Amy Clark

Organizing the Home Office

This is the hardest place in our house to keep up with because despite the fact that we spend hours and hours in this room, it just never makes the top of the priority list. When our office is in disarray I feel as though my life is in disarray because this is where I do my work.

Now let’s say, for example, that you went to go purchase an insurance policy in an office and you walked into a tornado of paperwork laying all over the floor in piles. Would you want to purchase a policy from this office? My guess would be that you would run out and take your business elsewhere. If you have trouble finding what is underneath all the papers on your desk, it is time to make this a place that you can be proud of and one that (if you had clients) they would want to retain their business with you.

Here are a few facts that you might not be aware of. By seeing these facts, I am sickened by how much of my life has been wasted due to my disinterest in keeping our home office organized.

Facts:

  • The average disorganized person has 3,000 documents at home.
  • Clutter in the average home creates 40% more housework.
  • Americans waste one year of life looking for lost objects.
  • It can take from three hours to three days to organize a home office.

When I began researching this topic most of the web sites I looked to all had the same idea which was to file your papers. There are many ways you can go about doing this, but whatever your method, you want to make sure that it is simple to follow and easy to remember. Here are a few ideas for filing those piles of papers on your floor.

Assess the Damage:

Just how big are these piles you are working with? You want to make sure that you have enough space in your filing cabinet to keep all of these papers. Before you think about purchasing this, you need to make a list of the things you will need in order to make your home office a more livable space. A few things that you will want to have on your list would be filing folders, a few boxes for storing things that do not need to be kept in your office, a few expandable files, and a paper shredder for shredding papers that have confidential information on them.

Reading, Trashing, and Organizing:

It is time to whittle through these enormous piles. Bring in your recycle bin and have a box ready to put papers in that need to be shredded. Read all of the papers carefully and make sure that you are not tossing anything that is of importance to you. There is no need to hang onto every single phone bill you have gotten in the past year unless you use these for tax reporting purposes. Once your next statement has arrived from the phone company and you see that they have credited your account you can toss the previous months bill.

One way of tracking your bills is to keep three separate expandable folders. I label these: Receipts, ATM withdrawals/deposits, and Paid Bills. There is no need for me to hang on to these forever, but I do keep them for a year just for my own comfort. I often need to return things and knowing that my receipts are in one particular place makes hunting for these a lot easier for me. Many professional home organizers would say that there is no need for me to hang on to these things, but if it brings me comfort and doesn’t take up too much space, then I think that this is the system that works for me.

If you have receipts that you are hanging onto because there is a warranty on the product or appliance, be sure to attach the receipt to your user manual so that you have both the manual and the receipt together if you ever need to cash in onto the warranty.

Recycle the magazines that you are hanging onto and pull out just the articles that are of importance to you. You can have a separate expandable file for these articles using the alphabetized expandable file. You can use “C” for cooking, “G” for gardening, “B” for baby and so on. By just pulling out the articles of importance you will save a lot of space in your home.

If you keep a stack of take-out menus for places you frequently eat at- designate a place for these. You can attach these with a binder clip in the front of your phone book so that they are easily accessible or if you keep a lot of these you could use a folder to keep all of them in and put them near the phone book. That should eliminate another pile.

For everything else, create folders for each grouping. If you have file folders already in your box/cabinet, take the time to go through these and weed out all of those old papers. There is no need to overload your folders with out of date information so make sure you recycle/shred all of this old information. Here are some folders that we have in our filing cabinet: Bank Statements, Taxes (be sure to put the year on the label), Medical/Dental, Utilities, Pet Information, Furniture Receipts, Appliances, Auto, Health Insurance, Life Insurance, Auto Insurance, Student Loans, Credit Cards, and User Manuals/Guides. By looking through your own piles you will know what folders you personally need to create to organize these into appropriate folders. Make sure that you do NOT have a miscellaneous folder because that is way too broad and is yet another thing you will need to weed through when trying to find a particular document. Anything worth keeping should have a home.

Once you have everything categorized and papers shredded you will be able to see just how many organizers you are going to need. By waiting until the end of your weeding you have a much clearer idea of what you need and end up spending less money. Look for attractive wicker baskets for storing current magazines, a filing cabinet/box for your papers, expandable organizers for your magazine articles/bill folders, and look for shelving to store office supplies. Use your walls to hang more shelving for books- this is wasted space for where things can be organized.

Maintaining:

Once you have everything organized and in its respective home you need to make sure you maintain this by keeping up with the papers instead of allowing them to pile up again. When you get your mail, sort it over a recycle bin and immediately toss out the trash and junk mail so that you don’t end up spending three hours sorting through it later. Then head straight to your filing cabinet and make sure that you file the rest of the items right away. By taking these three minutes a day to do this, you will save yourself a lot of time in the end. Make a promise to yourself that you will keep up with this and reap the rewards for not wasting hours of your day looking for important documents, and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Cheers!

More ideas for organizing:

www.ineedmoretime.com
www.organizedhome.com

www.flylady.com

Places to look for kitchen organizers:

www.organizes-it.com
www.kitchensource.com
www.organize-everything.com

Recommended Reading:

Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House
by Cherly Mendelson, Harry Bates
To me, this truly is the Bible for all the folk’s out there who aspire to be more organized.

Organizing from the Inside Out
by Julie Morgenstern
This woman has been featured on Oprah as a goddess for home organization. Reading her book will help you discover what type of organizer you are and how to tackle your trouble spots. Be amazed at the fantastic advice she offers.

Organizing for Dummies
by Eileen Roth and Elizabeth Miles
The title says it all. It is for those of us who are just starting on the road to organization.

Published June 24, 2004 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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