The Home Office

We all know that the home office can present an organizing challenge. No matter how hard you might try, it seems like there are always obstacles. Several of the common trouble spots are the piles of paper, the accumulation of receipts, the disappearance of usable desk surface and the never ending disarray of electronic cords and cables.

Here are some ideas on how to deal with each of these problems.

Paper – Do you have a system for filing that works for you? One possible system is to separate papers into 3 categories.

  • File – The papers in this category are ones that you need to refer to at a later time. It is information that is not available anyplace else. Be sure to make your filing system as simple as possible. Use general categories or colors to make it easy to find papers at quick glance. (e.g., green folders for all money related papers, red for all medical papers)
  • Action – This category is for items that require you to do something to them. You might choose to subdivide these papers into 2-3 more categories or folders, but remember to not get too specific. Your subcategories might include to pay, to read, or to call.
  • Toss – The majority of the papers hanging out in the office fit into this category. They are unneeded or outdated and should be shredded or tossed.

Receipts – These little (and sometimes big) papers enter our home on a regular basis, but do you have a regular way of dealing with them? Can you find a receipt if you need it? For most purchases, there is really no need to keep the receipt once you have verified the purchase against your credit card statement.  Why spend a lot of time sorting and filing the receipts if the chances you will ever need them is small? One exception is if an item may need to be returned.  Simply keep all these receipts together in an envelope labeled with the month of purchase, so if or when you need one you can simply flip through for it. If the receipt is for a larger purchase and comes with a warranty, it’s wise to staple the receipt to the warranty and start a general file for all major purchases. As an extra tip, most manufacturers provide their instruction manuals online, so there is no need to save all those bulky booklets.

Work surface – What do you have cluttering the top of your desk or table? Too many supplies?  Your unending “To Do” pile? Things you should have put away but haven’t?  Your work surface needs to have space, so you can actually use it to work. Limit the supplies you keep out to ones that you only use on a daily basis. Others can be stored within easy reach but do not need to be in your way on a regular basis. Those pesky to do items can be contained in a basket or paper tray, making it easier to corral them to one specific place in your work area. As you are working and before leaving that space, take a few minutes to clear your surface so it’s ready for next time.

Electrical cords – They seem to be everywhere, so how can you keep them from becoming a tangled mess? Identify and label cords and cables with a piece of tape or plastic bread tag. If you are not sure what a particular cable or cord belongs to, place it in a Ziploc bag and mark the date on it. If you have not needed or identified the item within six months, it is probably outdated or no longer needed and can be discarded or donated. Take time to tame the cord tangles by strapping the cords with zip ties, rubber bands or purchased cord organizers.

When you have a workable surface, use an easy paper system, manage the influx of receipts and tame cables and cords, you will find your home office to be a place that is both productive and enjoyable.

© 2017 Beth Giles

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