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!)
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.
Here’s what we did to organize our home office.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 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.
- 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.
The 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!
Inside 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.
- 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.
- 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!