Have you been wondering how to organize your home office but don’t know where to start?
Working from home is now more popular than ever. When I first started working from home, I thought it would be easy: get a laptop, get a desk, get to work. Yeah, so not that easy.
While some of it IS that simple, keeping your workspace organized and clean so you can be productive is another thing entirely. Plus, how many times have you wasted half an hour looking for your scissors only to find them under your computer paper (or sitting right in front of you on your desk)?
After freelancing from home for a few years in three very different home offices, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. I’m going to show you how to organize your home office and keep it that way (even if it usually looks like a bomb dropped on it).
How to Organize Your Home Office for Maximum Productivity
This section is for the people who are just starting out in their work from home life. These tips will help when figuring out where to start when organizing a home office.
Understand What You Need
Before you even begin organizing your home office, you need to understand what you need to work from home. Depending on your specific job, you may need more (or less) equipment, workspace, etc.
Take stock of your daily work routine.
Do you use paper? Do you use a laptop or a desktop computer? Do you need a second monitor? Do you take a lot of meetings?
These questions will help you decide not only what kind of equipment or supplies to buy, but in what amount, how large, and more.
I use a paper planner and excel spreadsheets to create my schedule and content calendar. My favorite planner is the Living Well Planner. This planner is great because it doesn’t come pre-labeled so you can start with any month.
It has a place to plan your year goals and then each month you can set different goals and plan them out step by step. The Living Well Planner is a favorite for many.
Gather Your Supplies/Equipment
Now is the fun part. It’s time to buy all of the things that you need. These are things that you know that you absolutely need to start working.
Eventually, after working from home for a while, you’ll realize there are things you need that you didn’t think of.
To help you get started, here are a couple of things that you might need:
- A nice desk
- A second monitor (this is a game-changer!)
- And obviously, a laptop.
**Pro tip: Find out if your employer or the person you’re doing contract work for has any work from home benefits such as internet or office furniture reimbursement**
Use the Space You Have to Your Advantage
So you’ve gotten all of the supplies and equipment that you need. Now, where do you put it? I’m a big fan of having elements that work together and make the most of my space. There are ways to stay organized even in a small home office.
If a filing cabinet can fit under your desk, why not put it there? Instead of having a mail organizing system that takes up precious desk space, get a wall mail organizer.
Wall mail organizers also work well for document storage if you don’t require a larger filing cabinet. Using the wall space to your advantage is especially helpful if your office is in a small area.
I’m also a massive fan of dry erase boards and dry erase calendars. I have both hanging on my walls that I use to keep track of dates and my to-dos. It is much easier to glance over to these than pulling out a planner or finding my phone to look for a date.
How Do I Organize My Home Filing System?
Creating a home filing system continues from what I mentioned above because you really need a place to store all your paper files beyond mail organizers. But they are a critical component of a filing system and the perfect place to store things temporarily until you can go through them.
Now we take it a step further. You need a place to put everything. Not having a dedicated spot to store the files you need long term is a recipe for disaster. Been there and done that too.
A two drawer filing cabinet is perfect. You can get a filing cabinet that matches the decor in your office, so it blends in. It should be close to your mail organizer.
Getting a fire-resistant filing cabinet is a perfect solution to keep documents that are irreplaceable or not easily replaced, like the deed to your house, birth certificates, social security cards, etc.
Here are some of the suggested categories to use for your home filing system.
Now I’m going to suggest something a little unconventional, but I learned it from Charles Byrd, the Evernote Guru. I use Evernote for everything! To explain it simply, the notes in Evernote act like your documents, and you file them in notebooks, which act as the file folders in a filing cabinet.
You can add tags to make things even easier to find. Now, what do you do with all the paper things you get like bills, receipts, etc.? Well, you scan them in and file them in those notebooks like magic!
And you can find everything in seconds. I tested this when I had to take my poor cat to the animal hospital and needed his records. All I had to do was search for Bandit, and it pulled up the notebook with all his documents in it! Easy Peasy.
But you should still have a place to store some of that important paperwork I mentioned, like your house deed.
Throw in Some Fun
Just like you would at any office, decorate your home office in a way that makes you happy to step into it every day. Some people will tell you that you need to keep your office looking professional. I’m not one of those people.
Your home office is an extension of your home, and you can decorate it the way you see fit. You can get a nice rug, hang pictures, or put some fun things on your desk. I have a plushie that a friend made for me on mine.
**Pro tip: If you want to maintain an air of professionalism for video conferencing, keep the background where you point your camera neutral.**
How to Keep Your Home Office Organized
If you’ve been working from home for any amount of time, you know that your home office will get messy! Been there. Done that. Now I’m writing an article about it. The following home office organization hacks will help you keep your office clean.
Declutter Your Home Office
One of the hardest things about working from home is how easily work can bleed into your home life. Work items end up in the rest of your house, and things that shouldn’t be in your office end up there. Clutter can actually impact your mental health and cause anxiety.
To declutter your home office, set aside a few minutes to do a sweep of everything that doesn’t need to be there at the end of your day. These items could include:
- Dishes (because I know you’re probably eating at your desk)
- Trash or recyclables
- Any paper that is no longer needed (recycle it, shred it, or file it away)
- Grandma’s wig (WHHHATTTT?)
Give your office a deep sweep monthly or quarterly to check for things you no longer need or want in your office. You’ll most likely find something you were holding onto that no longer serves a purpose.
Keep Everything In Its Place
Everything should have a dedicated space when it is not in use. For example, if you have a printer with a printer cart, all printing supplies should be in that cart. All of your office supplies should have a home.
One of the worst feelings is needing something and not finding it, especially if you’re on a time crunch for work.
Some ideas for dedicated spaces are:
- A snack drawer
- Mail and/or paper filing system
- Printer station
- A desk organizer for small, easily lost items (pens, scissors, tape, markers, post-its, etc.)
Keep the items that you use daily close by or on your desk, so they are there when you need them.
**Pro tip: Use organizers and containers to keep everything in its place**
Conquer Your Cables
If you have a lot of electronics in your office, you’ve probably got cables running everywhere. The first thing you need to do is figure out what cables go where and to what. Throw out or recycle any cords that you don’t need.
Second, round up all the cables under your desk with a cable organizer. Cable organizers can be as simple as clips and ties or more elaborate with boxes you mount onto your desk. This cable management system has clips, ties, and a box to hide your power strip.
Tidying up cables and cords will make your home office look nicer and make it safer for pets and children.
Label Or Color Code
In addition to keeping everything its place, labeling or color-coding can increase your level of organization. You can color-code or label everything from your documents to your drawers. You can purchase a label maker for easy labeling. If you’re on a budget, using paper, markers, and tape can also do the trick.
At a glance, you’ll know what goes where. If you live with other people, they’ll know where everything goes too.
Keep the Office In the Office
This home office organization tip is less tangible. It has to do with your mindset. As I mentioned before, when you’re working from home, your home life and work-life can bleed together if you’re not careful.
You’ll start checking work emails when you’re off the clock, just because you’re at your computer. Or you’ll work a little bit later because dinner isn’t ready yet.
You still want to keep the same boundaries and expectations as working in a “regular” office space. Here are my best tips for not letting work invade your personal life:
- If possible, have separate work and personal computers. You’ll be less tempted to work if you have to switch to a different computer.
- Leave your office once your day is over. It is even better to establish a routine for after work to help you transition to “home.”
- Ex – closing your laptop, turning off your monitor, and doing some light stretches before walking out and closing the door.
- Keep your work email and work messaging (like Slack) off your phone. If you absolutely need to have it, use an app that limits your access to it.
- Try to work only in your office. There may be days where you need a change of scenery, and that is totally fine. But, keep those days few and far between, or you may find yourself working on the couch while also trying to talk to your spouse.
- Don’t be afraid to let people know your boundaries and actually keep them. You’ll get messages or emails from colleagues after hours. You’re not a bad person for ignoring them until the next workday comes.
Decluttering your home office is no easy feat, but you can do it with these home office organization hacks. Keeping it clean and organized will be easy once you have a good system in place.
An organized home office is also easier to work in and you can find everything you need.
This way you don’t waste time hunting for your favorite pen only to find it’s under grandma’s wig (which I still have no idea how it ended up in the office).
Whether you’ve worked from home for a while or are new to the work from home life, I hope these suggestions help you organize your home office. Combine these organizing tips with some clever time management strategies, and you will meet every deadline with time to spare.