The home that has space devoted purely to a home office is a rarity, and professional organizer, Kristin Long, says it’s that lack of focus that leaves many home offices a hot mess. It’s not a problem that can be solved with some magical organizational tool or storage solution, Long explains.
“When I’m asked to recommend products, I usually say that it’s not what you need, but what you need to do that will transform a room,” she says. “The only essentials I really recommend are a labeler and a filing system.”
Those simple tools are secondary to an awareness of the room’s purpose—Long’s first step for any organizational makeover. And, while she doesn’t specifically recommend products to help organize the space, Long uses Ikea’s Expedit bookshelf in lots of different applications because she likes its cube-style storage. It lends itself perfectly to the first rule of order in any home office reinvention:
Categorize and Contain
Sorting is like a four-letter word to those overwhelmed by clutter, but there’s no shortcut except trashing everything and starting from scratch. Even that type of extreme makeover won’t stick, Long says, since the act of sorting and creating spaces for everything in the office will prevent the clutter from taking over again.
Those flat surfaces collect paperwork and mail because they are work spaces, and a clean working area is a must for any work to get done. Without a nice, big desk for paying bills or planning the next organizational project, Long says another flat surface in the house will attract office paperwork, starting the cycle all over again.
Keep It Simple
Although Long’s professional mantra is, “Organizing solutions for the life that isn’t real simple,” she stresses the importance of simplifying what you keep in your filing system.
“There’s no reason to keep receipts for 12 years,” she says, referencing the IRS guidelines for record-keeping. “Holding onto too much paperwork can really prevent long-term progress when it comes to organizing.”
The final step in any reorganization is commitment to keeping things orderly. Labeled containers and dedicated storage areas erases any question about their purpose, both now and in the future. Plus, shared spaces must have labels if everyone using the space is going to work together to keep it working as an office, a hobby room, an art studio, or whatever other personality a home office can have.
Kristin Long is the founder and CEO of Organizational Specialists, Inc., a full-range professional organizing services company based in northern Virginia and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers since 2004.