Create a Productive Home Office Space

In my last post, “10 Steps to Organizing Your Paperwork,” the first item I mentioned was gathering all of your paperwork into one place.  The reason for putting this step first is that occasionally I’ve gone into someone’s home to find paper everywhere… on the kitchen counters, the kitchen table, in the living room, in a patio storage closet, in the garage, and who knows where else!  While in certain cases, it might be a good idea to store archival information outside of your main workspace, for the most part you’ll find it more efficient to have everything in one room.

Now I know that it can be tempting to skip this step and just try to do your paperwork while sitting comfortably on a sofa in the family or living room watching T.V.  But, trust me, your focus and productivity will suffer!  Even if you’re on the road a lot and need some sort of a mobile office, it’s still going to be helpful to have a “home base” for your office activities.

In my own home, we’re lucky to have an entire room to call “the office,” and all incoming paper (with the exception of schoolwork belonging to the teenage members of the family) goes directly there. Of course, not everyone has an extra room to spare. In that case, a small portion of the family room, dining room or kitchen will probably do the trick. The important thing is that it should not be a space that you have to clear off to, say, eat dinner or cook! Paperwork is never really finished, and to effectively manage it, it’s best to have a space (however small) dedicated to just that function.  For some great home office ideas, check out this article, ”“ at Sunset magazine’s website.

Next, make sure you have a flat surface in your workspace.  Depending on where your office space is located, that might be a counter-top, a built-in or free-standing desk, or just a folding table. If you’re on a budget, try places like Ikea, Office Depot, Staples, and Target for inexpensive desks.  Get a standard folding table at almost any warehouse, home or office supply store.  My own  home office contains an old oak desk with matching return, which forms an “L” shape.  I bought it back in the early nineties and although there are nicer looking desks out there, it has definitely served me well!

Another thing you’ll need is a place to put your files.  Obviously, a filing cabinet or two is ideal, but if you don’t have the space or budget for one, pick up a few plastic filing boxes at your nearest office supply store.  These are the ones that have a ridge along the edge where you can hang standard sized hanging file folders.  Storing your paperwork vertically generally gives you much easier access than storing it in piles.

Outfit your home office space with a good task light and a phone, and make sure it’s close to an electrical outlet for your computer, printer, and calculator. (With my tax and accounting background I find a desktop calculator to be absolutely essential, but am not sure if other people actually use them…)  And finally, don’t forget a comfortable office chair!  Congratulations, you’ve now got a space where you can get down to serious business!

What challenges have you faced when trying to contain all of your paper in one place?  And what solutions have you found?
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  1. Paperless Home Office – Dream or Reality?
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  3. 10 Steps to Organizing Your Paperwork

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