Your Craft Stash.