On the job, your work space is tidy and well maintained, with all your projects lined up like neat little soldiers. You can put your hands on just what you need at a moment’s notice, and never fail to throw away useless items. But while co-workers see you as the poster child of organization, you hide a dirty little secret: Your home office looks like a typhoon just hit.
Files are scattered. Family members have dumped various things in your office, including an unused exercise bike, an old video game system and what appears to be the inside of the broken toaster. Tax records are mixed in with recipes printed out sometime last year, and the dog has shredded the office chair fabric that is now held together with masking tape. There is no flat surface that is not stacked with papers, magazines and books.
It may be of some comfort to know that you are not the only one who could have a home office declared a disaster area. In fact, there are so many out-of-control home offices that organization gurus have come up with several suggestions to improve them. Consider:
1. Be clear on your purpose. Organize your space according to how you function. What's important in your life? If you really want to spend more time exercising, when are you going to find spare time to read those magazines from 1988 that are sitting in the corner of your home office?
2. Learn to divvy up the space. Because so many home offices are shared by families, give each family member a cubby, basket or shelf to place individual items. In order that respect for work is maintained, turn on a special light in the office to let others know that work is being done and interruptions should be kept to a minimum.
3. Get rid of the “to do” lists and instead have a “stop” list. With offices at home, we’ve become more addicted to work and the constant e-mails and phone calls. Learn to "parent" yourself and put limits on when and how you will work at home.
4. Have a “dump” zone. Rather than everything being tossed in the office awaiting further action, have containers or cubbies near the door for books, bags, shoes, coats, sport equipment, etc. A blackboard or message system is also helpful so that there is one place where the family can maintain communication. This allows you to put necessary items – such as work brought home that needs your attention – in the home office without fear of it getting lost.
5.. Stop being indecisive. If you have a system set up that allows you to take action, then the home office will function better for you. For example, you can use files labeled with the months of the year. If you have a wedding in June, then you can put the invitation, gift registry and other information in that folder. You can put all your medical information in a folder so that at a moment’s notice you can grab it and go to the doctor or hospital. A designated shelf can hold specific projects from work that you bring home.
Finally, make sure your work space is comfortable. Invest in the proper lighting, chair, desk, etc. to make sure you don’t face an injury, just as you would on your job away from home.
What other suggestions do you have for maintaining a home office?