How to Organize a Messy Office

If you struggle to keep your office tidy, I hope to give you some help with that. These tips on how to organize a messy office are meant to be easy so you can make progress more quickly.

Use this list of tips to help with your Home Office Organization and streamline another area in your home.

how to organize a messy office

Working from home can be a bit overwhelming, especially if this is all new to you. And maybe creating an organized office space might seem impossible right about now, but with a few pointers and a straightforward step-by-step, we will have you there in no time.

Maybe your office isn’t really an office at all. Maybe instead, you are working from your kitchen table or, worse, on your lap or wherever you can find a bit of quiet space. But what if you had a dedicated space? An actual, honest-to-goodness office where you can work without chaos, messes, or misplaced things.

How to organize your office. Declutter and clean out your messy office. Home office organization tips you can use to set up your home office today. Home office organization hacks. How to create a filing system for your home office. How to use zones in your home office. How to set up a home office. #homeofficeorganization #decluttermessyoffice #officeorganizingtips #declutterinminutes

As I said before, the thought of cleaning out and setting up a room for your office might seem like a pretty insurmountable task, but we are going to break it all down into simple steps. Steps you can do in small pockets of time without any of the overwhelm that can often come with a decluttering and organizing project.

How to Organize a Messy Office

Before we even get to the organizing part, we will first need to take care of the messy part. But lucky for us, the messy part isn’t really that hard to fix because most of the mess that you see is just things that need to be put away.

Let’s start there.

Step #1.  Gather Up All the Trash and Recyclables.

I know you have heard me say this before, but most of our mess is usually things that just need to be thrown away. To know just what the clutter is, let’s do the Declutter in Minutes three core steps.

Arm yourself with a couple of nice large trash bags. One will be for any trash you find and the other for any recyclables. Take a walk around the space grabbing anything you can find. Remember to move things around as you are looking for trash.

Things to throw away/recycle:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Coupon inserts
  • Junk Mail
  • Catalogs
  • Old lists
  • Scrap paper

If you have a large mess in the office, I would even go so far as to remove current papers and magazines. Odds are if you have not had the time to read them before now, with more coming in weekly, I think we can safely say that you won’t have time to read them going forward either.

Let’s get rid of them today and start fresh with a clean slate

Step #2. Put Away Things That Belong Somewhere Else

For this job, I like to use a flexible laundry basket. These baskets are not only durable, but they are easy to carry even when full. Just like you did with the trash, take a walk around the room, gathering up anything that belongs somewhere else. They are my favorite pick, and you can find them for less than $7 each at Walmart.

woman putting items away from a laundry basket

This will include dishes, toys, tools, clothes, and anything you can quickly see that belongs in another room. Again, remember the more you can get out of this space in these first few steps, the less you will have to deal with later on.

Once your basket is full, simply take a walk around your home, putting things away as you go.

Step #3. Sort and Pile

For this next step, you will need an open space. If you have an adjustable folding table like this one, it will work perfectly for sorting out items. The legs are adjustable, allowing you to bring it up higher, making this part so much easier on your back.

Sorting is a time-consuming part of the process, having a dedicated space will allow you to come and go throughout the day until you have worked through all the items.

Make a few piles using index cards or sticky notes as labels. The labels will allow you to leave this project and return to it more easily.

a bed covered with papers sorted into piles with index cards as labels

Walk your home and gather up any papers, folders, or mail. Take everything to your designated sorting area and work through each item.

A few piles that you may want to have are:

  • Current bills/financials
  • Papers that need to be filed
  • School papers
  • Work papers
  • Open/current projects
  • Household papers

This quick list should be enough to get you started. Depending on what you do in your office and your home will determine what piles you will need when you sort.

D/M PRO TIP: Keep a paper shredder and trash can nearby while sorting papers. As you go through things, you will no doubt find more trash/recyclables. By having a can close by, you will be able to keep your head in the game. Distractions can kill motivation quickly, so think a few steps ahead of what you may need while working in this space.

Once you have the papers all sorted out into their piles, let them sit until we get to the organizing part of this room.

Step #4.  Work on the Clutter

Once you have all the papers up and out of the way, you should have a bunch of miscellaneous items left. I like to tackle things by themes, making this easier to deal with. So, for example, you can collect all the pens, pencils, markers, and other office supplies. Unless you already have a designated area, you can keep these items in a box until you can deal with them later.

Keep gathering up like items until you are finished. Your goal is to only have piles of papers labeled and ready to organize, boxes of like items, and trash/recyclables.

Step #5.  Clean

This step is often skipped over, but I encourage you to tackle it now. Remember, this might be the easiest time to dust, wipe, and sweep since most of the excess is now gone. Don’t go crazy here; just quickly clean your home office space so you can organize over clean areas rather than dusty or dirty ones.

woman cleaning off an organized desk in a home office

Home Office Organization

Steps can be helpful, especially with such an important area of your home. Work your way down this list, focusing on one step at a time.

Step #1. Set Up a Clean Work Area

Nothing is worse than walking into an office only to be greeted by a desk buried under piles of mess and clutter. When organizing your desk, you will want first to decide what can stay out all the time. Just your computer? Or an organizer of often-used office supplies? Maybe a basket holding current projects and your day planner. Decide what is allowed to stay out now so you can quickly move on to finding homes for the things that need to be put away.

Step #2.  Set Up Zones

I love using zones when I organize a space. This helps me quickly know what things can stay and what needs to be put away.

What are zones?

Zones are simply areas where certain activities take place. Take cooking, for example. Since this activity only takes place in the kitchen, you would not keep dishes in the bedroom. Yes, a silly example, but it does make sense.

Saying you are going only to pay bills in your office will keep you from leaving unopened credit card statements in the family room.

A zone is simply a line drawn in the sand telling you what things go where.

A few zones for the office are:

  • Bill paying
  • Coupons
  • Medical
  • Warranties
  • Work
  • Mail/Shipping
  • Reading

Label each zone where you plan to do the action. This will help you to organize your room more efficiently. So, for example, if “Paying Bills” is a zone you have chosen for the office, a desk drawer might be the best place to house the tools needed for that task.

Tools like a calculator, pen, pencil, ruler, files, budget binder, etc. The trick is to keep the things you need to perform a task close together so it is easy to keep things put away.

Office supplies in open desk drawer close up

Work to set up each zone using bins and baskets to contain all the things you use. A bin for office supplies or a basket to hold coupons, scissors, and shopping lists are a few examples of what you can use to set up a zone.

Step #3.  Create a Simple Filing System

Every home should have a current filing system to help keep all financial papers sorted and organized. How many files you have is up to you; the point is to have files that pertain to your family and the time of life you are in now.

D/M PRO TIP: Don’t overthink your files. Keep it simple so it is easy to stick with. I like to have main categories with just a few subs within each. There is no reason to have a ton of files. Let’s face it, the more you have, the harder it is to keep things organized. Less is more here.

setting up a filing system. How to organize a messy office

Sample Filing System

  • Home
    • Mortgage
    • Insurance
    • Improvements
    • HELOC
  • Auto
    • Car 1
    • Car 2
    • Recreational vehicles
  • Medical
    • Health Insurance
    • Dental Insurance
    • Vision
    • Family member ________
    • Family member ________
    • Family member ________

Keep things simple so you, or anyone in your family, can use it easily.

Step #4.  Set up a Dedicated Work Space

More often than not, you will need to share your home office with your work at the home office. Luckily this can be easily done. Actually, you have already taken great steps to house things separately using zones and files.

All you need to do now is repeat the process for your work space.

  1. Set up zones for work.
  2. Set up files for work.
  3. Set up a bin for current projects for work.

Bonus Tools for an Organized Office

These are some of my favorite tips that I have used over the years that help me to more organized in my office and with all the papers we have in our home.

#1. Start a Calendar File

This might just be one of my favorite tips, and the fact that it is so simple to use might be the cherry on top. A calendar file is a file that holds anything with a date attached to it. This would be a wedding, birthday party, doctor’s appointment, or even a vacation.

If it has a date, you will want to keep it in this file. Each month when you set up your new calendar, you will open up this file and write down any item that is inside for the current month.

For each item that has a piece of paper, such as an invitation or appt card, put an “*” next to it. This is your reminder to grab the corresponding paper when the event arrives. This is a great way to keep that important information where you can find it eliminating all that lost time spent looking for things. This is a major pet peeve of mine.


#2. Set Up and Use a Daily Calendar

There is nothing quite as important as having a calendar to help you run not only your home, but your business as well. This can be a digital calendar or a paper one, as long as you find one that you are able to use every day without fail.

Cardinal 3 Ring Binders, Round Rings, Holds 350 Sheets, ClearVue Presentation View, Non-Stick, Assorted Colors (79550), 1.5 Inch (Pack of 4)Cardinal 3 Ring Binders, Round Rings, Holds 350 Sheets, ClearVue Presentation View, Non-Stick, Assorted Colors (79550), 1.5 Inch (Pack of 4)Cardinal 3 Ring Binders, Round Rings, Holds 350 Sheets, ClearVue Presentation View, Non-Stick, Assorted Colors (79550), 1.5 Inch (Pack of 4)ThinkTex 26 Pockets Expanding File Folder, Upright & Open Top, A-Z Colorful Tabs, Larger Capacity Accordian Folder, Letter/A4 Size for School, Home and OfficeThinkTex 26 Pockets Expanding File Folder, Upright & Open Top, A-Z Colorful Tabs, Larger Capacity Accordian Folder, Letter/A4 Size for School, Home and OfficeThinkTex 26 Pockets Expanding File Folder, Upright & Open Top, A-Z Colorful Tabs, Larger Capacity Accordian Folder, Letter/A4 Size for School, Home and OfficeIRIS USA Portable Letter/Legal File Tote Box, BPA-Free Plastic Storage Bin with Organizer-Lid, Durable, Secure Lid and Handle, BlackIRIS USA Portable Letter/Legal File Tote Box, BPA-Free Plastic Storage Bin with Organizer-Lid, Durable, Secure Lid and Handle, BlackIRIS USA Portable Letter/Legal File Tote Box, BPA-Free Plastic Storage Bin with Organizer-Lid, Durable, Secure Lid and Handle, BlackComix Magazine File Holder, Sturdy Plastic Desk Organizers and Storage File Folder for Office Organization, Binder Organizer with 4 Compartments Storage Organiser BoxComix Magazine File Holder, Sturdy Plastic Desk Organizers and Storage File Folder for Office Organization, Binder Organizer with 4 Compartments Storage Organiser BoxComix Magazine File Holder, Sturdy Plastic Desk Organizers and Storage File Folder for Office Organization, Binder Organizer with 4 Compartments Storage Organiser Box


I like to have a wall calendar for family events that I can post where the entire family can see it, and then a binder calendar for myself only that houses everything. This includes family appointments, commitments, work-related items, financial reminders, etc. For me, having everything housed in one location on one calendar gives me a complete view of what is happening every day.

#3. Use Vertical Storage

If you are looking to organize a small office, finding enough storage room might be a challenge. Try going verticle. Use shelving to create room for binders, files, and other supplies needed for your home and business.

Binders are a great way to keep files organized and portable. You can set up a binder for medical, personal, investments, and pets.

Remember, this is your room, and it is okay to think outside the box.

white shelf with colored binders stored on a shelf

How to Keep Your Home Office Clutter-Free and Organized

Habits are a great way to keep your entire home streamlined, but even more so in your home office. Let’s talk about a few that you may find helpful.

Stop Clutter Before it Happens.

Use baskets to drop in papers and mail as it comes into the home. This will help you to keep the papers all in one place. Set a reminder to go through your baskets weekly to ensure nothing important gets lost in a pile.

Let’s face it. Paper is something that comes into our homes every single day. Having a system to deal with those papers is the difference between an organized office and a messy one.

Click here to subscribe

Put Office Decluttering on Your Weekly Schedule

Keep at it! Clutter is something that loves to show up even without an invitation. Keeping this on your weekly to-do list will stop things from getting out of hand again.

Sundays are a great time to do a little office cleanup. At the same time you are mapping out your week ahead, you can clean up any papers and mess in your home office. Each time you find something that you need to take action on, add it to your weekly to-do list. This is a great way to always have a current list for each week and, in turn, keep important things from falling through the cracks.


Keep Your Desk Cleared Off 

This might be easier said than done, but it is also why you decide early on what can stay out on your desk. If you said a computer, a basket for current projects, and a planner, that is all that can stay out. That rule will help you to keep things neat on the surface of your desk, at least without breaking a sweat. I love to have rules. They take the stress out of deciding what I need to do.

Make the rules you need to keep the things put away. Every time you finish working for the day, take a few minutes to reset your desk. I promise sitting down to work at a neat and tidy desk is much nicer than sitting down to work in a cluttered and chaotic one.

Keep Chords Contained

There is nothing quite as messy as all the random chords that come with an office. From phone chargers to computer cables, finding a way to keep those chords organized makes a difference.

I love these chord clip organizers. They work so great at keeping the cords on my desk neat yet super easy to get to. No more digging around in the group trying to find my laptop charger. It’s right there, ready when I am!

chords organized on a desk

Label, Label, Label

I love to use bins to organize things all over my home. They are super easy to use and look neat and tidy on almost any shelf. The key to bins working properly is making sure they are labeled. But not just any label, a specific “this is exactly what belongs inside” label. This will make using your new organizers much easier, which will, in turn, make it easier to keep up with them for the long haul.

You can use a label maker for this or sticker labels instead.

3 boxes in an office labeled and on a white bookshelf

Keep a Cheat Sheet

It’s great to be organizing. Setting up baskets and bins to hold things, not to mention a neat and tidy filing system. The problem is remembering where everything is supposed to go once you set it all up.

To help, you may want to set up a guide. A cheat sheet reminding you what goes where and why. I like to call these Home Index Sheets. Grab your free copies below so you can remember your new setup.

Keep this close to your desk in a page protector so you can refer to it whenever you put things away. You can let go of your cheat sheet as you learn your new setup.

File Monthly

There are a few things I hate to do, and I think filing is one of them.

And rather than do it every time I have a paper that needs to be filed, I am kind to myself and only do it once a month, usually at the end. This starts each month with an empty file bin and keeps me from having to file papers every day.

A plastic basket labeled _to file_ on the front sitting on white bookshelf

Bonus tip: Know what you hate to do so you can create a few shortcuts.

Turning a messy office into an organized space may sound daunting, but when you break it down into steps, you might find it a bit easier to deal with.

Armed with these simple tips, you can learn how to organize a messy office and streamline those incoming papers so the never become cluttered and lost again.

More Paper Organizing Resources:

Click here to subscribe


  1. I recently had an office constructed in my house; that’s why I’m currently shopping for office supplies, particularly a copier. I’m glad you shared these tips by the way; I’ll keep in mind to set up a corner where I could place the printer or any other office supplies. I’d also keep in mind to organize my things by allotting a drawer where pens, paper clips, and writings pad will be placed.

  2. THANK YOU very much for your help it was daunting for me to get it all figured out. I had completed my office and it is functional but with the onslot of mail and
    papers to cope with it seems like a mountain that I could never climb over. Anyway I will try again to get things in order so I can live underwhelmed at least for the time being. I would like to know where I could get clips for chords and boxes to label?

    1. Hello Dorothy!
      I got the clips for our cords on Amazon and you can get boxes at any store, just ask!

      Paper can be sure frustrating so work a little every day and before you know it you will begin to make progress. Set a goal of 10 minutes a day and sort as much paper as you can in that time.

      Tracy Lynn

  3. This is a much-needed article. It hits all the important points. I love the idea of zoning and maintaining a filing system. A lot f people don’t think they need them any longer since bills are paid online. However, I still maintain a few files as well. Thanks for sharing at #omhgww. Pinned and tweeted. See you next week.

  4. This was truly wonderful laying out the steps to get organized in my medium-sized office space at home. I liked how big the file names were. Mine aren’t as easy to see/read. Going to make them bigger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *