Remote work continues to change how employers and employees do business and interact. One aftereffect of the revolution is with more people working from home, you can bet there are a lot more messy couches, patios and home offices.
And it’s a lot easier to leave that clutter because, well, you’re home. No one’s going to see it except the family and friends comfortable with your habits.
If working remotely, you want to keep your spaces as professional as a work space you commute to. Cleanliness is attractive and makes work easier. It reinforces the idea you’re a professional. In that regard, you should occasionally take stock in your work space and clear it out.
We know it takes effort.
So, here are a few ideas for decluttering home offices and work spaces.
Clear and clean work areas increase productivity and decrease anxiety and stress. Some people operate fine in cluttered spaces but, for most, a clean area is refreshing. It puts you in a sound mind frame and gets you ready to perform more efficiently.
Decluttering Step by Step
8 Things to Take Care of Right Away
Check and recheck every piece of paper. Get a scanner, make copies and categorize digitally. After scanning, toss most everything (i) that isn’t a signed contract or (ii) that’s not needed for a project right now. (More on this later.)
2. Cleaning Up Cable Works
We all have them. Cables coming out of anywhere and somewhere. Power surge protectors taking cords everywhere. This will be a good time to see what’s doing what and getting rid of what you don’t need.
3. Broken Equipment
Get rid of that computer you no longer use. Sure, it has a place in your heart but it’s taking up space. Lose the pencils that are smaller than your shortest finger. Dump pens and markers that don’t work.
4. Excess Supplies
If you’re no longer a party planner, do you really need to hang onto name labels? If you have a significant inventory of any particular office supply, parse it down to a reasonable quantity. Donate the surplus.
5. Empty Ink Cartridges
We hang onto empty toner and ink cartridges because they’re recyclable. But how often do we actually get to the retailer and recycle? That’s why they build up. Bag them and take care of that. Now. And make an effort to not let recyclables heap.
We like having books around. They make us feel knowledgeable. If they’re neatly on shelves, good. But if they’re in stacks on the floor or on the desk, box them or donate them.
If your desk is as much bric-a-brac as it is necessities, tone it down. Your home office can have a personal touch but don’t overdo it. If you’re constantly moving things around to make room, there’s too much in the space.
8. Unnecessary Items
If your area has toys, dishes or multiple coffee cups, get them out and keep them out. Of course, they’ll probably come back but keep in mind you can do something about it (like clean it up). Less clutter now means less decluttering later.
Methods for Decluttering that Home Office
Work in Sections
There’s no golden rule for cleaning up or for starting and finishing. Conduct home office decluttering in zones and times. Start with filing, go to desk tops, drawers, cords, paper, etc. Work left to right, top to bottom, whatever’s comfortable for you. Seeing small successes will make the chore less taxing and inspire you to go further.
Hang Onto the Essentials
“Just in case.” It’s an easy excuse to hang on to papers, unused appointment books and post-it pads. Instead, digitize what you need to keep and toss the physical bits. Rule of thumb should be anything you haven’t used in the previous 18–24 months is obsolete.
Take Advantage of Tech
Technology will be invaluable to reducing and minimizing future clutter. You can store documents in the cloud. This not only reduces paper, storage clouds prevent cluttering your hard drives.
Create Your Categories
Sort the essentials and inventory everything in a way that make essentials manageable. Have sections for this type of client and that client, all in one client category. Create marketing and financing sections or whatever’s relevant to your work. Make notes as you break it down, generating lists of commonalities.
Storing Physical Files
There are documents you’re obligated to keep physical copies of. (More later!) If you do find yourself with a noticeable amount of paper or other physical instruments that need storing, you’ll need a space for keeping them. One that’s accessible and not in the way. This can be a closet, a file cabinet or a drawer.
Labels make it easier to locate information quickly. There’s no worse way to create a mess than when you need something you can’t find. Color coding, naming, categorizing and other solutions create association and easier recognition.
Neaten Up Behind Yourself
Store documents as quickly as possible. Get rid of post-its and notes you no longer need. When you finish one job, clean up before you start the next. Have a regular time set aside for scanning and filing so that clutter doesn’t build up. When you don’t settle for clutter, you’re far more likely to not accumulate clutter.
Enjoy Your Meals Elsewhere
Avoid eating in your workspace. Not as easy as it sounds when you’re busy, but it’s a good idea to stop what you’re doing. Take your meal to the dining room table or kitchen. Take a break and watch a half hour of television. Containers, soda cans and other food supplies can quickly create a mess.
Keep an In- and Outbox
Sometimes you can’t file right away or get to that assignment right now. What needs your attention immediately or will need it sooner than later can be set aside neatly in a visible workspace. You’ll always know where that next task is.
Form and Function
Your business style is important. Picking a tray, desk or filing cabinet should fit your needs. But going with a furnishing that also fits your sense of fashion makes the home office appealing to you. It can motivate both work and the desire to keep the area clean.
Schedule Decluttering Times
It’s easy to look up and find your home office is back to where you don’t want it. Decluttering is an ongoing, and for some, tough process. Set aside a time for leafing through items in order to stay organized. End of day or once a week or month, make decluttering an aspect of the work.
Some General Ideas
We talked about getting rid of or storing items. Thankfully, with today’s technology you can digitize anything on paper, stripping away most physical filing. But whether you’re digitizing, throwing away or hanging onto paper, here are must documents you want to keep.
- Last 10 years of tax records
- Medical records going back five years
- Five years of insurance records
- A year of pay stubs and utility bills
- Six months of credit card statements
Become a Minimalist in Your Décor
When you smartly minimize your workspace, you increase productivity and reduce the possibility of clutter. Don’t have an oversized file cabinet, especially if you’re digitizing. A picture of the family on the desk is nice. There’s no need for individual shots of everyone. The less you have around the less you have to work around.
Don’t Clean on Your Day Off
Decluttering your home office when you’re not supposed to be working intensifies the idea it’s a chore. Trying to do so on your time off also makes it easier to put off. Do a little cleaning every day, a thorough cleaning of sections or put things in their respective places as soon as possible. You’ll walk into a ready-to-go work area every time.
Think of Everything as Having a Home
If you see all your items as having a home, you’re more likely to manage the space. If the stapler belongs in that corner of the desk or in the top drawer, it’s more likely to end up there. This is easiest to manage if your space is minimalist. An object out of place stands out and can trigger a need to correct the situation.
Do Something with Those Business Cards
Put all those business cards you collected at the convention or seminar on your phone. Make this a part of your daily routine. Business cards remain a key opportunity for connectivity. And remote workers and freelancers will always need to exchange business cards to stay in the game. But cards don’t have to pile up.
One of the nicer aspects of decluttering your home office is the results will energize you. It will simplify getting to work and increase productivity. Remember, one of the coolest things about remote work is you work at your own pace. Meet deadlines and still find the time to stop and declutter your home office and work spaces.