January 18, 2010

Organizing Your Home Office: A Step-by-Step Plan

If your office is unorganized, cluttered or out-of-control, the idea of reorganizing it may be overwhelming.  Where should you start? What should you do with all of the clutter? How will you keep it organized this time?

Let’s look at organizing our home offices step-by-step:


Step One: Clear off your desk and empty drawers.

The reason I always recommend starting with this step is simple: it gives you a clean slate to start with so that you’re not just moving clutter around.

Pros: Pulling everything out allows you to get a better idea of exactly what you have, so that you can envision how it should be grouped and what you need versus what is just taking up space. Having a fresh start can also motivate you to organize more carefully and completely because you can see the difference that getting rid of the clutter makes.

Cons: The reason most people skip this step is because they don’t want the clutter spread out all over the floor or another room while they’re working on the project. There’s always the chance that children – or pets – will get into it, turning it into an even bigger mess, and once you take this step, there’s no turning back.

Step Two: Sort through your office supplies.

OXO Drawer OrganizerDepending on how much space you have in your home office, you may decide to create a storage box for the extras (who really needs 1,000 paperclips in their desk drawer?). Get rid of old or broken pens, crumpled paper, etc. and sort through the rest, grouping items and deciding what needs to be available for immediate access and what can be stored for later. Be sure to use drawer organizers to keep your newly clutter-free drawers in tiptop shape.

Pros: Getting rid of extras – whether they end up in the trash or in storage – means you have less stuff taking up space and less stuff that can end up out of place and disorganized.

Cons: There is always the chance that you’ll need something you’ve put into storage sooner than you think you will, and that can be a hassle. I think the hassle of having to rifle through things you don’t need to get to the things you do is worse, but you may disagree.

Step Three: Sort through your paper clutter.

Think through which categories make the most sense for sorting your paperwork and sort the piles you already have accordingly.

Pros: You’ve got to start somewhere, and organizing the paper is a great place to start if paper clutter is your biggest issue in your home office. Even if you don’t get all of the “To be filed” pile filed right away, at least your piles will be organized and ready for your attention rather than simply taking up space.

Cons: There isn’t really a downside to doing this, but it’s not the most fun part of reorganizing your home office either. I would encourage you not to skip this very important step!

Step Four: File the old papers and records.

Go ahead and get those papers filed before the pile gets even bigger!

Pros: Having papers filed means that you’ll be able to find them quickly and easily when you need them.

Cons: Again, there’s not really any reason I can think of that it’d be better not to file your papers. Even if you end up redoing your file system, you’ll at least have the papers grouped, which will make that project easier.

Step Five: If you share your home office, be sure to tell your spouse/roommate/whoever about the systems you’ve put in place.

Ideally you will have worked on this project together, but if not, be sure to show the other person where the supplies are, how the paper piles are categorized, etc.

Pros: Communicating the new system to the other people it affects increases the likelihood that they will follow it and that it will last.

Cons: If the other person disagrees with the system you’ve put in place, this might not do any good. On the other hand, it might give you the chance to tweak it so that it meets both of your needs.

You’ll feel better sitting down at your home desk when things are in their place and your office tools are fun and easy to use. And speaking of easy to use, did you know that OXO makes more than kitchen and organizing tools? Check out their line of home office products, available exclusively at Staples, for a productive and good-looking home office.

Get your family organized and on the same page with Cozi, the free online family organizer.

Mandi Ehman is a wife and mother of four spunky little girls. She can be found blogging at Organizing Your Way, where she shares tips for organizing, simplifying and decluttering.


Phyllis Stafford

This article is unique as most oraganization lists want me to pick the spot where I begin. This article gave me a starting point for which I am very grateful. The problem with choosing my own starting point is that I'm so overwhelmed I cannot find one.
Thanks for getting me started.

Sue Ryan

Good tips for tidying the office space, thanks. Another idea is get yourself a decent sized cork memo board to pin up all those messages and letters waiting to be dealt with!


This article really helped me, I am trying to get my entire house organized, I have lived in total chaos,I'm sick of this, it is destroying my life and my two daughters lives. I have beautiful daughters, Raina is 8 Jada is 3, I don't want them living in this mess anymore, I want everything organized, to where I can go directly to Raina's clothes for school, and know exactly where Jada's clothes are when I get ready to dress her. Everything in my house is in disarray, its so sad that I have let it get to this point!! I hope you write more articles about organizing other rooms. thanks again!!!




I can so, so, so relate about being over-whelmed. My entire life has been dedicated to my son as he is disabled. When I volunteered admission to a crisis center, I feel like my soul is gone. Then I found out I'm about 3 years behind in filing. Any suggestions on how to get the ambition to even start? Sorry folks. I don't mean to sound pathetic, my heart is just broken. I'll try this and thanks in advance for the suggestions to get the umph to do so.

shredding San Antonio

Among the things that can make our work environment more eco-friendly is to
increase the use of recycled office paper products like the one stated above. Paper documents could really pile up over time if you do not know how to keep things in order and when you need to locate a document for your boss. This goes to show that the are considerate enough to
look for ways on how not to waste papers products at the same time conserve our natural resources.

Faye Acklin

All things that are well-organized at first might go into a mess, sooner or later. That's why we should stick to the "organizing pledge" of cleaning up our office regularly. With a neat and an organized work space, we can work better, right?

closet organizing ideas

Thanks so much for this valuable tip. Even I can do few minutes a day and make a real difference in my home.

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