Simple steps for organizing a home office

Today we welcome guest blogger Jason Womack, a workplace effectiveness and productivity consultant. You can find him on his corporate website at

If you’ve decided to quit your commute and work from home, one of your big challenges may be maintaining the sanctity of your work area. When your office is disorganized, it can easily become a magnet for bills, toys, receipts, homework papers and even dirty laundry. This clutter can quickly bring your productivity to a screaming halt.

In order to stay one step ahead of the chaos, keep your workspace as productive as you are. Here some ideas to keep a clean desk and a clean path to productivity:

  • Make processing a priority: Processing your inboxes (voicemail, email, paper, and files) clears the deck for your life and work. Every five days, you need to make processing your focus. This weekly overview will enable you to create the space you need in order to work the way you would like.
  • Get it: Take everything out of your briefcase or bag and put it on your desk to tackle.
  • Supply it: Go through your travel and business supplies and replace or restock anything that is low. Also purge and restock an area or two on your desk (fill printer with paper, stapler with staples, water a plant, check the electric plugs by the floor to make sure they are in contact, etc.)
  • Gather it: Put any as-yet-unprocessed notes into the in-basket. These can be from anywhere – meeting notes, Post-its, business cards you have picked up, email messages, or other mail.
  • Update it: Review any papers in your “pending” file to make sure their status is up to date. Also open and review your current project folders.
  • Find it: Check your calendar and your to-do list. On your calendar, look two weeks back and four weeks ahead. If you have any reminders in there, add them to your to-do list. Add to your to-do list by going through the notes in your inbox or other reminders you have. Check off anything you have completed.
  • Assess it: Finally, take an overview of your outcomes and inventory your incomplete goals. Reassess your commitment and decide if there is an action that can be added to your to-do list in order to reach that goal.

If you undergo this weekly assessment of your workspace, you can spend a lot more of your time on your actual work in your home office.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

6 Comments for “Simple steps for organizing a home office”

  1. posted by Battra92 on

    I have a soft spot for those old metal desks like the one in the picture. I worked on one for years (cleaned the mold/mildew off of it daily too since we were in a bad environment.)

    They may not be pretty but you can get them free most of the time. 🙂

  2. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    Great suggestions! Makes me want to go home and organize my desk!

  3. posted by Jason Womack on

    Thanks for sharing these ideas with your community…feedback in seminars (when I talk about the work/life balance of “occassionally” working from home) is always positive.

    I’d be curious what your readers have to saw as far as OTHER work-from-home or working on the road ideas are concerned!

  4. posted by Ann at One Bag Nation on

    I work from home and I have the luxury of being able to have a dedicated space for my “work” work as well as for my home office, but I’m still struggling with organizing it all. And then there’s the issue of ignoring the household tasks that need doing when I’m supposed to be working . . .

    I love your suggestion of processing the inbox every five days. That makes sense to me; once a week (what I usually do) is really not often enough, but I’ll never be one of those “process to zero” daily people!

  5. posted by Christina on

    I’m not sure if this the appropriate place to submit a question, but I am in serious need of some organizing advise. My younger sister just recently came to live with me until she graduates high school, which won’t be for another two years. I live in a two bedroom apartment, and I have a daughter of my own. Currently my sister sleeps in the living room on a queen sized air mattress a friend is letting us borrow. She stores all of her belongings in a small office sized room off of the living room. The room is open to the living room and contains the monitor heater for the whole apartment. I would love to find a way to make that room functional and private enough for my sister to use as a bedroom, and organized enough that I can continue to use it as an office. One major problem I have is that the heat must be allowed to heat the rest of the apartment. I also have almost no money to spend, and when I say almost none, I don’t mean, I could buy a few peices of furniture, I mean I have maybe $100 to spare. If any one has any ideas, they would be most welcome. Things cannot stay the way they are now, it’s driving me crazy. Moving is also not an option. Thank you.

  6. posted by Karen the Californian on

    Christina, how ’bout a shoji screen or a curtain for privacy? They’ll block the room off visually but will still allow air to pass above them. The curtain that comes to mind right now is the Ikea ones that go on cables — Dignitet or Deka.

    Good luck.

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