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home office organization tips

Let's face it: Everyone works at home. 

Kids do homework. Parents pay bills, manage their finances, juggle their schedules.

And some people even run businesses from their homes.

Whether you use your home office daily for your job or just a few afternoons a week to pay bills online and send e-mails, you'll need the same essentials for an efficient but comfy space in which to get it all done.

These home office organization tips can help you set yourself up for efficiency.

Home Office Organization by the (Note)Book

I have one notebook that I use for to-do lists and a second notebook for everything else. These two notebooks keep me straight. The key is that I write everything in them, rather than on tiny pieces of paper. Try it!

This way, no slips of paper are lost. No phone numbers are misplaced.

I don't have to tear up the house looking for the napkin with the contractor's name on it.

All I have to do to find a message is think, "Hmmm. I talked to them sometime last September." Then I flip back to the pages I wrote in September.

Low tech? You bet. Efficient? Absolutely. Home office organization at its best!

When you finish a notebook, place it in a storage box with the dates clearly labeled on front. Keep it for reference. You'll need it.

Give Everything Its Own Space

Think drawers, trays, file holders, and bins. Keep things nearby - but not necessarily on - your desktop.

Your goal, should you choose to accept it, is to keep 75 percent of your desktop visible at all times.

Make sure everything is at arm's length. Here's where the "near" comes in. You shouldn't have to get up to get your files, your fax, or your phone.

Store Supplies You Use Together in the Same Place

Home office organization works best when you keep things simple. 

Keep stamps, a pen that writes, a calculator, and envelopes together so that bill time's a breeze (or at least as much of a breeze as bill time can be.)

Pens, pencils, and highlighters are among the assorted essentials that need a home spot in your home office. A cute mug with your kid's baseball picture works great; a drawer will do in a pinch.

Other essential stuff to stash in a supplies drawer or a single box for easy grabbing includes staplers, tape, paper cutters, a hole punch, stamps, and thumbtacks.

The bottom line: Group them so you can grab them in a pinch. (while we're talking about office supplies, choose staples over paper clips. Clips get caught on other papers and come apart more easily. Just keep a staple-remover handy.)

Save time searching through drawers by storing as many items as possible in clear containers.

Create a Place For Everything

If you're short on space, store supplies, and less-used items in a closet or another part of your home.

Throw out what you can. Ditch yesterday's news and last month's magazines.

Okay so you won't read a newspaper from three days ago, why on earth are you keeping months-old magazines around?

If you're saving a magazine for a reason - an article you want to clip out, say - clip it out and recycle the rest. Forget about using those old rags as a "reference."

Chances are, if the time rolls around when you need it, you'll forget that the items are there. Instead, clip items you'd like to keep right away, and you'll have room for all the new mags that arrive daily in your mailbox.

Be Prepared for Disaster

If you're prepared for disaster, then it won't happen, of course. But if it does, you'll be prepared.

Regularly back up critical computer files on a thumb drive or other safe format. Purchase - and use - a power surge protector for your computer and all your electronic items.

Tips for Small Spaces

When space is at a premium, your organization needs to be, too. If you've got a cramped office, it's time to get creative and think outside the box. 

Maximize your floor space by not putting your desk in the traditional place, up against the wall.

Maximize your floor space by not putting your desk in the traditional place, up against the wall.

Instead, consider putting it in the middle of the room or perpendicular to the wall. Do have it facing the door, however, so you can greet visitors without a jump.

To make the most of your limited wall space, get one tall file holder instead of a couple of two-drawer models. Use extra wall space for shelves.

I started with just file drawers in my home office a few years ago. That idea lasted about a day.

Once I began filing our myriad paper, I realized quickly that leaving the walls out of the storage and organizing routine wasn't going to cut it.

I chose cabinets with shelves, mostly so I could use the space to tuck away the more unruly stuff: odd-size books, phone books, papers and miscellany from my father's estate, a box of printed envelopes for work correspondence, etc.

But to soften the office feel of my bedroom, I chose to confine some of the clunkier items in wicker baskets and even a hatbox.

Whatever I have around that's big enough to hold things inside is fair game for dual use in my house.

You may want to have a wall of deep shelving for things like boxes of printer paper. I use my covered shelving for storing those items, too.

But in a pinch, these are things you can retrieve from the basement or garage when needed.

So stash the overflow in a nearby closet (or even one that's not so close). Just don't seriously attempt to get any work done when you have to dodge file shelves and step over stationery supplies to get to your seat or sort through a mishmash of mail, bills, and letters from school and the softball team on your obscured desktop.

If you need more drawer space, however, there's at least one item that might be worth maneuvering around in your home office: an inexpensive rolling cart that you can stash under your desk.

Ditto for your files: If you're plumb out of options, a rolling cart for your files can be stashed out of sight in your closet when company comes, then rolled out to the home office when you're ready to conquer the world. 

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