5 Steps to Organize Your Home Office

When it comes to organizing my home, my office seems to always be last on the list of priorities. This year however, stream-lining my home office is high on the list of things to do. Is it on yours? If yes, here are five simple steps to making your office space functional and beautiful…

home office jan showers{image from Jan Showers}

One: De-clutter

Start by removing all clutter. Toss, recycle or donate the items that are broken, not being used or don’t hold any sentimental value. Perhaps all those dried up pens and broken pencils? How about donating that extra calculator to a local school? When is the last time you read or referenced that book? Purging will help fight  exhausting visual clutter in your office and is an easy exercise to perform monthly or quarterly.

organized home office desk
{image from Rue Magazine}

Two: File

Don’t over complicate your filing system. The simpler the better. Think about how you look for a particular file or piece of paper. What would be the easiest way for you to find it?  Then create a file system that works for you. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You can always go back and modify later.

In our home office, I prefer the FreedomFiler – a self-purging file system. It was a recommendation by another professional organizer and now recommend it to my own clients. FreedomFiler has compiled a wonderful {and free} learning center that explains the art of filing successfully.

how to organize home office
{image from Coco+Kelley}

Three: Purge a File or Two

Pick a file drawer and shred all documents that you no longer need to save. Here is quick overview from Bankrate.com of which records you need to keep and which ones your need to toss {shred}:
  • Taxes – Keep seven years. The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors and six years if it thinks you under-reported your gross income by 25 or more.
  • IRA contributions – Keep permanently.
  • Retirement/Savings plan statements – From one year to permanently. Keep the quarterly statements until you receive your annual summary; keep the annual summaries until you retire or close the account.
  • Bank records – Keep from one year to permanently. Throw away checks that have no long-term importance, but keep checks related to your taxes, business expenses and housing and mortgage payments.
  • Brokerage statements – Keep until you sell your securities.
  • Bills – Keep from one year to permanently. In most cases, when you receive the canceled check, the bill can be tossed. However, you should keep bills for big purchases (e.g., jewelry, appliances, cars, collectibles, etc.) for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage.
  • Credit card receipts and statements – Keep from 45 days to seven years. Keep the statements seven years if they document tax-related expenses.
  • Paycheck stubs – Keep one year. If your W-2 form matches your stubs, you can toss your stubs.
  • House/Condominium records and receipts – Keep from six years to permanently.

In addition, its a good idea to create a “life” folder or binder that contains the important legal, medical and financial documents {i.e. will, trust, power of attorney, marriage license, etc.} that family members can access in case of an emergency. The WSJ has comprised a comprehensive list of documents your should include. It is also advised to have a copy of these life documents kept with your attorney or in a safety deposit box at a bank. 

    lonny home office
    {image from Lonny}

    Four: Organize a Desk Drawer

    Desk drawers tend to be dumping grounds. Another way to help streamline your home office is to organize  desk drawers. Start by taking everything out of it and sorting through the contents and placing in groups (i.e. pens, note pads, paper clips, etc.). Items that belong in other areas of the home should go in a box temporarily and put away at a later time. Sort through the contents, donating, recycling or tossing out whatever is no longer useful. 
    Using containers or dividers to corral supplies not only adds function, but can add a touch a style to your desk.  There so many organizing tray and divider options for drawers. Before you purchase any drawer dividers however, measure the drawer {width and height} to know what will fit. Also, keep in mind the sizes and quantities of the items you want to store to ensure you purchase the best option. Once you have decided what works for you, then arrange the office supplies back into the drawer using the different containers or sections of the organizer tray to keep things neat and easy to find.

    eclectic home office organized

    {image from Lonny}

    Five: Stream-line Your Desk Top

    The easiest way to do this is to remove all items from your desktop except for items that are absolutely necessary for your work (i.e. phone, computer, task light). Determine which items you use on a daily basis (i.e. pen & pencil holder, letter tray) and place them back onto the desk. Add a personal item or two (i.e. family photo, decorative figurine or small plant). The other items that you have removed will need to find a new home (i.e. desk drawer, filing cabinet, recycle bin).

    It might take a few organizing sessions for you to complete all these tasks, but you will be so happy with the results!

    Happy organizing!
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    15 Responses to 5 Steps to Organize Your Home Office

    1. Audrey Soria Gonzalez January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      you are so right, how the office is always the last to do on our list almost like the forgotton room! thats how it is in our house and we are working to change that!


    2. Between The Boxwoods January 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      I need to get on this! Thanks for the tips!

    3. Laura Casey Interiors January 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      We're feeling it over here too! I have spent the past three weeks trying to get organized which basically for me means purge, straighten, and make some lists.

    4. Teresa January 10, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Awesome. Nothing that we already don't know or feel right about but precious information nonetheless. And lovely pictures one can take inspiration from too.

      I found it very useful as I'll redo a room in our guest house to home an office for me and my daughter. For my crafts and her “whatever” ahahahah. And also as an excuse for some pieces that are stored and this way can be shown and appreciated.

      Thank you Cristin

    5. Capella Kincheloe Interior Design January 10, 2012 at 2:07 am #

      For good or for bad, I can't work without my office being totally organized. Stacks of papers makes me itch.

    6. Michaela January 10, 2012 at 1:55 am #

      What an awesome post! Such wonderful tips that I can use in revamping my desk area for the new quarter!

    7. Hello Lover... January 9, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

      Absolutely wonderful advice – and at the perfect time! We are going to do some serious office organizing/decorating this year so I'll definitely be using this as a reference!

    8. About Last Weekend January 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

      Hi nice to catch up! Some great tips here. I'm a big purger (as it were) but not good at organising desk drawers…

    9. Heather January 9, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Great ideas! I just started organizing my office last weekend and filing a lot of papers that had accumulated. I wish my desk could look this clutter free, but I do have to keep my printer/scanner on the desk top. My desk is pretty big, but it tends to become the family dumping ground!

    10. Julie January 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

      I just shared this great post on facebook. Perfect timing as I just left a client and was working on this very thing. Great tips. I had not heard of the Freedom Filer and am going to check that out.

    11. Leslie January 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      These are great tips! I found myself trying to sort our desk on New Year's Day. It's amazing how the paper adds up.

    12. Jessica @ Decor Adventures January 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      Hi Cristin,

      What an excellent, and easy to accomplish plan. Great photos too.

      Now I'm going to read your conquering clutter post… A must read this time of year!

    13. (BAD) Blog About Design January 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      Great tips! Love the first office from Lonny Mag.

    14. Centsational Girl January 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      This is SUCH a great post Cristin, and perfectly timed since my home office is getting a little overhaul. NEED MORE STORAGE! Could you just come over and do it for me? *wink* Miss you, let's get together for a long lunch in the City on a rainy day…

    15. Lovin That! January 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Great tips! This is on my 2012 to do list! Love your blog!