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Setting Up Your Office
Setting up a home office is a great place to begin organizing your home as it seems to make the most difference to the most people. Why? Because dealing with the constant presence of “too many” papers causes enormous stress in our lives. Dividing, confining, and conquering paperwork brings a great sense of control to any home manager’s life. This will help her to think clearly and plan more extensively, which are essential skills for any homemaker’s long-term success.
Initially, let’s discuss the important elements of an effective home office. There are three main essentials: a flat surface (the bigger the better), a small drawer for office supplies and paperwork tools, and a larger drawer for filing papers.
The homemaker’s office should have three tools:
1) A large, flat surface that is kept clear unless there is a project at hand;
2) A smaller drawer for essential office tools which are meant to be kept in that drawer and NOT borrowed by anyone else in the household (because when a homemaker sits down to do paper work, she doesn’t need to wonder where the stapler has disappeared to); and
3) A deep drawer or box to hold files.
While an actual desk with small office supply drawers and large filing drawers is best, getting creative with your current situation is a must. Other useful flat surfaces may be a kitchen table or a small counter in a corner of the bedroom. However, one thing is very important: The surface is kept reasonably clean at all times. This is because most paperwork is best handled without first having to clean up a previous mess. Try to keep that surface clean and ready for you at a moment’s notice. Of course, this means cleaning up after yourself, too, when you have tackled a stack of bills, balanced your checking account, or have sorted through papers that need filing.
Designate a small drawer for office supplies. In some cases, this will be a container that you keep near you when doing paperwork, especially if your desk doesn’t have drawers or you are using another flat surface for your duties. Gather or purchase tools that will aid you in handling paperwork: paper clips, a stapler, a three-hole punch, pencils and pens, post-it notes, and scotch tape. Keep these all together as close as possible to the “desk” so when you can sit down, you can go right to work. Remember, if you have to stand or move around to retrieve a tool, it is more likely that you will become distracted and not complete the task at hand.
Clean out a deep drawer or box to hold file folders. Label four file folders: TO DO, TO FILE, BILLS TO PAY, PENDING. Put these four folders in your drawer or box. Every piece of paper over which you have responsibility now has a place to go temporarily until you get to it.
Papers that need attention go in the TO DO file.
Papers which seem of interest to save go in the TO FILE file (to season for a month or so before they are added to your permanent files).
Bills go in the BILLS TO PAY file.
And papers which are half way done, say baby shower invitations, unanswered letters you initiated, or anything else that is not finished goes into the PENDING file.
As you do your paperwork, you may find a need to add other file folders to meet your personal needs.
As you gather and sort through the paperwork in your home right now, you will add other file folders such as AUTO INSURANCE, HOME INSURANCE, MEDICAL INSURANCE, TAXES, and VITAL DOCUMENTS. Keep documents that are similar together in folders appropriately labeled for quick retrieval of this paperwork. It is not easy or usually convenient to file paperwork right away, but it a very useful habit, especially when it is time to find that same paperwork again.
Go to Work
So, look at your own situation and go to work. Find a flat surface to call your desk, whether it be a card table you set up in the corner of the family room or your bedroom, a real desk which has in the past been covered with another’s papers, books and magazines, or whether it is just clearing off the surface of your own desk. Gather or purchase office tools to meet your home office needs. Label them, string them to the drawer or do whatever else is necessary to make sure they stay where they belong.
Keep Desktop Cleared
Now, the biggest challenge is keeping the desk top cleared (unless you are working at some project), keeping your tools where they belong, and using the labeled file folders to aid in your home office organization. With time, you will find that having an home office will aid you greatly with planning each day, calendaring, planning your housework, preparing menus, dealing with the trivia of life, and bulk food purchasing.
Its Time For A Haven
So, sometime very soon, take a couple of hours and set up our own home office to your liking. With the acquisition or arrangement of these three tools: a flat surface, a office supply container or a cleaned out drawer, and a drawer for filing or even a filing cabinet, you can begin the process of gaining control. With some more time to set up file folders, gather or purchase office supplies, and make up simple systems for paper flow, you will more ready to be a professional home manager with his/her own home office!
After you have set up your home office to your liking, remember that following up with frequent paper handling is vital to your office staying the haven you have worked so hard to create. While it is not always possible to tackle this need every day, look at your schedule and realize that a paper that is piled is lost, while one that is filed is found. It is always easier and faster to deal with a few pieces of paper properly now than to wait until the mess keeps you from finding success. Maintenance of your home office is part of the process of staying organized.
A functional home office haven can be yours as you continue your pursuit of personal organization. Fix up it and then keep it up. What a great investment in your future competency as a person.
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Photo from sxc.hu. Permission grant by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo.