Clean, De-Clutter, And Organize A Home Office

Organizing and cleaning are steps to a more effective workspace.

It's a task that most home-workers despise and even avoid: the dreaded de-cluttering and serious clean-up of the home office. But with a little thinking-ahead and a lot of self-determination, you can schedule the chore, complete it and even get started on an organizational maintenance routine!

The key words are "get started."

Sometimes, just setting a date to clean your office is the biggest barrier to getting started. You need to use the office for work ... you don't have the supplies needed to clean the computer screen and keyboard ... and a personal favorite: you know just where everything is in those piles of papers and you don't dare disturb them until the project's finished.

No excuses.

Set a date. Make it this weekend, next Tuesday, a week from Saturday. Set it and stick to it.

Because of the plethora of electronic equipment in most home offices, you'll need specialized cleaning supplies, such as anti-static cleaning sprays and shed-free cleaning cloths. Take an inventory of what the manufacturer recommends for your equipment, and stock up before your cleaning date sneaks up on you.

Depending of how much clutter you have and how you usually store papers, you'll also want to have on hand:

* a box of manila file folders

* extra hanging folders and tabs, if you use them

* a pen, pencil and permanent marker

* file folder labels

* tape

* a large wastebasket

* at least three boxes

* several empty paper towel cardboard tubes, or several long twist-ties

* a feather duster

* assorted soft rags, paper towels and all-purpose cleaners

* wood soap and wood polish

* leather cleaner

* window cleaner.

Where to start

Don't even think about dusting, cleaning or vacuuming until you've cleared out the clutter.

First decide how you want your office used. Is it strictly your workplace? Do you take care of personal and family paperwork there? Do the kids use the phone, computer, fax and printer or work on school projects?

However many activities go on in your home office, each one needs its own place to prevent paperwork chaos. Begin by deciding what needs to be where in your office, and put a box in that space, clearly marked for that activity.

Also make note of any equipment or organizing supplies that would make use of that space more efficient. Maybe the kids wouldn't leave the first drafts of their school reports all over your desk if they had a table of their own on the other side of the room!

Divide the room up into sections to de-clutter. Pick a spot to begin sorting papers, mail and miscellaneous out-of-place items into their respective activity boxes.

When you run across something that you know already has a home but is just lost, put it away. Create files that you know need to be created as you go along; label and put items into the folders as you touch them.

Resist the impulse to save everything. Throw out or recycle as much paper and clutter as you can.

When every surface in that section of the office is cleared, move on to the next. Follow the same process with any shelves or window-sill file storage you may use, until every surface is cleared of clutter.

You'll deal with the boxes and unfiled files in the organizing phase.

Clean It Up

Shut down, unplug and cover your computer equipment while you tackle dusting the walls and ceilings, and while you're sweeping or vacuuming the floors. It might be wise to abandon the traditional dust-mopping in the home office in favor of a feather duster, which is easier to control. The less dust you kick up, the better.

Remove any window coverings and clean them. Take down anything that's on the wall and carefully dust it and dust behind it before replacing it.

This is a good time to control those out-of-control cords and cables. Dust them and wipe them down, then use either the cardboard tubes or the twist-ties to channel them into compliance.

Carefully follow the manufacturers' instructions to clean your computer drive, screen, keyboard and other equipment. Use a disinfectant or alcohol swipe to clean off the telephone receiver, answering machine and desk drawer handles.

Take the little ball out of your computer mouse and clear out dust and dirt.

Is that mousepad getting a little worn and ragged? Put it on your list now to get a new one.

Now go left to right in the room, cleaning whatever surfaces and accessories you have with the appropriate cleaning solution. Don't forget to use wood soap on wood surfaces first, before applying polish.

This is the time, too, to bend down and wash the legs of the chairs, tables and desks in your office. As you move through the room, tackle any scuff-marks on the walls and pay attention to accumulated fingerprints on light switches, lamps, the desk and door.

Don't forget to clean the lamps and lampshades, mirrors and windows. If you've got family photos, paperweights and trinkets on your desk, take a cleaning cloth to them now.

Empty your wastebasket now, whether or not it's full.

Finally, run the vacuum if you've got carpeting, or take a broom to the floor. Using a plastic pad under your chair? Haul it out and give it a good cleaning.

When you're satisfied that everything is fresh and clean, you may plug those electronics back in.

Organize to suit yourself

Like perhaps no other room in your home, your home office should suit you, your lifestyle and your personal proclivities. It needs to work for you if you hope to work efficiently.

So start by sitting down wherever you work. Is your chair comfortable? Is your desk set up the way you need it to be? Survey your office kingdom. Do you feel comfortable here? Consider using feng shui principles to locate your desk far away from the door, facing the doorway so that you can see who's entering your domain.

Is the room too dark? Add table and floor lamps, or hang a mirror to reflect daylight.

If you're having trouble keeping track of days and events, hang an oversized calendar or whiteboard on the wall, within your view. You can also use a large heavy-paper calendar as a desk pad.

Organize your office necessaries into their respective homes: paper clips, staple guns, extra printer paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, file labels, scissors, batteries for your camera and similar items you use daily or frequently.

If you use a phone book, rolodex or business-card file, now's the time to clean it out and update it.

Consider keeping an inexpensive bookcase next to your desk. You can use the top shelf to keep all of your currently active files handy, but off your desk. Whatever filing system you use, make sure it's one that works for you. Don't use a desk that has its filing drawer on the right side, for instance, if you're left-handed. No matter how many times you use it, it will never feel right!

When you've got your office set up in a way that pleases you and in which you're comfortable, turn your attention to the new files you created when de-cluttering. Put them away.

Now tackle those pesky boxes of "stuff" that you accumulated when de-cluttering. If the "stuff" isn't yours, turn it over to its true owner with guidance as to its disposal. Your own things need a decision: keep or toss? Do it. If you're keeping it in the office, find a home for it now.

One last tip: if you've cleaned and organized your office during daylight, be sure to revisit it after dark to make sure you've got ample light.

Then quietly close the door, sit down at your desk and take one long look at your office in its neat, organized and squeaky-clean splendor.

Remember ... if you'll add "clean and straighten office every two weeks" to your to-do list, you can enjoy this feeling of satisfaction more and more often. And even better ... you'll realize tangible rewards in a more relaxed, productive workplace!

© High Speed Ventures 2011