9 hacks for a clutter-free home office
Use these clever ideas to transform a chaotic study into one that’s more conducive to working
Published Mar 25, 2016 4:00 AM
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The home office is often prone to clutter, as tidiness tends to fall by the wayside when deadlines are looming and you’ve got a million and one things to do. But let’s face it: You can’t do your best work if your work space is a disaster. Save your sanity and make your home office a more organized, pleasant and productive space by adopting these strategies. From conquering piles of paper to clever cord-taming tricks, these hacks will help you whip your work space into shape in no time.
1. Make space for a multitasking message board. A message board will ramp up the efficiency and appeal of any home office. Not only does it act as a quick reference guide for important appointments, to-do lists and must-revisit ideas, but it also serves as a visual muse that boosts creativity and productivity.
For added practicality, choose a board you can write and display papers on, such as a whiteboard or magnetic chalkboard, like the one that lines this compact office nook.
2. Create order with drawer organizers.
Are your desk drawers in total disarray? Divide and conquer the clutter by kitting them out with drawer organizers to keep small, loose items tidy and contained. If you can’t find an insert that fits your drawer perfectly, create a custom setup by lining the drawer with a selection of small containers, trays and bowls that slot in next to each other like a jigsaw puzzle.
3. Corral chaotic cables.
Unruly wires that snake across and down your desk not only get in the way but create visual clutter too. Adding a cable management system to your home office will allow you to regain control over your cords.
This picture-perfect work zone features an integrated cable management and power system, which is hidden inside the white oak cabinets below the desk. The computer cords run along the base of the desk into the cupboard, which also houses peripheral devices, keeping the desktop free of distracting, dust-collecting wires.
If you’re a renter and require a temporary solution that’s fuss-free and won’t leave any damage, try a stick-on cord organizer such as this one. Alternatively, use velcro strips to affix your cords to the underside of your desk or cable ties to wrangle excess lengths of wire together. Remember to label each plug so you know which cord belongs to which device.
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4. Or go cord-free.
If you want to eliminate unsightly cables from your home office completely, invest in rechargeable Bluetooth- or WiFi-networked electronics. Working wirelessly will make your office look less cluttered and more streamlined, and cleaning will be a breeze — you won’t have to fight pesky cables when dusting or vacuuming.
5. Get color coding.
A color-coded organization system is a smart (and visually punchy) way to bring a sense of harmony to your home office. After all, visual cues are easily read, which makes locating and retrieving items categorized by color quick and fuss-free.
A color-coded approach is especially effective for filing systems. Assign different hues to different file categories — this will ensure you can find specific documents with ease. For example, you might like to use green folders or labels for financial paperwork, red for medical documents, blue for household bills and other property-related papers, and yellow for personal items.
6. Establish zones for maximum efficiency.
Take cues from this immaculate space and divide your office into task-related work zones. This activity-driven approach will maximize space and make the area easier and more efficient to use. As you can see, this study features three distinct sections: the work zone (with the desk and computer), the reference zone (home to manuals, reference books, binders, filing cabinets, etc.), and the supply zone (where office supplies are kept).
This approach is just as effective in offices that are more modest in size. Case in point: this pocket-size work zone. Here, overhead cube shelving serves as the reference center (and a display nook for bright, funky decor), while the space below comfortably accommodates the work and supply zones.
7. Set up a paper-processing station.
A small stack of paper can quickly spiral out of control. The trick to combating clutter is to adopt a paperwork action plan and follow it diligently to prevent mail and other items from piling up.
The simple yet effective setup seen here has the right idea and is easy to implement in any home. It consists of three baskets: one for papers that can be archived; another for correspondence, bills and forms that require immediate action; and a third for documents that can be thrown out.
Another solution is to reduce the amount of paper coming in. Signing up for online statements, bills and renewal notices will reduce paper waste and, because many companies now charge a fee for sending paper bills, might save you money.
8. Go vertical.
If your home office is on the small side, think beyond bulky filing cabinets, cupboards and bookcases and transform your wall space into a storage hub. Think floating shelves, hanging filing systems or a panel of wall-mounted caddies, like the modular system seen here. Besides being space-savvy, wall organizers are practical and convenient because all your files and supplies are visible and easily accessed.
For wall storage that wows, choose an attention-grabbing organizer, shelving system or message board that’s as visually appealing as it is practical. This chic geometric pinboard arrangement gets two big thumbs up. It provides ample surface area to attach notes, bills and other important papers and also makes an arresting accent wall.
9. Schedule regular maintenance.
So you’ve finally whipped your home office into shape — now it’s time to make sure it stays that way! The easiest way to ensure your study doesn’t slide back into chaos is to do daily or weekly maintenance. Allocating a few minutes at the end of each day (or a larger block of time once a week) for a quick tidying up and paper purge will help keep the clutter at bay for good.
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Once your study is shipshape, don’t forget to dedicate some time to cleaning up files on your computer, tablet and smartphone. Emptying your trash, removing unused add-ons and apps, deleting temporary files, installing updates, and running a full antivirus and system utilities scan are a few of the things you can do to free up space on your devices. This will also improve their performance, allowing you to work more efficiently.
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