The 3 Fundamentals to an Organized Home Office

Your Home Office

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the home office is the information center of your home. Does your home office work efficiently? Can you find what you need? Do you enjoy spending time in the space? There are 3 fundamentals you need to focus on to bring order to your space: furniture, effective paper management, and storage for supplies.

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Furniture

An effective workspace should have a stable surface (a desk if possible, but it can be the kitchen counter or a folding card table), a chair, file storage (a file cabinet or a file box), and supply storage.

Arrange the furniture in your space so that you can reach your most used items easily when you are sitting in your desk chair. We call this the target principle. If things like your desk supplies or file cabinet are too far away, you are more likely to postpone putting items away. If you can reach everything, you will have simplified tasks to one step instead of two, and you’ll save time.

On your work surface, you should designate a place where papers land when they come into the office. Then designate a place where outgoing papers wait to be delivered to another area of your home or out of the house. Now sort paperwork into categories such as to pay, to file, to call, errands, waiting for a response, and to read. Sort your papers into tasks that apply to you. If there is no action needed on an item, it probably means you should toss or recycle that paper.

Paper Management

Paperwork that you want to keep needs to be filed. There are several ways to set up an effective filing system. The trick is to set up a system that you will use. Make it as easy as possible, and have it make sense for you. You can see a tutorial on a Basic Filing System that I made a few years ago that is a youtube favorite.

Storage

The final thing you need in your office space is storage. Your desk should have drawers for your most-used supplies. Adding dividers to the drawers will guaranty it doesn’t become a junk drawer. Also necessary for most home offices is some storage space to hold large items like extra paper, folders, and computer supplies.

Set up your office so it makes your work easier. You should not feel as though you have to work to keep your office running smoothly.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.

12 Comments

  1. Seana Turner on November 1, 2021 at 9:08 am

    So many of us are working from home now that this is so important. I don’t have much of a dedicated office space, but I do have systems for these three “zones” you discuss. I’ve had to make some adjustments since my husband started working primarily from home during COVID, but we are getting there.

    I could always use more storage, but I do acknowledge that having limited space helps me to hold onto less!

    • Janet Schiesl on November 2, 2021 at 7:34 am

      I mentioned in Linda’s comment that I recently got a new desk. It has less storage space in it than my old one and yes, I had to declutter, but I haven’t missed anything I discarded.
      Hope you and your husband have adjusted well.

  2. Lisa Gessert on November 1, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Great topic for all our working from home peeps! Thank you Janet for some great tips!

  3. Sabrina Quairoli on November 1, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Great tips! Paper management is the most important part of an office. Things can get out of hand quickly and it can also pile up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Diane N Quintana on November 1, 2021 at 10:57 am

    I love the way you broke this down into the 3 most important components. Having dividers in the drawers helps to corral those things that can quickly become messy – turning it into a junk drawer.

    • Janet Schiesl on November 2, 2021 at 7:32 am

      I recently got a new desk. It came with only one (huge) pencil drawer, so I can attest to your statement that drawer dividers are a must.

  5. Linda Samuels on November 1, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    Several years ago, my husband designed my office space with every consideration in mind. We discussed how I used my space, what I wanted at my fingertips, how many drawers, cabinets, filing space I needed, and more. Then he designed it with “my colors” in mind. So not only does it function beautifully, but I love the colors, textures, and features.

    What I had before was a mishmash. I made it work, but it never really worked. So I wholeheartedly can attest to the difference having a well-designed space can be. And even if it can’t be built to your exact specifications, enacting the tips you suggested will be a tremendous benefit.

    • Janet Schiesl on November 2, 2021 at 7:31 am

      Thanks Linda. Everyone is spending so much time in their home offices these days. It should be a space you enjoy being in.

  6. Julie Bestry on November 1, 2021 at 3:28 pm

    I definitely agree that these components are essential. I wasn’t familiar with your name, “The Target Principle” but I call it Prime Real Estate, and it’s all the same. You need it to keep your mojo going!

    One “furniture” aspect I’d wish you’d also touch on is lighting. We may not think of lighting as furniture (especially if it’s overhead, rather than a lamp), but I find that focus, motivation, and concentration (not just for actual work, but for organizing) begin to crumble if there’s not adequate *and appropriate* lighting in the area. (I’m more of an artificial light girl; natural light tends to overwhelm my eyes. But I need light or I’m useless, both physically and mentally.) But of course, all three of the aspects you’ve noted are key to being able to focus on what you’re doing — desk and chair and workspace, paperwork management, and a home for everything.

    • Janet Schiesl on November 2, 2021 at 7:29 am

      You’re right I should have mentioned lighting. I totally agree with you. Good lighting makes the space more functional.

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