The home office is one room that’s increasingly growing in importance among Americans. More and more people are working from their homes instead of company offices, either part-time or full-time. According to a US Census study, about 5.2% of workers in the U.S., or 6.5 million people, are already working from home full-time.
Many companies are also providing job flexibility, which means employees can work from home for a couple of days each week. Add to that all those household chores that are easier done in an office – paying your bills, shopping online, doing your taxes – and it’s easy to see why people use the home office more than they did in the past.
The home office needs to be a space where you can truly focus and switch to “work-mode.” You can achieve that type of energy by organizing your home office – an orderly environment leads to an orderly mind and, consequently, to better productivity. So, here’s how to declutter the home office in five easy steps:
1. Remove All the Stuff That Doesn’t Belong
Home offices tend to become a sort of storage space for unwanted items – boxes of undiscernible stuff, a stack of chairs you never ever use, your kids’ art projects and so on. It’s challenging to be productive in a stuffy room that looks like the inside of a messy closet.
Think about the functions of the space – you are working in there, and it’s probably also where you do your reading. You need a desk, a comfortable office chair, and plenty of shelves. If there’s enough room, add a file cabinet and an armchair or small sofa for reading, but that’s it. You don’t need any other furniture in your home office, and you definitely don’t need that junk you’ve avoided dealing with up to now.
Sort through every box, go through all the stacks of papers, and take out the furniture you deposited in there. Recycle, donate or throw away all the things you’re no longer using. If there are items you want to keep for further use, it’s better to simply rent a self-storage unit and deposit them there, instead of allowing them to clutter your workspace.
2. Declutter Office Papers
Home offices have dual uses – for working at your job and for managing your household. You need a system to keep things separated and organized. It will help you stay on track of both work and household tasks. Going back and forth from reading a work report to paying house bills will interfere with your productivity and you’ll end up not getting anything done. Use color-coded files and desk organizers for each category – work papers and household papers.
Create two separate user accounts on your computer for the same purpose – to keep personal and work-related things separated. This way, you won’t get interrupted by personal emails and social media notifications while you are trying to get work done.
3. Create a Home Office Even If You Don’t Have a Spare Room
Not everyone has the privilege of having enough space for an office in their home. And especially if you’re living in a big city with an expensive real-estate market, like New York City or the Bay Area, chances are you don’t have an entire room to dedicate to a home office.
Don’t despair, though: you can still set up a work area for yourself that will help you focus on your tasks. You can opt for a small corner desk placed in your living room or bedroom – it maximizes the work surface while not taking up a lot of space in the room. There are also many narrow desks available that are excellent space savers, while also offering you a suitable spot for doing your work. It’s a better option than slouching on your sofa or working from your kitchen table and being interrupted each time someone needs a snack. A 100% work-dedicated space will boost your efficiency.
To create enough room for your work area, and to keep your small apartment from becoming cluttered and uninviting, use self-storage. Renting a self-storage unit in Los Angeles, for example, will cost you, on average, $183 for a standard 10X10 unit, according to Yardi Matrix. You’ll be able to store work-related papers and documents, sports equipment, off-season clothing, and even extra furniture and electronics you’re not using right now, freeing up a lot of space at home.
4. Add Extra Storage
The main reason why your home office started looking cluttered in the first place was because you don’t have enough storage space in that room. Offices require a lot of shelves – you need space to deposit your books, file holders, and office supplies. So, as you declutter your office, also consider installing move shelving or cube storage. Other inexpensive storage solutions include wall-mounted magazine racks or hanging file organizers.
5. Declutter Your Desk and Keep It That Way
It’s not only the room that needs decluttering – your desk requires some attention too. If you’re like most people, there are probably stacks of old mail and magazines in your desk’s drawers, while its surface is covered in sheets of papers and mysterious notes with scribbles on them. It’s time to be merciless and to recycle all that – no, you won’t need that five-year-old business magazine ever again!
Clean everything up, dust your office furniture thoroughly, and purchase items that will help you keep your desk as orderly as possible: paper trays, desk organizers, and pencil holders. Do a weekly clean-up of your desk to avoid getting to the cluttered stage again.
A clutter-free, well-organized home office will help you stay focused and productive throughout the day so you can finish your workload in a timely manner.
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