Expert organizer Rachel Rosenthal shares five WFH organization mistakes to avoid—plus how to fix them.

By Katie Holdefehr
July 23, 2020
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Over the past few months, more Americans have started working from home than ever before. And while companies in some cities and states are now returning to their offices, others will be embracing the work-from-home life for the foreseeable future. If you still haven't gotten your WFH space in order (no judgement here!), it might be time to ask for professional help. So we reached out to organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal of the organizing firm Rachel & Company for her top home office tips. She helped us tackle many of the common WFH challenges: from piling paper clutter, to sharing the space with your kids. Here's how to fix five common organization problems in your home office.

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Between official documents, mail, tax forms, and your kids' homework, it's easy for the paper to start piling up in your home office. 

Start by decluttering and asking yourself some tough questions. "Do you really need a physical copy of your cable bill?" Rosenthal asks. Instead of keeping the hard copy, scan it! And don't worry, you don't need an ugly, bulky scanner anymore—a smartphone and an app will do the trick. 

"The Dropbox app has a scanning feature built right in, so you can scan and organize the digital file and then toss or shred the original," she explains.

If you do have to keep physical papers for your job, invest in a paper sorter ($25, amazon.com) that lets you separate incoming papers from those you've already worked on. 

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Whether you run a small business from your home or you ship out care packages to family and friends from time to time, most of us have some packing supplies cluttering up our WFH space. But Rosenthal has found a space-saving alternative to bulky boxes. 

"I sell notepads in my online shop, so I am constantly shipping out pads, and the Scotch Flex & Seal Shipping Roll is a game changer because it can save up to 50 percent on time, supplies, and space compared to boxes." The shipping rolls are much smaller than cardboard boxes—and since the material sticks to itself, you don't need tape. 

Rachel Rosenthal

If you are sharing WFH space with a partner or kids, creating some separation is crucial. "Keep supplies for each family member at arm’s length, especially if sharing the office with a child, as it will make it much easier to keep an organizational system going," says Rosenthal. If your child is "distance learning," just a few feet away from you, keeping everything you'll need right at their work zone will cut down on interruptions throughout the day. 

Get into the habit (and have your family do the same) of cleaning up your workspace at the end of the day, so you know all of the pens, papers, and colored pencils will be right where you need them the next morning. 

Even if you, like Rosenthal, are lucky enough to have an office all to yourself, you can still create zones for various tasks. "First, set up a computer zone for all work on your computer or laptop. For most people, this is where you will spend the bulk of your time," she says. "Next, set up a place to do non-computer work, like work with paper, notebooks, etc." Creating physically separate zones (even within the same room), will help you get in the right mindset for various types of tasks.  

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Has anyone else's tech cords gotten out of control during quarantine? Fortunately, Rosenthal has a few solutions. 

First, enlist the help of a label maker to type out an ID to wrap around each cord. Never again will you have to guess which cord goes to your computer, phone, or fax machine. 

Then, invest in colorful wraps ($7, amazon.com) to corral the mess of wires and cords you aren't currently using.

Rachel Rosenthal

It might not seem like an actual problem, but a boring workspace can really affect your work. "If your office isn’t inviting, you are not going to want to spend time in there and will not be as productive," says Rosenthal. Even little details, like switching out manila folders for ones in your favorite color, can help create a space that reflects you and your sense of style. In her own office, artwork and a vibrant desk represent her personal style. 

"Create a beautifully organized space using organizing products that you would like to look at," recommends Rosenthal. Keep this concept in mind when choosing everything from desk organizers to filing cabinets for your WFH space.