The number one complaint most of my clients have is paper clutter. So, how do you set up a functional home office space, and what systems can you implement to keep those piles of paper under control?
First of all, you need an easily accessible and user-friendly place to store your necessary papers. Whether you have a busy family or a home-based business, chances are you have several piles of paper to deal with – magazines, newspapers, school notices, community newsletters, bills, and so on! So, you will need a file cabinet and a work surface. The ideal layout for a workspace is in the shape of an L or a U. A desk with built-in file drawers is a great way to save space. If not, I prefer a 2-drawer lateral file cabinet as they give you an extra work surface. In addition, a storage cabinet with shelving and doors to hide it all away is a perfect place to store office supplies, magazines and other items.
Now for the systems – where do you put incoming paperwork, where do you put action items, where do you put paperwork that needs filing, and where do you put outgoing items? Remember, the key to staying organized is to have a place for everything. Therefore, you need to set up the following:
- An ‘IN’ tray or wall pocket for anything you haven’t touched yet.
- Hanging file folders or a literature sorter for ‘IN PROCESS.’ Label folders or slots according to the type of action you need to take. For example: ‘Call,’ ‘Read,’ ‘Pay,’ etc.
- Items that are complete and need to be filed should be put away in the appropriate file immediately to avoid the tendency to say, “I’ll file it later,” and then end up with a huge pile of filing that becomes a tedious job. If you do it as you go, you will never have a ‘To File’ pile. So, an easy-to-use filing system is essential.
- An ‘OUT’ tray or wall pocket for items you completed and must mail or pass along to someone else.
Many people struggle with the initial setup, as this is not a skill we are taught in school. Hiring a professional organizer to help you set up the space and the systems can benefit your long-term success. And remember, the Pareto Principle states we normally refer to 20% of the information we keep 80% of the time!