Want to get your home office organized but don’t know where to start? If you’ve never tackled your household’s command center before (or if it’s been a while), it may feel too grand a task to even try. But decluttering your office doesn’t have to be scary if you rely on some essential tips from experts. Follow these basic steps and you’ll have this important room fixed up in no time!
1. Prepare yourself mentally
Weeding through piles of documents or sorting through rarely used desk supplies can be mentally taxing and tedious. Preparing yourself in advance can help ease the burden and make the job more approachable.
In an article for HGTV, organizing expert Monica Ricci advises focusing on your end goal rather than scolding yourself for prior inaction or getting freaked out by the volume of work ahead of you. “Vividly imagine the way you’ll feel inside after the task or project is complete,” she suggests. She also recommends dividing the project into smaller, manageable segments and rewarding yourself as you complete each step.
2. Sort items to make decisions easier
Categorizing the items in your office helps you choose what to keep and what to toss. Create piles around the room for what you plan to hold on to, what to sell, what to donate, what to store in a nearby storage unit, what to trash, and what to recycle/repurpose. Those old high school term papers stuffed in a file folder? Probably safe to recycle. An iPod you haven’t turned on for years? Donate it to your kid’s school.
According to organizing expert Peter Walsh, this step helps people not only “figure out how much space each category requires, but shows them the duplicate staplers or outdated equipment they’ve accumulated.”
3. Decide how to use the storage you already have
Once you have all items and files sorted, you’ll need appropriate storage options for them. Organizing guru Charlotte Steill recommends assessing the storage you have in the room, such as built-in shelving, cabinets, closets, bookshelves, baskets, etc. Decide if and how you can use it in the home office.
Chest of drawers no longer makes sense for the room? Move it out. Need a good way to keep dust off the book collection? Use that old glass-door entertainment center from the family room. This way, if you do have to go out and buy a storage system, you’ll know you tried existing options first.
4. Get serious about streamlining all that paper
Although we become a more digital society each day, most of us are still burdened with mounds of paper in our home office—and it’s often useless. Many of the documents we keep can be found in an electronic version online (e.g., e-statements from our credit card provider). Or they are jumbled up, misfiled, or not filed at all, making it virtually impossible to find what we need.
Walsh recommends investing in a color-coded filing system that can give you visual cues as opposed to written labels. And if you can find that instruction manual online, toss or recycle the printed one that is taking up space in your file cabinet. If not, scan key pages, store them on an external hard drive, and then trash the booklet.
5. Decorate your freshly organized room!
Your home office doesn’t have to be a dull, uninviting room where it’s all work and no play. In addition to furniture that is both functional and fun, hanging art on the walls can motivate you to actually use your office space. Here are some great ideas from Real Simple to liven up the home office and keep it user-friendly:
- Use a corkboard in a pretty frame to hang reminders or photos.
- If you’re short on space, bring in multifunctional pieces such as an ottoman with a top that lifts to provide extra storage.
- If your home office has to double as a guest room or nursery, try a folding screen. It can divide the space and act as a bulletin board.
- Create style in the details—matching storage boxes, design-minded office supplies, a neutral color palette, and so on.
- Repurpose old glass jars or bottles as practical (and inexpensive) containers for paperclips, staples, and other desk necessities.
- Recycle empty cans and scraps of wallpaper and create storage for pens, pencils, rulers, letter openers, and other long items.
Now that your home office is organized and decorated, commit to keeping it that way. “Set aside ten minutes at the end of the day to clean your desk and get ready for tomorrow,” says Walsh. It might not seem valuable right away, but over time, you’ll be grateful you have an office space that always feels ready to use.