An Unconventional Home Office Organization Project

Here is another example of a home office project that I recently completed that I wanted to share. This office was a little unconventional in that my client works from home at her dining room table and travels across the country. She needed to have her work materials easily accessible and had 2 cabinets in a buffet (remember this is her dining room) set aside for office storage.  No problem. The issue was that it was very inconsistent with what was put in these cabinets and office supplies ended up being scattered throughout the house. The printer was next to the kitchen, extra paper was in the living room, personal papers like medical records and bills were mixed in with client papers, books were stacked with work related items, and you get the picture. There wasn’t a huge amount of chaos but it was just cluttered which is where I think a lot of us live. We aren’t about to be featured on Hoarders but we end up wasting a lot of time looking for things and then spend money buying things that we already have because we can’t remember where we put something. Starting to sound familiar?

Here is the office storage. I didn't crop this picture like I normally do. The round lump in the lower right hand corner is a cat.

Here is the office storage. I didn’t crop this picture like I normally do. The round lump in the lower right hand corner is a cat.

Closeup of the cat. She was not happy to see me.

Closeup of the cat. She was not happy to see me.

So here is how we fixed the problem:

Right cabinet before

Right Cabinet Before

Left Cabinet Before

Left Cabinet Before

Separate work from personal– It doesn’t matter where you work you must separate personal stuff from work stuff, even if you work on it in the same room. This can mean a separate drawer or box in the same cabinet but you should not mix these types of papers in your filing system. You should also store personal books separately from “work” or business books. It is important to have defined spaces in your home for where you store and manage specific information so that you know where things go and how to find them later. This is critical for the home based executive or entrepreneur so that you are establishing boundaries between work and home activities. In this project, the first thing we did was to clear out the personal books, bills, mail, bank statements, etc that didn’t have to do with her day job out of the 2 cabinets and located them elsewhere.

Cleared out personal stuff and got a shelf to make good use of vertical space. Binders are labeled so time isn't wasted wondering what is in each of them.

Cleared out personal stuff and got a shelf to make good use of vertical space. Binders are labeled so time isn’t wasted wondering what is in each of them.

Utilize your vertical space-This particular cabinet was a decent size but most of it was vertical. We got 2 shelves from the Container Store that fit perfectly in the cabinet (measure twice, shop once) which allowed us to store notebooks on the shelf and smaller items on the bottom. You have to be careful when retrofitting shelves into an existing piece especially an antique, to make sure you have the right size and you don’t damage anything. Be careful of sharp edges and corners.

Labeled binders for traveling to client locations are now stored together.

Labeled binders for traveling to client locations are now stored together.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”– This client travels extensively for work so we created separate notebooks for each area that she visits regularly, expanding on her existing organziation system that works well for her. She had started notebooks for each location but some were makeshift folders or old binders that were falling apart. Now each place she visits has its own labeled binder that is easy to find and put away when she comes back from her trips.

Filing cabinet for personal information, printer, paper, and ink cartridges. Talk about neat being smart!

Filing cabinet for personal information, printer, paper, and ink cartridges. Now neat really is smart!

Keep your personal life in order– This project did necessitate the acquisition of a filing cabinet which served 2 purposes: a place to store personal files and documents and it holds the printer and extra paper and ink. These items had all been stored in different rooms of the house because no home had ever been assigned to them. I can’t tell you how important it is to designate a home for everything in your life. Think about it, you need to know where to put your cell phone, keys, winter clothes, gift wrap, scissors, tape, and so forth. The same applies to your office and really any room in your house. Now my client has an easy filing system for her bills, medical information, financial statements, etc. and a place for all of it. Her printer is now located close to her work area which means no more traipsing through the kitchen to pick up a document that was printed. Extra paper and ink cartridges are stored in top drawer so no more going to the living room to find backups. Even better, the filing cabinet is on wheels so it can be moved when she entertains….talk about multitasking!

This was an example of one home office that is a little different from those that are in specified rooms and now it functions really well for my client. She reports that she’s very happy with the results and has saved time getting ready for trips because she can find everything easily. Also, she feels more motivated to get work done because her office isn’t so cluttered and her materials aren’t scattered in different, possibly unknown locations.

I think she’s found out that neat really is smart and now it saves you time and money as well!

Happy organizing!

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2 thoughts on “An Unconventional Home Office Organization Project

  1. You have shared some excellent ideas that are very relevant to my filing and storage needs. I find that keeping my business and personal files separate is essential. My office is at home, but I must travel to other locations to teach, where there is either no storage on site or very little. I use a rolling cart to store my files and books. The cart tucks away neatly in a corner when it is not in use, and when I need to go to a job, everything is ready. Thank you for an interesting post. The cat added a humorous touch!

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