How to Declutter Your Home Office by Cassie Phillips

November 25, 2016



Feeling overwhelmed? Surrounded by your belongings in a prison from which there is no escape? Say no more—we’ve all been there. When work keeps piling on and responsibilities tear us away from the safety of our comfort zone, we sometimes find what was once our coveted home office of solitude and reflection to be a disaster area.

But hope is not lost! There are some very simple things you can do to recharge and refresh your home office. It’s never too late for a new beginning; start today so you can rest easy tomorrow knowing that you’ll be organized and in control.

  1. Taking Out the Trash

Far too many of us are guilty of one shared vice: never throwing anything away. Documents, water bottles and other forms of clutter end up sharing valuable space where you once spent time working and concentrating and instead end up competing for room just to put anything down.

Before you can start organizing anything, you first need to dispose of anything that isn’t essential. If it isn’t critical for your records, doesn’t have major irreplaceable value, or just hasn’t seen use in a time you can realistically remember, then you need to take the plunge and chuck it.

If you’re feeling generous and want to help out, consider donating items that are still usable but that you can’t remember why you even own. Just because it’s your home office doesn’t mean it needs to be a repository.

Ask yourself the question with each item: “Do I really need this [receipt from 2012 for an item that’s well outside of warranty]?”

  1. Going Digital

Once you’ve disposed of the junk, it’s time to start considering what needs to stick around but can be converted into a digital version. Documents you want to save but don’t require the original copy should be scanned and stored online in the safety of one of the many cloud storage services such as Dropbox, iCloud or Google Drive.

You might also consider dropping physical calendars and sticking with online ones. This way you can sync your plans across multiple devices, including your PC, tablet and smartphone. Big wall and desk calendars are nice, but they also create clutter and become dirty easily.

Give consideration to security when you start taking things from analog to digital. Storing things online is usually a lot better than storing it locally because of disasters such as lightning, flooding, fire, etc., but if you aren’t using the right software, your accounts can become compromised.

For private use, I typically recommend combining an anti-virus suite with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service for maximum effect. The first helps prevent you from getting malware (something that can be used to steal accounts) while the second helps secure your internet connection from intruders so that nothing is stolen.

It’s also a good idea to consider backing up any files you store locally on a periodic basis to ensure nothing is lost if your storage device—be it your PC, laptop or tablet—fails.

  1. Proper Filing

For those items that just won’t convert to digital peacefully, you may want to consider investing in a filing cabinet. While the cost may be substantial for some of the nicer filing cabinets, you can usually find something very usable for under $100. I found mine at a thrift store and sanded the rust off before repainting it—good as new!

A good, alphabetic filing system can put a major dent in desk clutter. You’ll need to come up with a system that makes you happy and fits what you use your home office for. If you already have a filing system, this is a good time to double back and check that you’ve been keeping things organized according to your own standard.

Sometimes we have a tendency to lose focus in the moment and the whole system starts to get disorganized. Not everything needs to be saved forever. It’s okay to throw away those birthday cards from your coworkers you got three years ago!

  1. Planned Stacking

In the past year, I discovered an amazing tool for desk organization: paper stackers. Similar to an office mailbox or a grade school organizer, paper stackers allow you to file documents temporarily until you’ve figured out what to do with them. It may not always be immediately obvious whether or not something is going to be permanently saved or if you’re going to throw it away soon.

You can also take the opportunity to start squaring what will be staying on your desk. Keeping papers and other items at straight, 90-degree right angles will make your desk aesthetically appealing and easier to manage. Plus, you’ll be able to tell when something is out of place or doesn’t belong.

  1. Clearing the Floor

During the battle of the bulge, there are bound to be casualties that wind up on the floor. One of the worst things to deal with is a mess of little objects on the floor around your office space because you won’t be able to vacuum or sweep the area properly without having to reposition different items constantly.

Cords and cables are the biggest offenders here. I personally like to use twisty ties to keep my cords organized, but you can also buy plastic covers that you can funnel all of your electric cables through to minimize tripping and maximize neatness.

The Eternal Struggle

The chaos that is work is ever fighting to turn your office into an absolute disaster area. Without constant maintenance and care, you’re doomed to a cluttered workspace. But if you develop a system for organizing your documents, cleaning up garbage and minimizing the amount of physical items actually kept at your desk, you can win that fight time and time again.

Just don’t be discouraged. If your personal space is already in post-apocalyptic Mad Max mode, it can still recover with a little hard work. When you finish, remember how it looks and how nice having a clean space feels. Keep that feeling as a reminder that you need to stay neat!

If you need extra help or feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, tell us in the comments section.

About the Author: Cassie spends most of her time working from home and is no stranger to cleaning up her personal office. She blogs about a variety of topics, most of which include internet security and how to work from home.



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