Whip the Home Office Into Shape: Home Office Boot Camp

Whip the Home Office Into Shape: Home Office Boot Camp

Gregory Han
Feb 17, 2011

This week we've invited our friend, fellow Apartment Therapy contributor, and professional organizer, Beth Zeigler, to share some of her best tips for anyone looking to maximize their home office when space is at a minimum. Beth breaks down the process of getting your home office working well and looking good with an easy to follow 5 point outline which can help transform a tight space into your favourite room in the house.

Beth is a member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, an organization of working professionals that make it their duty to get your life in order with manageable steps for any clutter conundrum. Think of Beth as a fitness trainer for your home, offering her organizational expertise on maximizing space and clearing clutter with her service, Bneato Organizing Boot Camp. Beth shares some her tips based upon her "workout for your filing system" program below:

How To Set Up a Home Office in a Small Space
In my last apartment, my bedroom doubled as my home office space (I know, I know). So it's no surprise that when I recently moved I was hell bent on creating an office space outside the parameters of my sleeping chamber. This time, I was lucky as there were more than a few options for setting up shop; a 2nd bedroom, a living room corner, the bar in the kitchen. But I had to ask myself a few qualifying questions before parking my Mac permanently...

What's Important to You? And Using What You've Already Got
For my home office, I needed easy access to outlets, not a ton but ample storage space for my supplies all while working in a main area of the house.

During the important planning phase, decide what are the absolute necessities for your home office. I like to be in the center of it all, so for me, the second bedroom felt closed off and was immediately crossed off as a likely option (it must also be noted that my boyfriend called dibs on this space – which turned out to be a-ok with me).

I also needed a little bit of storage space for my active files and if at all possible, a spot for my printer to live close by. As it turned out, the kitchen bar was perfect; two outlets (score) and I organized the cabinets to make room for my supplies and printer. The space also offered up a horizontal landing strip to my right (creating the much desired L-shaped "desk").  

In your own home, try and work with what is already built-in so you're not bringing in excess furniture which can clutter up a room fast. I'm a huge fan of using the closet, built in bookcases, or cabinets for storage.

Deal With Electronics 
Printers take up a ton of space so you'll definitely want to find a home for yours that doesn't occupy prime real estate. For example, instead of leaving my all-in-one printer on the cabinet countertop, I opted to store it below in my kitchen cabinets. That way it remains hidden and frees up counter space, while still giving me easy access. In order to make it functional, I simply drilled a hole in the countertop (closest to the outlet), and then used my active files to conceal the eyesore.

Do your best to think vertically when it comes to storing your printer--is there a nearby bookshelf for it to live? If not, consider installing a low lying shelf or go wireless and store it in an out of the way place. 

When setting up your home office spot, you're probably also dealing with unsightly cords (which can be a huge issue if your office is in a high traffic area). Some of my favorite super affordable and easy-to-use cord wrangling products can be found at IKEA (I also use Wiremold when helping clients in their own spaces – and I swear by them).

Setting Up Your Desktop
As you're setting up your desktop, think about what you actually use on a daily/weekly basis--those items should live within arms reach (the rest can live elsewhere). Some great storage solutions for your stash of office supplies are over-the-door shoe hangers--they're clear and can live in a hallway closet. You could also consider carving out storage on a shelf in the linen closet or a kitchen cabinet where shelves are usually quite deep. Bookshelves also offer the chance to think vertically and contents can be organized with containers that match your decor style.

File Storage 
One of the biggest challenges for any home office is paper clutter. The best way to keep active paperwork contained is with desktop sorters or wall pockets (horizontal sorters are a black hole and are best used for housing different kinds of printer paper). Again, get creative with the color of your files (which can not only help designate categories, BUT also represent your distinct TASTE). My top picks are crisp white file folders from The Container Store  and these fois bois files from Charming Cards.

Most home offices are also laid out with the misconception that the filing cabinet has to live close by (which, like the printer, also takes up tons of room). Instead, create a "To File" folder that lives close by for storing paperwork. At the end of the week/month you can file items away wherever you have chosen to place your inactive documents. 

Containers
One of the best organizing tips that has stayed with me over the years; always try to buy day to day supplies in white. This translates really well in the small home office as white containers, file folders, etc. will blend in with your surroundings and will read crisp and streamlined. If you choose not to go white, buy clear and always, always label everything. P-Touch makes a $30 label maker that you can pick up at Target or Staples which will become your new best friend--promise! And my favorite organizing container of all time has to be 3-drawer units. They're perfect for corralling just about everything and keep my chargers from meeting my stationery.


Learn more from Beth about home and life organizing tips at her site Bneato. If you need more help, you might even want to consider signing up for her next Organizing Boot Camp.

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