How to Organize Your Home Office

Whether you have a home office for work or personal use you want it to be organized.  It doesn’t matter if you have a designated room with a permanent desk or you use the kitchen table on a weekend.  By separating your office into three zones you will be able to do your work more efficiently.

1. The Active Zone: This area will be the desk or table you sit at with the daily or regular supplies you need to do your work.  Your supplies should include pens, paper, envelopes, stamps, bills, a calendar or planner, phone, stapler, and any other items you may need. If there are items on your desk you rarely use then find another place for them.  This will free up space for the ones you use daily.  If you have a portable office then store your supplies in a box, briefcase, or other container.  Everything will be together and ready to use when you sit down to work.

2. The Semi-Active Zone: This area should be somewhere nearby where you store extra office supplies, file folders, reference books, computer software/backup disks, etc. When you need a certain file or reference book you don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for it. If you don’t have a lot of storage area for office supplies you can store them in a container or box in a closet or even under the bed. If everything is kept in one place then you can easily find the extra copy paper, printer ink, staples, or pens. Don’t stock up too much unless you go through your supplies very fast because of your type work or have a large family.

File folders you use on a regular basis can be in this semi-active zone or the active zone if you have room. You’ll want a file draw or cabinet kept in your office or near the area you work at. Remember, this is for active files only (see number 3 for inactive files). Portable file boxes can be used if you don’t have room for a permanent file draw.

3. The Inactive Zone: This is where you will keep all the inactive files that you don’t need to access more than once a year. Old tax returns, old bank statements, canceled checks, etc. These can be stored in the back of a closet, under a bed, or in an attic. I don’t recommend storing papers in a basement unless it is a finished area that you know is not damp. Decluttering and organizing the inactive zone would be a good rainy day or weekend project. It won’t affect your daily work like the other zones but is still important in the long run.

Once you have the zones set up you’ll want to create a system to keep them organized.  Make a standard list of what items you want to keep in each zone. Every couple of weeks (more often if necessary) you should check this list to make sure all the items are put back in the correct zone.  If you find an item is always moving to the active zone then consider finding a permanent place for it there. You’ll be more efficient if you have that item within arm’s reach.