Friday, November 9, 2012

15 days to a simpler home: day 6 - office space organization

I'm not sure that I have mentioned this much before, but I work full time from home. It is such a blessing, and subsequently, I have an office that wears a few different hats.  For the most part it is just my work office, but during non-business hours, this room is where we take care of personal bills and paperwork, I do some crafts, and some blogging as well.
For you, this might be an entire office to yourself, it might be a shared family office, or it might just be a very small space in your home.  No matter what your office situation is, there are a few important ways to simplify  this space.

Only keep items that are essential (and that you have space for) in your office.  For me, I actually diy'd my desk so that I would have plenty of space for storage.  I like to have boxes and bins to keep these items organized.  For instance, on this shelf, I have office supplies in the white box.  And that "beautiful" tupperware box, that I have yet to cover, holds a few in-progress projects that I have currently.  
I also have our file box on this shelf for easy filing.  Keeping your files organized is a huge way to simplify your life.  We have all had those foot-high stacks of papers (or grocery bags full of papers in your bedroom...ahem) that need to be organized and filed away, just sitting around, and I say no more!

I challenge you to take an afternoon and go through your files.  And I mean all of them. The really great thing about the time we live in is that almost everything is online from your financial institutions.  And, a lot of them will actually pay you money (or stop a monthly fee), if you go paperless!

There is simply not a need to keep all those papers around anymore.  I just went through all of our files and this is my stack to shred.
The crazy thing is, I just did this about 6 months ago.  But, I didn't commit to going paperless and freeing myself from all of this until now.  Now that I have, we are down to just this box, and this box only.  When you have a small space to file just a few things a month, filing will be so much easier, and won't be stacking up anymore.
I understand that many, many years of tax return information and any other paperwork that you don't feel comfortable shredding can add up, so you could also have a secondary file box with those items that you really would only look at if the IRS was knocking at your door.  I would suggest keeping this separate archive box somewhere away from your everyday files, perhaps in storage in the basement.
Quick Tip:
For most people, there is no point in holding on to months and months worth of your monthly utility bills.  Take your electric bill as an example (if you don't have this set to paperless).  When you get your current month's bill, toss last month's way.  You can put all these types of bills into one folder, and save a ton of space.

Another huge stack of things that are probably all mixed up in your filing are all the manuals you have received with products over the years.  Think about it, every single time you buy an appliance (large or small), an electronic, etc., you get some type of instruction sheet or manual.
When you're going through all of your files, make sure to put all of these manuals and instruction sheets in a separate pile.  Once you're done with the main filing project, go through this separate pile, and throw away any of these manuals that are no longer needed.  I'm fairly certain that in the midst of the excitement of replacing your old refrigerator, you did not think to yourself "I should go find that manual and throw it away since I don't need it anymore."

Now that you have only the manuals that you actually need, get the following supplies: three ring binder that is the appropriate width for the amount of manuals you have (plus room to grow), tab dividers, and a hole punch. Because some manuals are pretty thick, I also had to use a regular single-hole punch, because my little dinky 3-hole did not do the trick.
Sort the manuals to find different papers that go together for the same item.  For instance, our washing machine paperwork includes the receipt, installation instructions, general instructions, and warranty information.  

Once these are altogether, sort by type in your binder.  My tabs are:
Large Appliances (Stove, Washer, Dryer)
Electronics (Televisions, Computers)
Home Appliances (Vacuum, Carpet Cleaner)
Home Fixtures (Fireplace Insert, Ceiling Fan)
Small Kitchen Appliances (Waffle Maker, Microwave)
Miscellaneous (Jewelry, Mattress)
Outdoor Items (Lawn Mower, Leaf Blower)
Tools (Power Drill, Miter Saw)
I keep this binder in the office on a shelf, but you could also keep this in your laundry room, in your kitchen, in your storage with other files, etc.  Now, in the future, when we do replace appliances and sell/donate the old ones, we can also provide the new owner with the manuals and know exactly where they are!

If you do have a full office, like I do, it's also nice to have a place to sit to read a good book, write a blog post, or just enjoy some peace and quiet.
 Do you like how I shamelessly included the beautiful bouquet of roses Matt brought home for me yesterday? Why yes, I am bragging about my wonderful husband. :)

Quick Tip:
Remember how I told you that I have a soft spot for mugs a few days ago when we were organizing the kitchen?  If you have the same problem as me, and it's because they hold sentimental value, use one to hold pens and scissors on your desk.  This way it has an actual purpose, and you made room for one more item in the kitchen.
This mug was part of one of those cute hot cocoa sets that Matthew gave me for Christmas the first year we were dating.  It makes me so happy to have it near me everyday to remember the sweet beginnings of our relationship.

Keeping your office space neat, and clear of clutter is very important.  I find that when a space is setup this way, it is much easier for me to accomplish tasks quickly.  And since paying bills is just so much fun in the first place (NOT!), it's great to get in, pay them, and move on with your life.

Read the Other Posts in this Series:

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