5 Tips to Maintaining Your Home Office

Once you’ve set up the office of your dreams. How do you maintain it? Here are 5 suggestions for maintain order in any home office:

1. Consider the method

I believe the maintenance step of organizing can fall into two methods:

  • Routines – You create them based on your natural tendencies & out of necessity and then you just do it. For instance, checking your email, filing papers, sorting through mail, making phone calls and shipping out items all need to be done, so when will you do them? Daily, weekly, or will you delegate some duties?
  • The full barrel method – This is when you use a container to pile things like orders, filing, bills, etc. and you do them once the bin is full.

Nothing wrong with either method but I strongly suggest you don’t leave everything to the full barrel method. That is the point of overwhelming piles and that is when we professional organizers usually get the call for help.

 

2. Don’t let the kids touch

If your home office is going to be used by your children because there is only one computer in the house, make sure your work and important papers are filed away and maybe even locked away when you are finished working.  This is a great motivator for keeping your desk top clear!  When the children use the computer or materials there, make sure they only have access to what they are allowed to use.

3. Set a schedule for working your home-based business

If you’re lucky enough to have your own office with a door, then it’s easier to be disciplined about your starting and ending time.  When you finish for the day, have everything you need to do tomorrow in your “To Do” bin and written in your daily planner, then close the door.  If you don’t set up boundaries and routines when working at home, it is too easy to let your work time spill into family time.  If you work while the children are home, communicate with them about when you are working and what’s expected of them. You may want them to play by themselves, watch a movie or you may have a babysitter there that can attend to their needs instead of you.  Make sure when you finish working and switch back to your mommy job, you give them your full attention.

4. Set time in your daily or weekly schedule for managing the necessities:

  • When it comes to the day-to-day management of a family, it’s best to do it every day so it doesn’t pile up on you.
  • Paying bills is a top priority so it’s worth the effort to schedule it and write it in your planner or set up an automatic bill payer. You can write it down as soon as you receive a bill, such as “Send Visa bill” on the 10th if it’s due on the 17th.  You can set a specific day of the week when you pay them.  Do this weekly, bi-monthly or monthly if you coordinate the due dates with your utilities and credit cards.
  • Phone calls can take up a lot of a mother’s time in any given week.  Instead of just calling someone when you think of it, make a list on a daily or weekly basis of who you need to call.  Then you can be efficient about your time, call when the house is quiet like when the kids go off to school or when the baby is taking a nap.  You’d be amazed how many calls you can make in a half hour when you have focused time.   Even if you’re just leaving messages, you can get your calls out there and only answer the ones your are expecting back throughout the day.  If you’re in the middle of doing something else, use the caller id or answering machine to screen your calls.  Only answer if you have the time to talk.
  • Filing is something you can do in about 5 minutes per day.  If you don’t receive a lot of papers to file you may be able to wait and do it once a week.  This is one instance where the “full barrel” method can apply.
  • Reading may be another function that can take place in your office area.  These would be periodicals for your business, information from school or kids’ activities.  Again, make room in your schedule to read your incoming papers every day and it’ll only take 5-10 minutes.  If you let it pile up, not only does it take longer but you’re less likely to want to tackle that pile.
  • When you have special projects you’re working on, these should be considered when you are using your daily planner.  Try to work on one project per day if possible.  Create an action file for each project and pull that file out when you’re working on it, then put it away when you’re finished for the day.

5. Clear out your office each year

  • Pull out your tax related info, total up expenses and income for both personal and business tax forms.
  • Empty your “Charitable Contributions” folder with all those receipts and total them up too.
  • If you’re someone who likes to have an idea of where the money went this year, take credit card statements and your checkbook log and categorize your expenses in a simple spreadsheet.
  • If you use Quick Books® or similar software pull an end-of-the-year report for your budget totals.
  • For any reference files you have, take a look through each one and toss what is outdated or unnecessary.
  • Clear out your children’s school files at the end of the school year.
  • If you have a business that requires you to keep inventory, tally up the cost of that inventory for your taxes.  In some cases you may want to have an end-of-the-year sale to clear the shelf.

The secret to maintaining an organized office is to keep all your office materials in while keeping toys, food, and extraneous stuff out!  Do this on a daily or weekly basis so it doesn’t pile up and you’ve got a functional home business – even if that business is simply managing your home and family.

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