Creating And Organizing Your Home Office From The Ground Up
If you are one of the growing number of people contemplating working from home, you are going to need an office. Your job, whether it’s full-time or part-time employment, is important to you and your family, so your home office should reflect that dedication. Whether you have a degree on the wall or are self-taught by your work and life experience, you want to project a professional image. Professionalism is one of the best ways to help improve your chances of succeeding. A well thought out home office is the first step.
Your family’s lifestyle and home design will help determine whether you can commandeer an entire room, or just a corner. Before you decide, be sure to consult your business accountant to get the low-down on this whole tax write-off thing. You don’t want to guess and then be surprised or disappointed at tax time. The information you receive may force you to make a different decision regarding exactly where your office should reside.
The type of business you have will dictate the type of office you need. If your business requires that you meet with clients and affiliates in your office, you will need room for a couple of chairs and a table. If you manufacture physical items, or lay out tons of paperwork, you will need a workspace. If your business requires computer work, you will need room for a good computer desk, printer, fax, and data storage.
Once you have your home office location figured out, go in and do a clean sweep. If you have a whole room dedicated for your home office, start by eliminating everything from the room that isn’t directly connected to your business. If you are setting up your office in one corner of a multi-purpose room, you’ll need to clean out that corner. Keep in mind that the fewer distractions and the less clutter you have, the better. Go through your space, whether it’s a room or a corner, and be brutal about the clutter. Get rid of everything that doesn’t belong in your office, move it somewhere or box it up, and start with a blank slate. The only exception to clearing out all the bric-a-brac is your favorite family photos, of course! You’ll want, and need, that little reminder of why you’re working so hard.
Now that you are looking at an empty space, you can begin devising a plan to fill it up. Your particular business will require certain furnishings in your home office. We’ll just take a look at a few areas that most businesses would need.
Desk and Chair – All home offices need a desk of some sort, but some businesses will require a larger or more specifically designed desk to suit their needs. If your business is largely handled from your computer, you’ll need to pay close attention to the style and versatility of your computer desk. Your desk will need to be designed for computer use, with places for all the hardware involved. Your business may require a lot of manuals or other bound material. If your office space is limited, a storage hutch above the computer desk may be just what you need. That way, you won’t have to take up precious space with separate bookcases to hold your materials.
If you are cramped for room, there are many computer carts and stands that don’t take up much space, but still give you and your computer a place to work. If your desk is strictly for making notes, phoning, or doing other non-computer work, you can get a writer’s desk, which is oftentimes smaller than a computer desk or armoire. There are also desk styles that suit both computer and writing purposes.
Along with a good computer desk, you will need a comfortable chair. This is not worth skimping on. A good chair is worth its weight in gold! Choose a chair based on its support, not style, although many supportive chairs are also stylish. And, don’t forget a chair for your work table. If you sit at a table to create or build products, you’ll want to be sure your chair is appropriate for that work.
Filing and Storage – There are traditional filing cabinets and there are room-saving filing systems. If you have room for a traditional filing cabinet or two, I recommend that you make the investment. There are many sizes and configurations from which to choose. Your filing cabinets can also do double duty if you need a work surface. By purchasing several two-drawer filing cabinets and lining them up, you will create a surface to lay out papers, work on projects, or display items.
If your budget permits, you can save room by purchasing lateral filing cabinets. Lateral filing cabinets are sized more like bookcases, hugging the wall instead of sticking out into the room. But, lateral filing cabinets can be much more expensive. Do your homework, measure your space, and browse the online stores before you go out to buy.
When your space is limited, you’ll want to look for filing solutions that are a little more inventive than the traditional filing cabinet. There are filing systems that actually attach to the back of a door. Simple portable filing boxes are perfect if you basically need to store paperwork long term. If you need ready access to paperwork, you’ll find filing carts that wheel up to your desk when you need them, and wheel back into a corner when you’re done. If you are lucky enough to have a closet in your home office, you may want to set up your filing system in there just to keep things nice and tidy.
Organizers – This means everything from drawer dividers to bulletin boards. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” After you set up your desk and filing system, stand back and take a look. Doesn’t that look nice! In a few months, will it still look that nice? It can if you use a few basic organizing systems and practice a little decluttering every day.
Starting with a few desk accessory basics; you’ll want to buy yourself a new stapler, staple remover, tape dispenser, pen cup, and paperclip holder. These items almost seem antiquated in this age of technology, but you’d be surprised how many times you need these items. A drawer organizer with all those little compartments to corral loose items like push pins, coins, paperclips, sticky notes, staples, and extra pens, is not only handy, they keep the clutter off the top of your desk. If your desk doesn’t have drawers available for an organizer, you can find attractive sorters and organizers for the desktop. Inexpensive baskets and boxes also work to keep the clutter controlled.
You’ll want either a cork board or magnetic board for all those little notes that you will inevitably start collecting. You may want a white board (dry erase board) or chalk board to organize your thoughts and to brainstorm ideas. Some of us need to visually be reminded of deadlines, projects, and appointments, so you will also need a calendar – yes, a paper one, even if yours is already on the computer. The same goes for a clock. There’s nothing like glancing at a calendar or clock to get a reminder of time fleeting by.
There is no end to the possibilities when it comes to getting your home office organized. One note: if you have young school age children, you may want to hold off on purchasing that pencil holder… you’ll probably be receiving a homemade one at some point. I have a nice, golden macaroni pencil holder that’s quite lovely!
Computer Organizers and Organized Computers – We’re not talking here about the little frames that attach to your monitor to hold your notes and stuff, although those are nice, too. We’re talking about computer programs to organize your business. Then we’ll talk about keeping your computer itself organized.
Look for organizational software programs that can help you keep track of your business, your appointments, and your clients. Some programs are specifically designed to fit particular businesses, while other programs are more flexible and can generally be used by most home businesses. By using these programs, you can keep track of your day as well as your business information and materials.
Aside from using specially packaged organizing software, all business owners should learn to use a basic spreadsheet. Start simply and learn as you go, buy an instructional book, or take a class. You’ll find that once you learn what spreadsheets can do to keep you organized, you’ll be looking for ways to use this tool all the time. Spreadsheets are an excellent way to keep track of all kinds of data, and no, they are not just for accountants, anymore.
As to the documents and programs that live in your computer, you’ll want to keep those organized just as you keep your desk and files organized. If your computer and its “desktop” are cluttered with too many documents and “shortcuts”, you’ll be wasting valuable time trying to find things when you need them. If you can’t remember where to find your documents, you need to declutter your computer. Try grouping similar documents together in clearly labeled files and reserving the shortcuts for the things you use daily.
Your business is finally up and running. Doesn’t that feel great! Your dream is to make a success of your venture. Your professionalism is key to achieving this goal. Start with an organized home office and you’re moving in the right direction.
Want more ideas on how to keep your home office organized and clutter-free? Come back here and visit us often for tips to declutter your home… and life!