Spools of green embroidery floss organized by color

Okay, let’s play truth or dare. I’m a really messy person. Like so messy that I can happily sit at my desk writing this while there are piles of papers surrounding me. And I can pretend not to notice even when said piles of papers fall on my computer keyboard and prevent me from continuing to write.

Truth.

I hate to admit it, but I am a fairly messy person. I take after my dad like that. He works under piles of papers from the floor to desk every day.  And he’s happy about it.

Sadly, no matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to truly tackle organization challenge around me. The papers, notebooks and other places I cram my thoughts are still there. I just can’t seem to get rid of them.

This spring, though, I am working hard to organize my home office once and for all.  My goal – that it never gets messy again.  Okay, maybe that’s not the most realistic statement I’ve ever written.  But, at least I’d like it to stay on the cleaner side until next year’s spring cleaning time.

No matter how organized and tidy you are (even if you ALWAYS won the clean desk award at school – never me by the way), your office workspace can get messy.  All of the paperwork, business cards, slips of paper with your next big idea scrawled on them and receipts can pile up over time.  It’s just natural.

The important part is making the time to clean out and organize your home office space. At least once a year. 

It turns out, according to Neil Patel, that organizing your office space can lead to optimal productivity when you work.  And with kids around, you know how much we need to utilize to the fullest the hours that we do have to work on our businesses.

A well organized home office space provides a feeling that you are in control.  It removes the distractions that keep you from working in the first place. 

Once you’ve finished organizing, you’ll know that you have all of the tools necessary to tackle that next goal, run the business meeting or design your next product.

Your newly cleaned home office equals power.  And power means more productivity.

Pile of notebooks with the text overlay "12 ways to organize your home office so it never gets messy again"

Have you ever sat down to work and couldn’t find the key thing you needed to get started?  So instead of working, you start searching for it.  You look up and down, under piles of papers, until you find the thing you needed.  Right at the moment you put your finger on it, the baby wakes up from his nap.  Happens every time.

These other things that you just spent an hour sifting through are distractions.  If they weren’t there in the first place, you could have spent the last hour working instead of digging.

The goal with organizing your home office is to get rid of these distractions.  If you’re able to sit down to a clean workspace each time you need to work, you will get so much more done.  You can focus more on tackling your next goal than making sure that pile of papers doesn’t fall over.

But, how do you start to organize your home office?  Here are my favorite 12 ways to organize your home office this spring.  Number 5 is my favorite and I’m doing it right now.

Figure Out What’s Not Working

Organizing your office space is important, but before you begin you need to figure out what isn’t working. 

Why are all of the papers getting piled on your desk?  Why are there paper clips scattered everywhere?

There’s no sense in taking time to organize your home office when it’s just going to get cluttered again.  Probably within a matter of weeks.

Before starting, evaluate how your office space can run better.  Where should everything be so that you get the most productivity out of your day?  

My problem is notebooks.  I keep every idea, thing I learn and drawing in a notebook.  These notebooks are piled all over my desk.  Why?  Because, as I discovered when evaluating how my office space works, I don’t have a shelf within reach of my work area to store them.

Bring on a book shelf.  By adding a shelf that I can easily reach when I’m working, I now return the notebooks when I’m done using them. Suddenly, my work space is cleared and I’m feeling more relaxed.

So, before starting to organize your home office, figure out why your space is getting messy in the first place. 

Are there too much of any one thing? Do you need a new container to put things in? A new storage space?

Then, solve the problem.  This will prevent the mess from accumulating again.  At least for awhile.

Make Goals

So, we’ve established that your office workspace won’t just clean itself.  Organizing an office takes determination and planning.

It also takes clearly stated goals about what you want to accomplish.  Before starting to organize your home office, know what your end goal is.

For me, I always want to try and create an office space that doesn’t get messy again.  At least not for awhile.  On top of the organizing, I want to bring function to the space and make it work better.

Be sure to write down your goals and post them somewhere you can see them.  Keep these goals in mind as you organize.  It will help you stay motivated and be a reminder about why you are organizing your office in the first place.

Scattered calendar pages on pink desktop with the text overlay "12 ways to organize your home office"

Set a Date

I love talking about organizing.  I see so much potential in our home and dreaming about how we could live if we just had our things more organized makes me feel like I’m on cloud nine.

Then work gets busy, family life is hectic and we have a string of weekends with house guests.  The organizing dreams are pushed aside never to be thought of again until next spring.

When it comes to organizing, I am a lot of talk and not much action.  It’s a shame too because I could easily help sort out other people’s homes.  It’s just my own that I seem to avoid.

In order to actually get the job done, set a date and stick to it.  Think about it as a non-negotiable appointment.  Something that can’t be moved, skipped or rescheduled.

Then, show up and get started.  Make sure you leave yourself enough time to work.  Organizing is never fun when you start and have to stop in the middle.  Consider scheduling your time around trash day.  That way you can throw out and recycle everything the next day.

If you find yourself extremely unmotivated to start, find a buddy.  Like most things in life, you’ll probably stick to the scheduled date if someone else is showing up to help.  

Sort through Papers

Papers are my worst enemy. Even in the digital age, they seem to pile up.

To be honest, I kind of prefer some paper to no papers.  Unless I’m really good at writing something down, a paper serves as a physical reminder for an event or activity. (Remember, I’m the one who loves to cross things off of my to do list.)

Papers are everywhere.  But, they especially accumulate on my desk surface. The same surface that I like to be creative on.

So, start to organize your home office by sorting through all of these papers.  It will create an immediate look of tidiness.

Gather all of your papers together and then go through them in a different room.  I put mine in three piles – business, family and recycle. 

After I do the initial sort into those categories, I review each pile.  From there, I sort into two additional piles – File or Take Action.  If I need to file the paper, then I go put it in the correct file folder in the filing box.

If the paper is something that I need to take action with, I figure out what that action is.  I might just need to write down a date or fill out a form. Sometimes the actions are a bit more complicated.  If this is the case, I schedule completion for later so I don’t get side tracked from organizing.

Create a Catcher’s Box

When looking at the areas that aren’t working in your office workspace, most likely you have a paper problem.  Lots of papers come in and out of my office every day.  

What happens to these papers is important to my organization efforts.  Currently, they get thrown (and I mean a nice gentle toss) to the back of my desk workspace.  Over time, they pile up and I end up with papers everywhere.  If I was supposed to do something with them, it is completely forgotten.  Then, I find myself frantically working on the project last minute.

If you’re experiencing a similar paper cycle failure, establish a place for all the papers to go when they come into your office.  I now use two document trays – a business one and family one.  When a new piece of paper comes in, I place it into the tray to be managed at a convenient time.

From personal experience, managing papers when they arrive is never the right time.  We’re usually coming into the house and chaos has ensued.  By putting the papers aside, I can read over them during a quiet time and figure out the best thing follow up action.  

The important thing is to not let this catcher’s box get cluttered.  Once I’ve reviewed the paper in the tray, I put it in the correct location. This might be a file box, a child’s backpack or the recycling bin.

Establish your own catcher’s box area.  Start by finding the best place in your office space to collect things.  Set up document trays or a box to sort the papers coming in. 

You also need to place an appropriately sized trash can or recycling bin near this space for decluttering.  Choose one that is big enough so you aren’t emptying it all of the time.  You’re more likely to continue placing papers in it when it isn’t always full.

Ask the Right Questions

We are living in a Marie Kondo age.  As much as I appreciate her question, “Does this bring me joy?”, it isn’t the first thing I think about when organizing my home office.

It doesn’t actually matter to me if an item brings me joy.  I’m more concerned about creating a space where I can work more efficiently. 

Many items in my office are just useful.  I can’t say my computer speaker, stapler or pair of scissors (unless they’re the gold ones) bring me joy.

But I can say that these items help me do my job.  When it comes to your office space, usefulness is more important than joy.

When considering keeping an item in your office, be sure to ask the right questions before getting rid of it.  Think about “Does this item help me?” or “Do I use it often, if at all?”.

You want to be surrounded by the tools that assist in your daily productivity.  They may or may not bring happiness and joy to your life directly. But if they do their job and get your work day done faster, then you will find joy in the time saved without even knowing it.

Contain It

One of my favorite stores in the world when we lived in Washington was The Container Store.  I could walk in there and discover all of these things to help organize our home that I didn’t even know I needed (or existed).

They definitely took me beyond my traditional organization technique – the shoebox.  Now, organization goodies are pretty, colorful and, supposedly, serve a purpose.

If you find that you have a lot of similar objects when cleaning, such as paper clips, stationery, business cards or writing instruments, find a way to contain them.

Although you don’t have to go for the pretty boxes (you can actually make your own pretty storage boxes), find a way to keep these like objects together.  These storage containers become the object’s home and everyone understands where they live.

So, put all of the pencils in a pencil cup.  Keep paper clips in one of those simple magnetic clip holders.  Place erasers and sharpeners in a drawer caddy.

Last year, I spent a lot of time organizing our new studio space.  I was mesmerized by how many stationery items we’d collected over the years.  We never need another eraser or sharpener again.  I found dividing them up into different sections in a drawer caddy kept them contained.

But I faced a lot of comments from friends that they’d never stay like that. I’m happy to report over a year later that all of our sharpeners are still in the same place. The kids just seem to understand that this compartment is their home.

Also, it’s really nice when we get a new one. We know exactly where to put it without much thought.  This saves time and extra clutter.

Pretty office desk with the text overlay "12 ways to organize your home office"

Go Beyond the Paper

When I think about cleaning my office, I immediately head to the piles of papers on my desk.  These days, though, much of office clutter exists digitally on our computers.

Running a graphic design business means that I have folders upon folders of client work, stationery designs, blog photos and other creative projects that I’ve worked on.  These things are my digital clutter.

It’s just as important to clean up the digital clutter as it is the physical.  Digital clutter makes our computers run more slowly, takes up important space on our hard drive and causes us to work less efficiently (this is especially true when I can’t find a file…).

So grab your duster (aka your mouse) and start clicking the delete button.  Get rid of the files you’re no longer using or don’t need.

I will admit that this job is a bit tedious.  So, I set a timer and work for about 15 minutes at a time.  This way I don’t get too bored with all the clicking and erase something I didn’t mean to.

When cleaning out, if you notice that files aren’t organized in the best manner, it’s a great time to rearrange your computer desktop.  Knowing where the files you need are will make you more productive.

Weed Down the Cards

If you’ve jumped into the world of business networking, I’m certain that you’ve discovered a side effect of becoming more social.  Business cards.

Whenever I attend a networking event or business conference, I come back with piles of business cards to contact the people I’ve met again. They usually sit in a pile or a drawer waiting for me to do something with them.

As a stack hidden away, these cards are completely useless.  It’s like saying, why’d you bother.

If you come across a lot of business cards when you’re organizing, think about ways that you can put them to better use.  When I just started out in the working world, I kept an Excel spreadsheet with all of the information about the person, date met, association and how I could potentially help them.

The problem with the spreadsheet is that I would save it and forget about it.  It wasn’t very useful after I spent the time making it.

These days I’ve taken a different approach to connecting with others.  I like to make direct contact with the other person as soon as possible after meeting them.  I follow them on LinkedIn, their blog and other social media platforms.  Then, I can throw out the business card.

If you want to get more techy, scan the business card into an app or purchase a business card scanner.  No matter which way you do it, get rid of the stack.  Make those cards (and contacts) work harder for you.

Refresh your Décor

Taking time to organize your office space is also the perfect time for some redecorating.  Refreshing your office décor can change your perspective and give you a more positive mindset.

Update your office art with printable art prints.  Add new flowers, get some pretty pencils and replace your current stationery.

I love just moving furniture around my work space.  I might put my desk in a new location or shift my shipping station to another wall.  These simple shifts change my perspective and make me more motivated to work.

And if I don’t like the changes over time, you can always more everything back.  The best part about furniture is that it’s not permanent.

Tackle the Dust Bunnies

I know I’ve been talking about organizing your home office.  But let’s not forget about cleaning it too. 

Organizing and cleaning are really two different things. Organizing is more about putting things in their correct places.  Cleaning is getting rid of the filth.

I just discovered when I was organizing my desk space, a large number of dust bunnies had accumulated on my computer.  It was amazing how much the dust had settled.  So, I switched from organizing to cleaning to get rid of the dust.

Working in a dirty environment can be unsafe for our health.  No one should be breathing in all of that dust.  Also, cleaning gets rid of germs. Think about your keyboard and anything else you (or your children) touch every day.  It’s best to have those areas clean.

After everything is organized, wipe down your desk and other surfaces in your office.  You can also use a computer vacuum to get the dust off your keyboard or tackle the other small crevices of your workspace.

Reward Yourself

Congratulations!  You’ve completed the organization of your home office space.  Now, it’s time for a reward.  As I always say, never tackle a goal without a plan to rewarding yourself in the end.

Even before starting your organization project, decide on a reward that motivate you.  What will make you work hard enough to get through the entire project?  Write it down – in BIG print – and put it somewhere you can see it.

Then once you’re finished with organizing, treat yourself.  Enjoy the reward.  You completed the project and deserve it.

Final Thoughts…

Truth is not everyone likes to clean or even organize. I remember my mom forcing me to clean as a kid and just wanting to play outside with my friends.  I dreaded the entire process from start to finish.

What I did like was the result.  I loved working, playing and sleeping in a space that felt refreshed and functioned better.

Organizing your home office workspace isn’t much different. It’s important to take time at least once a year – spring is always good for this – to sort your office space, organize it and clean.  Even if it isn’t your number one priority.

In the end, you’ll have a better functioning space that you can be more productive in.  And that renewed productivity will lead to greater business success and growth.

So, get cleaning. An organized office workspace is in your future.

Looking for more ideas to make this year’s spring cleaning amazing?  Here are some more ideas from my favorite bloggers to help you get a clean house quickly.  

Spring Cleaning Checklist from Garden Full of Dreams

How to have a Clutter Free Bathroom from Blessings by Me

Spring Home Décor Ideas on a Budget from Bushra’s Lifestyle

Must Have Spring Cleaning Supplies for a Natural Home from Angie Cruise

My Cleaning Routine from Everyday Young Mum

 

5 Comments on 12 Easy Ways to Organize your Home Office

  1. There are so many great tips here I don’t know which one to start on! I think I’m a bit like you when it comes to cleaning up my office. I don’t like it looking too sterile but I can’t work when it gets too cluttered, either. I especially like what you said about asking the right questions–not asking if this item brings joy (I agree that my scanner doesn’t spark joy but it is very functional) but if it makes you more productive. You’re right to point out that not everything Marie Kondo says to us about cleaning should be taken as THE Gold standard for everything we decide on in our lives. Thanks, Natalie!

    • Thanks so much Kathy. I don’t like a sterile work environment either, but I do like to see my desk. I love to be surrounded with things that conjure up happy thoughts when I’m working – everything from photos to relics from my recent travels. Hopefully, some of the systems that I put in place this spring will lead to greater success to keeping my work space at least organized. I hate wasting precious time looking for things when I could be being more productive. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks so much! It’s felt so great to spring clean these last two weeks. I really believe it brings more productivity. My next goal is to get the improvements to last until next spring. Thanks for stopping by.

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