How to Tame a Cluttered Home Office

“I work from home and my office is filled to bursting with technology pieces and parts as well as books and papers. I always seem to be in the process of organizing my home office, and often feel like I’m making progress, but I never seem to get any closer to finishing. This ‘never-ending project’ is starting to get on my non-ADHD partner’s nerves. She’s generously offered to help me organize, but neither of us really know where to start.”

woman legs out of a pile of clothes on the floor. shopping addiction concept
woman legs out of a pile of clothes on the floor. shopping addiction concept

Before you begin, it’s critical that you talk to each other and agree on what the office should look like — your definition of “organized” is undoubtedly different from your partner’s.

When you are ready to start organizing, create “job descriptions” — commit to each other how you will each work towards getting and keeping the office organized. “I’ll file for you if you put everything that needs to be filed in one place” “I’ll keep this area clear if you keep that area clear.” You could also stick to specific categories. For example, you might organize all of your technology pieces and parts into storage bins while your partner creates a filing system for your papers.

One solution for books would be to color code the books and the bookshelves. Categorize the books by subject and assign each category a color. Buy small colored dots at any office supply store, put the dot on the spine of the book and put the same color dot on the appropriate shelf of the bookcase. It’s then simply a matter of matching colors to get the books on the right shelf. For example, all the _____ books would have a blue dot and be on the blue shelf of the bookcase. Using this system not only makes it easy to put away the books you currently own, but it also tells you where to put any new books you buy. Be sure to create and post a legend so you know which color equals which category and you don’t have to remember.

For your office papers, start with two simple categories, Action and Reference. Create an area for Reference to Be Filed: a tray, a bin, a box, the lid to a box, a basket, etc. so you can drop those papers that need to be filed into that container and the filer (whether you or your partner) can file them. Be sure to start with broad categories as file names, but stay away from “Miscellaneous,” “Reference,” etc. Also, remember to create the categories based on how the information is going to be used and not where it came from. File names like “Emails,” “Websites” and “Articles” are useless; they don’t tell you what’s in the file, they only tell you where the information came from. Your Action files should be kept close to you so they are easily accessible as you work.

If you don’t have drawers in your desk for storing files, either buy a small cabinet that you can keep close to your desk or get a desktop sorter so you can keep your current files on hand. If your projects don’t lend themselves to files, you can look at a literature sorter, which is a series of “cubbies” where you can comfortably and neatly store your projects. They come in a variety of sizes and can easily be found in office supply stores and catalogs.

Finally, it is important that you each realize that organizing is a process, and it truly is never ‘done.’ You can create a system that works for you now, but I can guarantee you that the system will have to be tweaked periodically to continue to serve your needs.

[Your Free Guide for Controlling Clutter]

More from this author: