Making over your home office tips

If you pay bills or have papers you need to save, you’ve probably set aside a space in your house as the “home office” area. Whether you have a desk in a corner or a whole office to call your own, here are a few ways to keep it running smoothly and efficiently.
1. Get your papers organized.
A significant issue with home offices (and any home) can be the accumulation of paper. Bills, coupon books, newspaper—you name it, it’s probably stacked up around your house at some point. So what do you do? Get it organized as soon as it enters the house.

When sorting papers, home organizers often use the rule of three: “to file,” “to do” and “to read/decide.” Use this method to sort the daily influx of papers, bills, and so on. Whether you stack them side by side or use a few plastic dividers, do this every single time you come home. Receipts, paid statements or tax documents go in the "to file" space. If the item needs attention, like a bill, it's a "to do." If you're not sure or simply don't have time to decide now, then it goes in the "to read/decide" space. Set aside ten minutes every Saturday morning to sort through the stack.

2. Start a filing system.
Now that your desk is (mostly) clear, you may be looking at that “to file” stack. If you don’t already have a filing system, now is definitely the time to start! Use a desk drawer made specifically for files, or use a few storage boxes and folders. Start a file folder for every category you think you need—statements, tax documents, receipts, school papers from the kids. Then, in each file folder, use a few manila folders to separate the categories further. In your bill statements folder, for example, you might keep bills for cable, electricity, and heat—so use a manila envelope within the folder for each. Once you’ve started a system like this, dropping in “to file” items will be a breeze, so your desk should always be clear. Plus, you’ll know exactly where everything is if you ever need to reference any of the documents.
3. Make your own office organizers.
Instead of buying expensive, labeled boxes to store items, make your own! Cover shoe boxes with leftover wrapping paper or fabric and cut down to fit your drawers, then fill with your excess office supplies. Label storage containers with self-adhesive labels or print your own and cover with clear packing tape. If you have a larger shoebox (like from those boots you bought over the winter), cut it down to size, decorate, and use it lidless as a place to store blank printer paper or notebooks.

Coffee cans are easily decorated with contact paper, scraps of wallpaper or fabric, and are perfect for storing markers, scissors and craft supplies. Soup cans are the perfect size for holding a few pens and pencils.
4. Have a bulletin board or chalkboard.
Whether you hang them or prop them up, bulletin boards and chalkboards are the simplest organizational tools around. Pin up things that you need to notice, or use magnets with a chalkboard. Get out that hot glue gun and fabric snippets to dress up thumbtacks or magnets. If you do have a designated area for a home office, think about getting a quart of chalkboard paint, taping off a section of the wall in your home office, and painting a chalkboard right onto the wall. You can use it to scribble reminders, important dates, and other information! Bulletin boards are also great ways to sort your to file, to do, and to read/decide piles—pick a space at the bottom, then designate a pin for each category, then tack new mail or papers to each category. 

5. Keep it clean.
Computers and electronics are natural dust magnets. Use your vacuum's brush attachment to remove dust (and all manner of crumb accumulation) from every surface on, around and under the desk area, including the office chair. Don't use it on the monitor—instead, use a dusting cloth and cleaner specially designed for television/monitor screens.

Once you have everything clean and organized, keep it up! After the initial clean-out, you now have an efficient system of filing and organizing, so stick to it. Your desk will stay clear, and so will your mind. And now you're on your way to the fun part of the home office makeover: decorating! Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week!


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