Having your office in your home can be very challenging because there are many distractions, too many ways to procrastinate, and it’s still harder when there are kids that are virtual learning or are constantly demanding your attention.
On top of that, if you get to your office and it’s all cluttered and filled with lots of papers, your brain will get the message that the work is never done, and the stress hormone cortisol will fire up, sending you into a spiral of overwhelm and making you procrastinate. Then, you suddenly get an urge to clean or to fold your laundry, or eat some junk food or watch cat videos for the next 2 hours.
On the other hand, if you come into your home office, even if it's only a small space in the corner of your kitchen, and everything’s organized, you’ll immediately feel a sense of calm. You’ll be able to open your computer and start working right away focusing on the task at hand and being super productive.
How to Start
Your office should be both functional and beautiful in order for it to be efficient and inspiring.
Audit your workflow: which are the items that you use the most? Plan and layout your furniture considering the flow of what you need for your work.
Storage is very important in your office. Knowing how to access your files easily will save you lots of time. Think about the storage solutions that you want or need in your office: a desk with a file cabinet? a bookshelf? a credenza? in and out trays? a mailing center? Label all your files and organize them by categories.
Creating a space in which you feel inspired to work towards your goals is very important: have a vision board, an inspiring quote, your favorite books, and the photo of a mentor that you admire. Add some decorative touches in the form of flowers and coordinating accessories.
In our office, we have 2 types of clutter: physical and digital clutter.
In order to organize your physical clutter, group similar items such as books, loose papers, files, and miscellaneous.
- Drawers: take out everything in your junk drawer, clean it thoroughly, add a drawer divider and organize the items that you still use: pens, pilots, clips, stapler, etc. Continue with the rest of the drawers.
- Papers: sort through the papers that you have and throw away those that aren’t relevant anymore as well as the unsuccessful projects. For the rest, choose which ones to scan and store digitally so that they don’t take up valuable space in your office. File the remaining ones.
- Books: we tend to buy lots of books and that’s great, but they take up too much space. Go through your books and keep the ones that you love and plan on reading again or want to reference in the future, and donate the others to someone who might enjoy them.
- Pens: take out all of your pens, pencils, highlighters and see which ones are working and which ones you can get rid of.
- Cord: an office is a place where all of the cords start stacking themselves. You suddenly have lots of cords that belonged to old phones or old laptops that you don’t own anymore. Declutter the cords that you don’t need. You can then store the rest in a labeled box or inside a drawer.
- Old computers: technology is changing really fast and the old computers won’t be able to update apps to their latest version, that’s why you need to be changing them just as you do with your phone.
- Accessories: your office is not the place to have lots of personal items and photos because you’ll get distracted. Keep in your office a vision board, framed certificates, and quotes that inspire you. Get rid of the knick-knacks and the extra stuff that might be cluttering your space. Change your mismatched organizing items for some that match your decor.
Digital clutter may not be as visible as physical clutter, but it will also slow down our productivity because we’re constantly searching for things in our computer that we can’t find, and we spend money buying additional storage in the cloud while we have lots of idle folders and downloads that we could have easily gotten rid of.
Here are some of the digital things that we have to declutter:
- Photos: you need a system because we’re constantly taking hundreds of photos with our phones, so delete those that you don’t want and file the rest. You can do so by having some folders in google drive or by storing them in one of the photo storage sites online.
- Downloadables: who doesn’t love a freebie? But we tend to download hundreds of them and then never read them, and they become obsolete and we’re on to the next thing, and they keep using valuable storage space in our computers. Have a folder with your freebies and declutter it once a year. The same goes for other downloadables that you have.
- E-mail marketing: this can be a huge time consumer! Unsubscribe every time that you get an unsolicited or promotional email. Go through your inbox and leave only those that you really enjoy reading and that you need for work. Unsubscribing from someone’s email list doesn’t mean that you can’t go to their blog regularly and read their content.
- Facebook time-wasters: these include groups that you’ve joined and where you don’t hang out anymore or are too spammy, pages that you’ve liked, and games.
- Email accounts: having too many email accounts that you have to be constantly checking is a huge time waster and you may miss important information. It’s better to have a system for organizing one or two emails or have a virtual assistant helping you with that.
- Desktop background: this is something that I have to constantly declutter and organize because it’s so convenient to save everything on the desktop and it can become really messy. At the end of each workday check what you’ve saved and either delete it or organize it in its respective folder, that way it won’t become an overwhelming task. Also, check your desktop icons and see if you need all of those or if you can also file them inside a folder.
- Devices you no longer use: technology changes every single day and your old stuff becomes obsolete really quickly, so go through your office and check out those items that you’re no longer using such as MP3 players, cameras, phones, external hard drives, CD ROMs, hardware manuals, disc cleaning items and cables. Also, update old software.
- Folders: how is your folder structure? Is it working for you? Are your folders correctly labeled? Can you find your information easily? By constantly tweaking your folders, you’ll be able to access the information as soon as you need it.
- Apps: we tend to have several apps that work for the same task, for example photo editors, schedulers, productivity apps, etc. Keep only the ones that you prefer and also delete the game apps that you don’t use.
- Movies and music: delete the movies and music that you’ve downloaded so that they don’t take up too much of your storage space. You can always access them online.
- RSS subscription: unsubscribe to all the blogs that you’re no longer interested in.
- Internet bookmarks, temporary files, and cookies: cleaning these regularly will ensure that your computer keeps running fast. Also, have your internet homepage go directly to google instead of showing you the latest news and advertisements.
- Passwords/Log-in’s: stop trying to remember all the passwords that you have and use “1 Password” or another system that will keep those safe for you. Also, go through your contacts information and update and delete as necessary.
How to Design and Organize Your Home Office
You need 3 work zones in your office: your main workspace, or your desk, your reference area, which can be the shelves and the file cabinets, and your supply area which are the things that you keep inside drawers, cabinets or closets. They can all be on your desk, but knowing about these areas will let you know where to store your things and remind you to keep your desk space clear to be able to work.
- Furniture: start with your desk; and then, depending on the amount of space that you have, add a bookshelf, a couple of chairs for clients, a filing cabinet and a credenza. You could also have a sitting space with a sofa and a tall lamp for reading.
- Equipment: depending on what you do, you may need to find storage for certain items such as a printer, a scanner, photography equipment, etc. Knowing which are your storage needs will make it much easier to find the ideal solution in the form of a bookshelf, a credenza or even a storage caddy.
- Labeled boxes: you can find beautiful boxes to match your decor in any office or home store. Labeling them is a great way to keep things organized and easy to access. You can use one of them for necessary items such as scissors, post-its, stapler and tape, and another for extra wires and cables. Buy boxes only after you’ve finished decluttering and you know what extra storage you need.
- Curtains: having a curtain in your office will allow you to control the amount of light. This is very relevant especially if you’re having zoom calls. You can have a roller shade or a roman shade, or you can use the traditional curtains. If you choose the latter, make sure to hang them really high and make them go all the way almost to touch the floor. Cafe curtains look terrible in office spaces.
- Lighting: having a combination of lights is essential in any office space in order to be able to work comfortably. The best light is natural light, which is not always available to us depending on where the office is situated and the time of day.
- Ceiling light: this can be a hanging lamp or some spotlights.
- Task lamp: this is great when working in the evening at your desk.
- Standing lamp: great to have besides a reading chair.
- Wall sconces: these are decorative lamps that are great for mood lighting, and you’re able to vary their brightness by installing a dimmer.
- Ergonomic chair: you’re going to spend many hours working at your desk, therefore you’re going to need an ergonomic chair to support you. You can also use a standing desk if you prefer.
- Plants: having a mint plant in your office is great because you can rub the leaves and smell it and it stimulates brain function, increases alertness and improves your memory. Having a lucky bamboo is a symbol of growth and it’s like a lucky charm for your office. You can also have orchids, fresh flowers or succulents or any plant that has rounded leaves. I don’t recommend having plants with spiky leaves or cacti because they can bring harsh energy to your space.
- Vision board: creating a physical vision board and hanging it where you can see it every day in your office creates an emotional connection that keeps you motivated to pursue your goals.
- Drawers: inserting dividers inside a drawer makes things stay organized. Spice containers are very handy to keep thumbtacks, clips, and small erasers.
- Filing cabinets: even though we’re moving towards going paperless, it’s still necessary to have a filing cabinet in order to organize the physical papers that we still need. Having a system to find things easily is priceless because it will save you lots of time. You can have a filing cabinet in a drawer of your desk, or if it doesn’t fit in your office, you can buy one with wheels that you can move around and store elsewhere. Label your files.
- Filing system: have a digital filing system for ongoing projects, one that you can trust, whether in Google Drive, Dropbox or other. Have your items separated in different folders.
- Accessories: having beautiful, coordinating accessories will make your space feel more collected and you’ll be more likely to want to keep it organized. You can neatly store your pens, clips and sticky notes in them. They come in different colors and finishes to match your decor. A little rose gold or your chosen color will go a long way in making your design statement. Keep the rest of the office with accessories that you love such as nice artwork, a sculpture or a rug. Change the decorations every once in a while so that your office feels fresh and inviting.
- Bookshelf: having a bookshelf is great because it not only allows you to keep your books organized, but it’s also a great backdrop for your zoom calls. Every once in a while, clear each shelf, clean it and return only the books that you want to read again or like to reference. If you have empty space in your shelves, you can place accessories such as clocks, photos, small artworks, or plants. You can place the books and accessories creating vignettes, then step back and see if the items look balanced, and correct as necessary.
- USB dock: having a USB dock at your desk height will be very useful for connecting keyboards, printers, external hard drives, external speakers and it frees your desk space from the tangle of wires.
- Adding color: having your office with pops of color will boost your happiness. It can be by painting the walls, through the artwork or even through coloring pencils. There is a psychological effect for each of the colors that surround us. The best colors for the office space are:
- Green: sparks innovation.
- Blue: focus and calmness.
- Purple: promotes creative thinking.
- Orange: enthusiasm and inspiration.
- Planner: make space in your desk to have your planner at hand. This should be something that you check at the end of every day to plan your next day. Also, a wall calendar with big squares works great because it allows you to plan your big projects and schedule the tasks in advance.
Keeping your office organized will eliminate distractions and make you more productive because you’ll be able to start working immediately. Try to keep most of your papers in drawers, shelves, and cabinets so that you leave your desk space free of too much stuff.
Organize your desktop regularly. Digital clutter is something that should be addressed too so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.
Work in the new clean and organized space and see how you feel. Make adjustments as necessary. Clean your desk at the end of every evening so that you start fresh and ready the next day!