How to organize a messy office step by step.
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 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, without messes, or misplaced things.
Like 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
First, before we even get to the organizing part we will need to take care of the messy part. But lucky for us, the messy part isn’t really that hard to fix.
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. 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.
A few things to throw away/recycle
- Coupon inserts
- Junk Mail
- 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 too. 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 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.
This will include dishes, toys, tools, clothes, 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 if 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 a folding table that you can borrow you may want to go grab it now. Sorting is just part of the process and by having an open and cleaned area will help you to move along more smoothly.
Make a few piles using index cards or post-it notes as labels. The labels will allow you to leave this project and come back to it more easily.
Grab any papers, folders, mail you see, and begin to sort it out into the piles you have set up.
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 in your home will determine what piles you will need when you sort.
D/M PRO TIP: Keep a trash can close by while you are 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 fast, so think a few steps ahead of what you may need as you are 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 just easier to deal with. So, for example, you can collect all the pens, pencils, markers, and other office supplies. For now, unless you have a designated area already, 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 is a step that is often skipped over, but I encourage you to tackle it now. Remember, this might just be the easiest time to dust, wipe, and sweep since most of the excess is now gone. Don’t go crazy here, just a quick clean of the space so you can organize over clean areas rather than dusty or dirty ones.
Home Office Organization
Step #1. Set Up a Clean Work Area
There is nothing worse than walking into an office only to be greeted by a desk that is buried under piles of mess and clutter. When organizing your desk you will want to first 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 to know quickly what things can stay and what things need 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 only in the kitchen, you would not keep dishes in the bedroom. Yes, a silly example but really it does make sense. By saying you are going to only pay bills in your office, this 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
Using post-it notes or index cards, 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 then 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, and so on. The trick is to keep the things you need to perform a task close together so it is easy to keep things put away.
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 definitely more here.
Sample Filing System
- Car 1
- Car 2
- Recreational vehicles
- Health Insurance
- Dental insurance
- 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 home office. Luckily this can be easily done. Actually you have already taken great steps to house things separately using zones and files. You simply need to repeat the process for your work.
- Set up zones for work
- Set up files for work
- Set up a bin for current projects for work
Bonus Tools for an Organized Office
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 the top. A calendar file is a file that holds anything that has a date attached to it. This would be a wedding, birthday party, doctor’s appointment, 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. A major pet peeve of mine.
Set Up and Use a Daily Calendar
There is nothing quite as important than having a calendar to help you not only run 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.
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 appts and commitments, work-related items, financial reminders, and more. For me, having everything housed in one location on one calendar allows me to have a complete view of what is happening every day.
Use Vertical Storage
If you are in a small space 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.
Remember this is your room and it is okay to think outside of the box.
How to Keep Your Home Office Clutter-Free and Organized
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 up a reminder to go through your baskets weekly to ensure nothing important gets lost in the pile.
Let’s face it. Paper is something that comes into our homes every single day. Having a system set in place to deal with those papers is the difference between an organized office and a messy one.
Put Office Decluttering on Your Weekly Schedule
Keep at it! Clutter is something that loves to show up even without an invitation. By keeping this on your weekly to-do list you will stop things from getting out of a hand again.
Sundays are a great time to do a little office clean up. 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 the reason why you decided early on what can stay out on your desk. If you said a computer, basket for current projects, and a planner then 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 so 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 and finding a way to keep those chords organized really does make 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 on the group trying to find my laptop charger. It’s right there ready when I am!
Label, Label, Label
I love to use bins to organize things all over my home. They are super easy to use and look so neat and tidy on just about 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.
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. Keep this close to your desk in a page protector so you can refer to it whenever you are putting things away. As you learn your new set up you can let go of your cheat sheet.
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. At the end of the month to be exact. This not only starts each month off with an empty file bin but it also keeps me from having to file papers every single day.
Bonus tip: Know what you hate to do so you can then create a few shortcuts.
Turning a messy office into an organized space may sound like a daunting task but when you break it down into steps you might just find it a bit easier to deal with.
Armed with these simple tips you too can learn how to organize a messy office.