It’s easy to set up a home office and keep it organized, local experts say.
“Anyone can set up a functional home office, even if your home or apartment is small,” says Diane Barker, a professional organizer and home stager who owns Shape Up Your Space with Dawnell Yoder. “A home office does not need to be a complete room, but can be a corner of the bedroom, a table in the back of a family room or even a desk in a cleared-out closet.”
When you’re setting up a home office, there are several factors to consider, Yoder says.
Take a look at the lighting first.
“Make sure when choosing a space for your office that it has good lighting,” Yoder says, noting that an office area near a window is always best.
If that’s not possible, be sure not to skimp on lighting.
“It will be worth it to invest in lighting that provides good, clear light for reading and writing,” she says.
Additionally, be sure to think about access to outlets for charging computers, phones and other electronics when choosing an office space.
Barker says it’s important to choose an area that has the right “feel” for you.
“Be sure to choose a space that you will feel comfortable in and will enjoy working in,” she explains. “You want your office space to be inviting, so create an atmosphere that you will want to go to. Set around a few photos of people and places you love, or maybe give the area a fresh coat of paint.”
It’s equally important, she says, to use a comfortable chair.
And don’t underestimate the importance of small touches like a bulletin board.
“Hanging a bulletin board will not only give you a place to hang reminders, but can also add some personal touches to your space with favorite quotes or photos,” Barker says.
Yoder says you should take time to consider what specifically you’ll use your office for, and how you want it to function.
“What will you need when you sit to do your work?” she says. “Pens, paper, highlighters, envelopes, stamps, a hole punch, etc.”
Use decorative baskets on a shelf, or drawers in a dresser to hold supplies at your fingertips, and make sure you have stackable bins or wall-mounted slots to hold the items waiting to be dealt with, she recommends.
“Always include a trash can in your space,” Yoder says. “It’s best to throw out anything you do not need as quickly as possible. We recommend sorting your mail over a trash can and not even allowing it to hit your counter or desk. Getting rid of what you do not need frees your space to handle what you do need.”
If possible, she says, it’s great to also have a small shredder that fits on top of your trash can, making it easy to get rid of any confidential material as quickly as possible.
“Remember that most everything you need you can now find online, so do not keep what you do not need,” she says.
Once your office is set up, stay organized by breaking down incoming mail and papers into four categories, Barker says.
These include action items (bills to be paid, invitations to reply to, forms that need to be returned); items to read (items you need to know information from but may not have time to read immediately upon receiving); items to be filed (for your long-term filing system) and items that you will need soon (directions to an event, a doctor’s order form for an upcoming test, tickets to a concert and so on.)
“If you find miscellaneous papers accumulating, ask yourself what they are, and what category are you missing in your filing system,” Barker says. “And by setting aside time each week to keep your office space cleaned up and maintained, you are on your way to a much more stress-free life.”