Creating a home office can be as simple as organizing a file box and storing it in a closet or of course, setting up a dedicated room.
Many of my clients are daunted by mountains of paper, but really it’s simple to keep it under control when you follow a few easy steps.
Here is everything you need to have an organized home office:
- File box or small cabinet
- Hanging folders
- File folders
You can go paperless and invest in a scanner. Most people aren’t there yet and I confess that I am not 100% either. I actually like paper but do everything I can to reduce what I keep. Most of my monthly bills and statements are stored electronically because that is how I receive them.
Your life in many ways is like a business with responsibilities that you need to manage with income, expenses, and maintenance of property and care of people. You may pay rent or have a mortgage, be responsible for upkeep of property including cars, insurances. You choose utilities like cell phones and cable. You pay taxes. You need to keep records. Let’s make it easy with these file categories.
You may want to color code these by category. Office Depot has great options for file folder colors including primary colors, pastels and jewel tones.
You don’t want to clutter your files with outdated records. Here is a guide for how long to keep files.
Here is a list of what to toss now:
- Paystubs, utility bills and receipts over one year old
- Old job resumes
- Outdated conference handouts
- Old work materials including benefits information more than one year old
- Cards from miscellaneous people (not immediate family and closest friends)
- Concert and movie stubs
The Essential Inbox
You may want to keep an inbox on your desk or designate a folder to be placed in the front of your file box for the current items you are working on. Ex: information on switching utilities companies or vacation planning or even a credit card dispute. Another option is this upright folder from Smead. The Smead Mini Stadium Folder. It’s a great way to store and manage your “hot” items.
Managing the paper
It's no wonder most of us are overwhelmed with the paper in our lives. We have a lot to manage every day including our own mail and possibly our kids or parent’s papers too. With kids, it’s their schoolwork, artwork, activities, PTA papers, and with parents it could be medical expenses, health records or their home management, receipts, repairs etc.
Now that you have taken the time to get organized, let’s follow these few steps to keep it neat!
When you bring your mail in everyday, immediately sort what you need to keep and what you need to toss.
Toss the junk mail; advertisements, flyers and “special offers”.
Sort out what needs to be addressed soon. Ex: bills to be paid or items that may go on your calendar versus other items that just need to be filed. Ex: statements or bills on auto-pay. For the current or “hot” items, put them in your inbox right away.
File statements. These can go on top of the file box to be filed away once a week. (Secret: I have so little that comes in by paper that needs to be filed that I only file once a month).
Please, do not designate multiple “special” places around the house for important papers that you don’t want to lose. I have clients who stuff these papers in the china cabinet, on the stairs, in a bedroom drawer and they invariably cannot find them. The house gets crammed with strange paper everywhere. If you put them in the inbox you will never lose them. When the issue is resolved, file it away in the appropriate folder in your file box or file cabinet.
Following these simple rules will help you to manage your important documents and minimize the paper clutter. Still have questions about how to organize your home office? Feel free to call or email me here.