Recently, Abrams Home Solutions worked with a client to organize her home office. The client is a 40 year old woman in Chicago suburbs who has an office in her home. She has two kids and a busy family life. She is the CEO of her household handling all financial, legal, medical, etc. bills/paperwork as well as the CEO of her family business, which includes buying/flipping properties and maintaining rental properties. She is very involved in her kids school PTO and other charitable organizations. If this sounds familiar, it’s because many homes today have a home office and the parents lead busy lives balancing work and home. If you too have a home office and struggle to keep it organized, then today’s post is for you!
A cluttered, disorganized home office can become a space for office supplies, office paperwork, and other “homeless” items. In this instance, the office is off of the kitchen and therefore organization effort was placed in the mudroom, kitchen island, kitchen desk area, and home office.
The client disliked her space and dreaded going into the space. She was overwhelmed with prioritizing tasks/projects and as a result missed deadlines. This left her feeling frazzled, anxious, and overwhelmed. The client stated that this tricked down to effect the quality of her family time. Additionally, client felt she couldn’t enjoy her home and find it to be a restful place. Still sound familiar? Read on for our action plan and helpful tips!
We worked in three phases to organize the home office, starting with decluttering the space. There was a large bin of electronic devices that the family was not using. We emptied this bin by donating and consigning the various electronics. Many other items that had found there way into the space were returned to their various homes, recycled, donated, or tossed.
The second phase consisted of sorting paper. Paper in the office included items pertaining to professional and personal documents. The client had previously started a file system in her desk, but there was no system between the paper on her desk and the paper that was filed in a wall mounted organizing system. Since there was no “home” for paper, it ended up on the kitchen island, in the mud room, on the kitchen desk, and sometimes in the office. We spent time clearing off all of these surfaces and consolidating all the paper in the office before sorting. Some paper was redundant or no longer needed and it was purged appropriately. We created a designated space for action, reference, and archive papers. The action items were placed in a bin on the main desktop work space. Action items or “to do” items should always be front and center in a work space. They get prime office real estate!
Reference papers for short term projects were sorted into a large divided bin system on the ancillary desk space. Reference papers for long term projects were stored in the wall unit. A separate organizing system was created in the mudroom for all of the outgoing papers. Archive paperwork (papers that are infrequently needed) went into labeled hanging files located in the primary desk drawer.
The third phase consisted of developing a paper flow and tracking system for tasks and projects, again both personal and professional. Paper comes in through the garage/mudroom, is sorted immediately, purged as needed, and then brought into the office for further sorting. Magazines and kid’s homework go the kitchen desk, completed school and art work go in a bin for further sorting/purging at a later date. Anything outbound lands in the outbound system in the mud room.
Finally, tasks and projects were identified and organized in to a task management app and Evernote (projects). Tasks and projects were also prioritized. The next two to three action steps were identified for each project. A template was created to batch and time block tasks and projects into specific days of the week.
We acheived the following results by organizing this home office:
*The client can easily identify the status of tasks/projectsPaper ends up in the correct “home.”
*Mudroom, kitchen, and office are now decluttered.
*Client can walk into office each day of the week with a plan of attack and no longer dreads being in the space.
*Backlog of paper, tasks, projects have been cleared up and client is now up to date again.
*A manageable system has been created to continue the paper flow/task and project system going forward.
*Client is more productive, family enjoying space more, client feels less stressed and overwhelmed, and the family can better enjoy quality time together.
If you want to get a better handle on organizing your home office, here are a few easy tips and takeaways from this post:
- Always handle paper once! Move it forward it some way by doing it (take action), defering it, deleting it, or delegating it. Have a landing place for incoming paper, paper being processed, and outgoing paper.
- Paper should be categorized by action, reference, or archive. Create designated “homes” for each category. The most critical papers (action) should be closest to the workspace, while the less critical papers (archive) should be farthest from the workspace.
- Creating a “home” for everything in home reduces the likelihood of items ending up in the wrong room. Items may be visiting “guests” for a limited amount of time, but eventually, like all guests, they need to return back home.
- Maximize your productivity by batching similar tasks together and blocking time on your calendar to work on these tasks.
What step can you do today to get started on your home office organizing journey?